Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tell Me a Story

I know, I know...I'm a storyteller by trade. I get that and I even call myself that from time to time...but when I say "storyteller" I mean the kind that are printed on a page. Or in a book. I'm not exactly the most expressive person face-to-face if we're not BFFs. I clam up, truth be told.

But I'm going to tell you a story about how I became a live, in-person storyteller and how my sons built a connection with a great-grandfather they never got a chance to meet, and who my family lost on Easter Sunday this year.

My grandfather, Pop, is Norwegian. He never really talked about his family or what they did there, but I do know they come from Frederickstadt. (I love that name. I want to name a town here in Texas Frederickstadt because Fredericksburg just doesn't cut it for me. Germans. Pshaw!)

Pop passed this year on Easter morning. A few weeks later, I find a few articles about Norwegian folklore (I gobble up fairy tales, folklore, and mythology whenever I get the chance). One character in particular caught my attention.

His name is Boots. And he has really mean brothers.

There aren't many stories out there about Boots, but here's a Wikipedia entry about Boots. It's a start, right? Over the summer, I wrote a picture book about Boots and some mountain trolls I invented. Scandinavians were wild about trolls in the old days, it seems. I had a Kickstarter project all lined up and then I sort of lost steam with the project. I hated the project video because I'm not an artist and my line art just didn't do my story justice. I ignored it a good few weeks and then I had baby number four and my brain spontaneously combusted.

But last week, my boys were restless in their bedtime angst and wouldn't go to sleep no matter what. And they didn't want me to leave the edge of the bed no matter how much I needed to do the dishes. They wanted more time with me and they wanted something new to end their day with.

I hadn't told them about my Boots project yet, so I asked them if they wanted to hear a story about Norway. (My oldest is 8 and his absolute FAVORITE movie is "How to Train Your Dragon" and he knows that Vikings = Norway and Norway = Pop and Pop = direct lineage to Norway and Vikings and that must mean that Boy Wonder = Dragon Trainer in some obsolete, non-congruent way. Awesome, right?

I told them about Boots, the troll, and Boots' only friend in the world, a shapeshifting Nisse named Ebsen who daylights as a one-eyed barncat named Snowball.

They didn't move throughout the entire story and when it was done, they demanded another one. Trouble was, I didn't have another and promised that I'd tell them all about Snowball the next night.

Sidenote here: my children are a bit like goldfish. At least their memories are similar to goldfish in nonexistant. ("Oh, look! A plastic castle!!")

Fast forward one night. I'm tucking them in, kissing their sweet shampoo-smelling heads good night and my three year old, who can hardly pronounce "snowball" asks me when I'm going to tell them the story about Snowball.

I was so touched. And a bit panicked because I wasn't prepared. I honestly expected them to forget in their world of hand held games, television, and other blinking light attention stealers.

But no...they wanted another story about Boots and Snowball. And tonight I told them all about Esben/Snowball's beginnings (he wasn't always a cat in the daylight, you know...) and I thought to myself, "this is are a storyteller."

Kind of a great feeling, really, and completely new.

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