Category Archives: Animal Stories

Once Upon A Time . . .

Don’t be fooled. The little folk of fairytale and fable are the keepers of the wisdom. What’s more, they’re not stuffy about it. Worldwide, no matter the tradition, folk tales challenge the norm, encourage creative problem-solving, even question who you are in order for you to grow into someone else.

We need these stories. Proof is in the fact that if our families don’t provide, we will look elsewhere for them. I have a Native American friend who lives near Taos Pueblo in New Mexico who will not tell a story of the Corn Mother unless her listener also shares a story from his or her tradition. She worries that there are not enough storytellers. She believes that when we forget our stories, we forget everything.

Ireland, of course, is known for its storytellers, as this little video advertises . . .

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Filed under Animal Stories, children's stories, fairytale, Fantasy, Old Storytelling Traditions, Storytelling, Uncategorized

Stella Goes Out for Coffee

Larger than life is a term applied to heroes. They leave an impression. Stella, our three-legged Great Dane, does that. She can go out for coffee and come home immortalized as a cartoon by Boulder’s Shoney Sien.

Stella’s big, but gentle. She has a brown eye and a blue eye–not common in Great Danes. She likes to be petted but still manages to give the impression that she’s aloof, not needy.

Treats?–her highness needs a tester. The owner of a highbrow dog boutique offered Stella the house specialty–a liver brownie. She took it politely; then set it on the floor. It was only after another dog tried it that she decide to give the goodie another chance.

Every culture has made-up stories of clever animals. It is said that we project human characteristics onto the animals when we tell those stories. I’m more inclined to think animals draw out our better qualities.


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Filed under Animal Stories, Funny story, Legend, Story Motif, The Little Folk, Uncategorized

Story in 25 Words


Llama pisses on guy next to me.

20 years pass.

Me: “I’ll never forget that llama pissing on you.”

Guy: “You REMEMBER that?”

–Roger Ebert

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Wild Horses on Easter Island

horses on easter islandThere are wild horses on Easter Island (Rapa Nui), one of the most isolated places in the world. They wander amongst the Moais and gallop the beaches.

Wow, I think, there has to be a story behind that.

3780523-wild-horses-0So I check. There are wild horses in Hawaii, Fiji, American Samoa, Indonesia and just about everywhere else. The Kathaiwari breed, with their distinctly pointed ears, came from wild horses in Kathiawar, India. With the exception of Przewalski’s horse, which may of have always been wild, the story is the same. Settlers brought horses with them; lost them or turned them loose. Those that survived, formed herds and ran free.

82087403UMGITS_thWhy did I think otherwise? Because I grew up in the American West where wild horses are iconic. I confused that with unique. Truth is, all stories are the same, except for the details.

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Filed under Animal Stories, History, stories, Story Motif, Travel Story, Uncategorized

Unicorn! Seen One Lately?

unicornMy husband met a unicorn last week.

He was impressed enough to take pictures.

He says he doesn’t believe in unicorns. He has a degree in physics, thank you! However, everyone who sees his pictures says “unicorn.” White, blue-eyed–what else could it be? No horn? They hide their horn, except in moonlight. I’m guessing that more people know that than understand what goes on in a particle accelerator.

JonUnicorns have been part of mythology since 400 BC when Ctesias describes them as living in India. Aristotle disputed his description and added his own. Although unicorns were never part of Greek mythology, they were included in Greek books of natural history. They are mentioned in the Hebrew Bible–repeatedly. Marco Polo claims to have seen one. The King of Scotland, James I, supposed brought one with him when he assumed the English throne. It has remained a part of the royal coat of arms ever since. The Simpsons televisions show includes an episode with a unicorn. My granddaughter has adopted a stuffed one that she sleeps with, pink sparkles and all.

Unicorn paintingWho cares?

Evidently everyone from Ctesias to my granddaughter.

More to the point, this is a blog about the power of stories, and without stories, we wouldn’t have unicorns!

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Filed under Animal Stories, Fantasy, Legend, Old Storytelling Traditions, stories, Uncategorized, Why Stories?

Storyteller Dolls and Their Little Listeners

potteryHelen Cordero is famous for creating clay storyteller dolls. Born in 1915, she grew up in the Cochiti Pueblo of New Mexico, an adobe village in the southwestern United States situated between the Rio Grande River and the Jemez Mountains. For more than a thousand years, people in her pueblo have made distinctive pottery featuring black designs painted over layers and layers of white clay slip.

 Traditionally the potters of Cochiti made useful items—pots, bowls, and other containers. They also made small figures of animals and people. Some of these figures were decorative. Others were used for ceremonies. One of the most common was a mother holding a child. These mother-child figures were known as “singing mothers” because their mouths were always left open to let the lullaby out.

male storytellerHelen Cordero’s grandfather, Santiago Quintana, was a renowned pueblo storyteller, a source for many anthropologists studying the Cochiti way of life. However, mostly she remembered seeing him with lots and lots of grandchildren, like herself, climbing on him, begging him for stories, a request that he almost never refused. He told stories of Coyote, Rabbit, and Badger, the little people of the American desert. He told stories of Corncob Boy and Corn Mother, mythic beings. He told tales of times past, and of people in the pueblo. He never ran out of stories, she remembered, because he could makeup stories that were as good as the old ones.

 In 1964 Helen Cordero made a clay figure that was unlike any other in her pueblo’s history. It was a grandfather with children climbing onto his lap. A folk art collector suggested that she add even more children. She did. She added children climbing up the storyteller’s braids, peeking over his head, sliding down his arms. The proportions were “wrong.”  The storyteller was large compared to the children, as if to suggest the size of his influence. However, Helen Cordero never referred to her little figures as “children.”  She called them “little listeners.”  She believed that what they were doing was as important as what the storyteller was saying. Wisdom, she believed, came into the world, not because it was spoken, but because it was heard. Echoing the older singing mother figures, Helen Cordero left the mouth of her storyteller open to let the stories out. She left the eyes closed. Her storyteller was always thinking of the next thing in the story.

cochiti cat storytellerFor twenty years, she made many, many variations of her grandfather storyteller. Then she began to make grandmother storytellers and animal storytellers, especially turtle storytellers. Turtles were thought to be an especial friend of pueblo children. It was said that long ago when neighboring pueblos were at war, Turtle came and took the children away. He hid them and kept them safe. In another story, turtle takes dreaming children on a journey to see the whole world, but only if they promise to keep their eyes open. They must see the beauty, or they will be dull people all their lives.

More than honoring the tradition of her pueblo, Helen Cordero’s work is credited with reviving a broad interest in Cochiti pottery and storytelling. Her figures are never dull, suggesting she may have been one of the dreaming children Turtle took on his journey.

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Aesop’s Fiddling Grasshopper–Yeah!!

How we tell our stories makes all the difference. For example, my grandma Melba had an original spin on Aesop’s famous fable of the ants and the grasshopper.

grasshopperAccording to Aesop, (620-560 B.C. Greek slave and famed storyteller) the ants were busy, as ants usually are, putting food away for the coming cold. The grasshopper preferred to sun himself and fiddle. Of course, when the seasons changed, the grasshopper found himself hungry and without food. He had to beg from the ants. Aesop’s moral is a warning about what happens when you fiddle the summer away.

My grandma Melba ended that same story with a question: “And who do you think kept those ants from dying of boredom all winter long, if not that fiddling grasshopper?”

She was right, of course. 

Same story.

Different truth.

Better yet, telling the story her way allowed her grandchildren to have fun and toil at art without apology–as well as the so-called serious stuff. 

Do you have a different take on an old story? Share it in the comment section.

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Filed under Animal Stories, fairytale, Funny story, stories, The Little Folk, Uncategorized