Storytelling for Times of Change by Jaimmie Stugard

Jaimmie writes: In a recent newsletter, I wrote of the value of the pedagogical tale.  Throughout time stories have had immeasurable cultural value that moved beyond simple entertainment.  Human history has been chronicled through the oral tradition.  The archetypes found in ancient tales are an expression of our inner life as well as an articulation of our worldly experiences.  It is no wonder that psychologists and anthropologists take a special interest in storytelling and the oral tradition.  It makes sense that humans have always used stories to teach one another about the joys and perils that lay beyond the village gates. 

At LifeWays, story time is a time for bonding and sharing in the artistry and wisdom of this ancient tradition.  Pedagogically, we can use stories and verses to promote language development, guide behavior,  offer an explanation or mark a transition.  As I was preparing to move from the suite and introduce Miss Belinda to the children, I told a rendition of the story “Queen Mary and the Children of the Cedar Castle” at nap time for many days. This story is similar to the one I tell in August in anticipation of some children leaving LifeWays Milwaukee to begin school.  It is full of familiar landmarks and scenery to spark their imaginations and set the scene for this tale of imminent change.

Queen Mary and the Children of the Cedar Castle

By Miss Jaimmie

Once upon a time, there lived a wise and benevolent queen.  Her name was Queen Mary.  Queen Mary was known throughout the kingdom for her kindness and compassion and her love of little children.  Children adored her and followed her wherever she roamed.  The Queen thought it would be lovely to have a castle to share with the children she cared for so dearly.  So, she went on a quest, in search of the perfect castle for children.  She walked through the village to the edge of the Enchanted Wood.  And there she saw a beautiful castle made all out of cedar.  In front of the castle lay the village, and just beyond the castle stood the Enchanted Wood.  Queen Mary’s heart filled with joy.  The Cedar Castle was the perfect place for children to play and grow together.

So the Queen invited the children of the village to join her in the Cedar Castle.  She also invited Lords and Ladies to come and help her care for the children.  They all spent many days and weeks together in the Cedar Castle.  They played together and they worked together.  They ate together and they rested together.  Many stories were told and many songs were sung.  Many hours were spent exploring the Enchanted Wood.  Butterflies and snakes, birds and squirrels, fairies and spiders, deer and turkeys were among the children’s forest friends.  The seasons brought many new and interesting things for the children to explore.  From snowflakes to scilla, the enchanted forest was full of beauty and wonder.  And so, the weeks and months and years passed, and the Cedar Castle and enchanted forest were filled with joy and love.

One fine day, Queen Mary went for a stroll in the Enchanted Wood.  She walked further into the wood than she had ever walked before.  She walked through the Clearing and beyond the Story Rock.  She walked down the crookedy stairs and along the riverside.  On and on she walked, beyond the Troll Bridge and the Jasper House.  On and on and on she walked.  Beyond the Quartz Mountain that is the heart of the Enchanted Wood.  She walked and she walked until she came to place she had never seen before.  It was a beautiful meadow full of colorful butterflies and fragrant flowers.  Queen Mary stood in the meadow and closed her eyes.  She smelled the sweet, fragrant flowers and heard the bees buzzing all around her.  She heard the river flowing. She felt the wind blowing and the warm sun shining on her face. 

When the Queen opened her eyes, she saw a most unusual sight.  A beautiful rainbow arced across the blue sky and landed at her feet.  Mary felt compelled to climb the rainbow, and so she did.  And when she reached the top, she was amazed at all she saw.  She could see the wide Enchanted Wood, the Flowing River and the Quartz Mountain. She could see the Jasper House and the Troll Bridge, the crookedy stairs, Story Rock and the Clearing.  She could see the Cedar Castle and the village beyond.  And when she looked even further, she saw other villages, other forests and rivers, and other castles.  The castles had golden silk flags blowing in the wind that seemed to be waving to her.  Suddenly, Queen Mary was taken with a great longing to explore the world beyond her kingdom and visit the other castles.  Perhaps, they too, were filled with happy, playful children.  

                With her heart eager for adventure, the Queen slid back down the rainbow and landed in the soft grasses and flowers in the meadow.  She walked back through the Enchanted Wood, past the Quartz Mountain, the Jasper House and the Troll Bridge.  She walked along the riverside and climbed the crookedy stairs.  She walked past the Story Rock and into the Clearing where she saw her dear friends, the Lord and Ladies of the Cedar Castle sitting together among the scilla, chatting and singing.  Queen Mary told them all about her adventure and the castles that lay beyond their kingdom.  She asked the Lord and Ladies to care for the Cedar Castle and the children while she explored the world beyond. And, of course, they agreed.

                The Lords and Ladies and the children of the village continued to spend their days happily together in the Cedar Castle and the Enchanted Wood, while Queen Mary went on to explore the world beyond.  She met many new friends, and all who came to know her were touched by her presence.  She was known throughout the land as a helper for humanity and a kind and wise teacher.  And so it was, that Queen Mary, the Lords and Ladies and all of the Children of the Cedar Castle lived happily ever after.  

Jaimmie Stugard has been a lead teacher for many years at LifeWays Early Childhood Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she now serves as Director.