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King Peter and Millie (from Armenia)

Re-told by Lizzie Gates

Once upon a time . . .

King Peter of Armenia had a beautiful daughter, Millie. When she was born, he wanted to care and guard her so she would know nothing of the world and never love anyone but himself.  For her sole use – with only female servants and a woman teacher – he had a lovely palace built on a lonely island in the middle of a dark forbidding lake.  This palace had no windows looking outwards and only the king had a key to the outer door.  He visited her once a week, for three hours, on Sundays.

 

But Millie grew up.  And, when she was 18, she began to think for herself.  She knew she had learned about life but only from books. And she knew she was a woman.  But, she wondered, what did that make her father? Fear had kept her servants silent. But, pitying her, her woman teacher brought her a book. And Millie realised she was in prison.

 

So, copying the images in the book, she made a young man out of flour, eggs and butter and milk. And, weeping, she prayed to God for a soul to fill the beautiful young man with Life. The image was given a soul and Millie called him Michael. The woman teacher brought him clothes. Apart from Millie – only she knew of his existence. And the two young people fell in love.

 

Then, one Sunday, they slept over long in the morning, and King Peter arrived.  Millie’s father came upon his daughter with a young man sleeping by her side and was enraged.He had been to so much trouble and expense to prevent precisely this.  In a rage, he ordered their executions.

 

As Millie stood on the block, about to die, she said:  “I made the young man standing beside me – he has no family and no ties. I made him by myself. And it was my wish – to have loved and been loved. If you kill me, father, I have no regrets.”

 

King Peter on the other hand would lose everything he valued. Furthermore he could find no evidence that the young man was human. Relieved, he relented because he truly loved his daughter. In reparation, he gave the young couple a new home and his blessing.  And they all lived happily ever after.

 Writing Interventions

  1. Which character do you favour/empathise with? Why? Write the story from this person’s point of view?
  2. Which character do you like least? Why? Write the story from this person’s point of view.
  3. Do you like the ending? If not, why? Write your own ending.

 

 

Group Discussion (In pairs and then full group)

  1. Whose visions are represented here?
  2. Where is the conflict?
  3. Who changes their vision? Why?
  4. Whose vision is most powerful? Why? Could this be changed?
  5. What are the problems in this story which reflect/resonate with issues your clients face?
  6. What solutions could you offer in your professional practice?

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Storying for Well-being – a quiz using story to find out who you are and who you want to be!

Take a moment to play with the ideas behind these questions:

  • What is the fairy story or folk tale that most closely resembles your life at the moment?
  • Which story would you prefer it to be?
  • What ending would you like for your story?
  • Which character do you most closely empathise with in your current story ?
  • Which character would you prefer to be?
  • In your new story, which character would you like to be?
  • What needs to change for you to become that character?

Make a note of the insights you’ve gained (and don’t forget to date and locate!) and make a note on your calendar to revisit these in three months time. At that point, consider what’s changed.

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On the recommendation of Lisa Rossetti (www.positivelives.co.uk), Katherine Hansen of A Storied Career (www.astoriedcareer.com ) recently interviewed me for her on-line Story Practitioner series.

Here are my Q&As as featured on the web this week.

Q: How did you initially become involved with story/storytelling/ narrative? What attracted you to this field? What do you love about it?

A: I was brought up by storytellers. Telling stories was how we related to each other, entertained each other, informed each other, re-affirmed each other. I love storytelling because what my family of storytellers did for me, I can do for others.

Q: One of your areas of specialization is storytelling and writing for well-being. How did you get involved in that area? Did you have personal experience with having your well-being improved through writing/storytelling?

A: Story-telling and writing for well-being have chosen me, and I have built on what they have given me. I started to write as I learned to read stories. And I have written all my life. But at times of crisis — when in such severe trauma I doubt my heart will hold out — writing is a form of restorative meditation. And — although I can tell stories to move to tears — I also tell stories to entertain and develop relationships. Although at times, I cannot avoid the former, I prefer the latter.

Q: You offer workshops in memoir-writing and journaling. Undoubtedly many reasons exist for journaling and writing one’s memoir. What do you feel is the most compelling reason? Why do people need your workshops assist them in these endeavors?

A: One of the most compelling reasons for writing your own story is “witness” — even if the writing never sees the light of day. But — when shared in a supportive, empathic group (such as I create in my workshops) — the writing brings all the human emotion contained in the writing to the outside and allows the writer to reflect on it and feel in control once more. To do this, with an audience, is to be empowered, to lose all sense of merely being a passive recipient of the experience. This endows the writer with a self-esteem and confidence, which he or she may never have felt before.

Q: One of your specialty areas is communication and storytelling in organizations. When organizations (and the people in them) seek out your services, why are the typical communication issues they face — and how can storytelling help?

A: Teams (like families) are quite often dysfunctional because their members have ceased to communicate with each other. Story sessions encourage people to listen, to be curious about what is going to happen, to sift their own experiences for answers to common problems and to share. Stories also generate empathy and laughter. And living — for however brief a time — in a functional “metaphor” is a “habit” that can be carried forward into everyday working life.

Q: What has surprised you most in your work with story?

A: The eagerness to engage that people display when listening to stories and telling their own — even if this is a new experience for them.

Q: The storytelling movement seems to be growing explosively. Why now? What is it about this moment in human history and culture that makes storytelling so resonant with so many people right now?

A: Storytelling is becoming popular now because, as people increasingly understand, “hardware” is not enough. They like human interaction — loving or loathing others. But, as people find opportunities to interact are programmed out of their lives, they will make efforts to re-introduce them. And story is a way to do this.

Q: What’s your favorite story about a transformation that came about through a story or storytelling act?

A: A young girl was raped. Years of therapy hadn’t helped her forget and live life as she wished. Then a wise counselor asked her to tell her story — as a story, as if it had happened to someone else. She did. She felt witnessed. She felt empowered. She has displayed such talent and passion for storytelling and writing, she is now a full-time novelist. Telling stories has changed more lives than medical interventions.

Q: If you could share just one piece of advice or wisdom about story/storytelling/ narrative with readers, what would it be?

A: Listen with attention, reflect in depth and share.

Q: What question do you wish I had asked you but didn’t?

A: What did Einstein mean when he advised parents if they want their children to be wise, encourage them to read fairy tales?

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