April – May 2018
Packing case for another Adventure in Storyland. Off to China for a week at British School Guangzhou and then a couple of weeks tale telling and collecting in Malaysia.
Taking the skeleton of this tale with me and looking forward to putting flesh on its bones.
Working Script for ‘The Dragon’s Pearl’.
Performance storytelling- Mash Up, Cut and Paste rendition
Legend location: Near the River Min in the province of Sichuan in China
Date: Pre 2018. Dates of earliest versions yet to be discovered.
They say Xiao Sheng lived with his mother in a little town in Sichuan beside the River Min. Every morning he cut the wild grass outside his house. His mother sold it at the market and, on her way home she bought rice and tea and flour for dumplings.
One summer there was a terrible drought. All the grass outside Xiao’s house wilted and died.
‘Whatever shall we do? ‘ said his mother. ‘The rice jar is almost empty.’
‘Don’t worry, mother,’ said Xiao. ‘I’ll find some grass for you to sell.’
He put on his boots and trudged out to the forest. All day long he looked for a patch of tall grass. But the summer heat seemed to have killed everything. There was not a blade of green grass to be had anywhere. Xiao went back home.
‘Have you found any grass?’ asked his mother.
‘No,’ said Xiao sadly …
Part of Saviour Pirotta’s version from Stories from China published by Wayland Publishers Ltd in 1999
From his suitcase the storyteller takes out a thunder roarer and fills the room with a loud rumble.
That night they were awoken by a roar in the sky above their little house. The ground trembled as if an earthquake was about to swallow it down and their rooms shook as if in the grip of a whirlwind. Mother and son held on to each other for dear life.
In the morning the grass outside the kitchen is tall and green. This they cut and sell at market and buy rice. Next day the grass has grown once more. Why? How? After Xian Sheng harvests with his sickle once more his mother tells him to search the ground for clues. Clawing like a badger into the earth he finds a tiny round ball the size of a mistletoe berry. It’s white with a tinge of green. He hands it to his mother who tells him it is a dragon’s pearl.
She tells her son that her grandmother once told her a story about magical dragon’s pearls. Unfortunately she can’t remember most of the tale because she fell asleep halfway through.
They drop the pearl into the rice jar to keep it safe.
Later, to their great surprise the jar, which had been nearly empty, now brimmed with rice, and the lovely pearl sat on the top, gleaming in the morning light. ‘Mother, come quickly,’ he called.
When she saw this miracle, she rejoiced. ‘We will eat a big bowl of rice in celebration,’she said. This they did. ‘Let us put the pearl back as it was,’she said.
The next morning, to their great joy, they found the jar was full once more.
‘This is a magical pearl,’said the mother. ‘We must care well for our treasure.’ That night she put the pearl in the money box. The next morning the box was overflowing with coins. That night they placed the pearl inside the oil jar. In the morning, the jar overflowed with oil.
The mother and her son no longer had any worries. Whatever they needed, the pearl created for them.
Extract from https://www.uexpress.com>tell-me-a-story
The couple shared their good fortune with their friends and neighbours. ‘Bring your rice bowls,’ they’d call in the mornings. ‘Fill them, and your bellies.’
Most people were grateful for this kindness but a few were jealous.
Early one morning three women and two men broke into their house and woke up Xiang Shen and his mother. They demanded to know where their good fortune had come from.
‘ Don’t tell them about the dragon’s pearl in the cupboard,’ shouted Xiang Shen.
The robbers rushed towards the cupboard while the boy dashed to the rice jar and pulled out the dragon’s pearl.
‘If you want it here it is,’ he taunted.
They turned in time to see the dragon’s pearl disappear down Xiang Sheng’s throat.
‘No,’ they cried.
‘No,’ shouted his mother.
‘Argh!’ screamed Xiang Shen.
His throat burned, his stomach churned. His belly bulged, buttons popped from his night shirt. His arms shot out sideways, flapping wildly. His nose turned into a snout. His skin to scales and a tail thrashed behind him.
He burst through the door and perched in a tree, a rumbling sound filled the sky. The neighbours rushed out to witness the commotion.
They saw the mother and the robbers looking at a dragon in a tree. The wind began to howl and the sky darkened.
‘Look’, an old man shouted. ‘Dragons from the east.’
Hundreds of mighty dragons slowly flew towards them. With each wingbeat lightning flashed, thunder rumbled.
Rain began to fall. The people lifted their faces feeling the water falling towards the parched earth.
‘The rains have come! The rains have come!’ they cheered.
They splashed in the puddles forming on the ground.
The dragons swooped down to the little town and flew around the tree. Xiang Sheng was caught up in the current and was lifted up in a whirlwind of scales and wings and tails.
‘ No,’ he cried, ‘leave me here. I don’t want to go with you. I don’t want to be a dragon.’
‘You’ve swallowed a dragon’s pearl. There is no choice. Come with us to the mountains. You will be a dragon for evermore .’
Sadly, Xiang Sheng waved goodbye to his mother.
He dived down and hovered above the people of the little town. His mother called up to him, ‘I’m so sorry Xiang Shen. I should have stayed awake and listened to my grandmother’s story. Then I’d have warned you never to swallow a dragon’s pearl.’
Her son bid farewell flying backwards, waving slowly. His wing tips dipped beneath the rising waters brought by the torrential rain and the waterfall of his tears. Twenty eight times he waved goodbye before turning to join the dragon’s heading east.
On Friday night I sampled the amazing night light displays of China’s third largest city. I was invited on a cruise along the Pearl River in Guangzhou with the staff of British School Guangzhou. A great end to a phenomenal Book Week shared with authors Adam Bushnell and Kathryn White.
Sunday evening ended with a sundowner at the Miami Beach Bar in Penang, Malaysia with teacher Ashley Byrne and colleagues from St. Christopher’s International Primary School.
While swapping stories about stowaway bullfrogs, monkeys in schools and the world’s longest snakes (a python 7.5 metres long was found just a few miles from where we were sitting) I was told the tale of the story of a young girl who was sitting with her family behind me.