"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Joanna Huffaker: Story Buddy for "The Changeling"

It was like the BYU Storytelling Club days all over again.

Joanna Huffaker was an amazing Vice President and then she had to graduate before me. She missed the semester when we created t-shirts, so after eight years, I finally gave Joanna her club t-shirt.

After some hugs and pictures, we went to "play" with "The Changeling", an Irish story which will open my "Family Famine: Hunger for Love" premiere.

Like what was done with my stories buddies Holly Robison and Julie Barnson, I had Joanna read the story aloud so I could conjure images while listening.

Then it was time to ask questions about "The Changeling":
  • How do the neighbors play a role in the exchange made from the baby to the changeling?
They warned Mrs. Sullivan that if the baby was overly admired, then she would grab the attention of the fairies. Verbal and physical abuse are indirectly addressed as the neighbors suggest that Mrs. Sullivan call the baby names. Then, once the exchange is made, the neighbors suggest to toss the baby into the snow and elements, to burn the nose off, or to roast the child alive on the griddle.
  • What is the "magic number" as to the neighbor suggestions?
Three kinds of verbal abuse are suggested and later three kinds of physical abuse are suggested. Many stories have the power of three, which will also be represented by the three neighbors.
  • Who is Grey Ellen? (a.k.a. Ellen Leah) Is she in any other Irish folklore? Is there significance and/or meaning to her name?
Research is yet to be made.
  • What are the Christian influences?
A crucifix above the cradle is one way to prevent fairies to make an exchange with a baby.
  • What are the opposite images of the baby versus the changeling?
Eyes, Skin, and Hands. They could be bright blue for the baby while dull and lifeless for the changeling. The skin could be smooth for the baby while wrinkled, dry, and tight for the changeling. Finally, the hands could be tiny and delicate for the baby while they appear as talons for the changeling. Again, there is the power of three in the imagery.
  • Was Mrs. Sullivan's fall before she had a chance to plunge the bar down the changeling's throat on purpose or even authentic to the tale? Was this part censored by Jane Yolen, who edited the version I found first? Does this matter to me? How will I approach this scene?
Much wrestling will happen before any answers can be made.

Since I will bookend the story with a personal story, then here are questions for this part:
  • Is my Mom the one showing off my younger brother?
This would bring jealousy.
  • How does "The Changeling" story connect with my personal story?
My brother will be "overly admired" as a baby. Like the neighbors for Mrs. Sullivan, I give the warning to my Mom. I could tell "The Changeling" as learned from a teacher at school. Mom and I could quietly smile at the baby versus "loud" compliments as what Mrs. Sullivan does once her baby is returned.
  • How long do I expect the bookend personal story to take?
It may be about five minutes as the introduction part to the whole piece. The ending would likely be less than 30 seconds.
  • Will the personal story be of general feelings or of one or more specific instances?
I am not sure at this point. The instances could be a list so not as much time is spent with it and so more time can be given to the folktale.

Every time I go through this question and answer process, I am invigorated. How about you?

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Former Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance (2005-2008)
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Performance Blog: http://familyfamine.blogspot.com
Other places to find me: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Professional Storyteller

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