Once upon a time, there was a storyteller. He had a beard like Santa Claus and a head full of stories. Nobody knew how old he was. His jacket was well-worn and threadbare, his shoes broken. He was an old beggar, because telling stories is not a profession that makes one rich. He did not have a place to live and journeyed from one city to the other. He slept under the open sky as the moon taught him new stories to tell, then the following morning the old storyteller would move on to the next town.
When he arrived there he would sit on the market square, preferably when the market was the busiest it would get, the stalls where laid out with all sorts of wonderful things, the sellers shouting their wares, the people leisurely strolling about, sometimes clinging together into a huddle to watch a magician or other wonderman and the kids carousing the crowd like little chicks.
He would collect a few of the kids around him and start to tell. Shortly the circle around him grew and adults would join-in. This would last until the market was silent and abandoned and he had transformed all the self-obsessed raucous people into silent and attentive listeners. When he finished his story, he would get up and walk out of the city, never returning to that town again. The people, however, could not forget the storyteller for in their self-obsessed conceited hearts a longing had been awakened to the land of meaning and truth of which the storyteller had offered them a glimpse.
But, the man was again walking the road towards a new town and left the people with their longing hearts behind. In all the places he had visited the people became agitated as they had begun to realise the pointlessness of their existence. Unfortunately they blamed their feeling of lack, not on themselves, but on others. They fought, became unruly, blamed each other, cursed the rulers of the city, the mayor and counsellors, the country’s rulers and finally they blamed the King himself. Revolts broke out everywhere. Finally the unrest reached the King in his palace of white marble.
The King called a meeting of his ministers and decreed that whomever brought this storyteller to him would receive a large reward. Not long after the storyteller was bound in chains and brought before the King.
“You have”, spoke the Monarch “made my people unsatisfied with your stories and set them up against me! Do you admit to this?”
“Sire”, responded the storyteller, “I have merely told my stories”.
“Stories”, asked the King, “What are those?”
“Stories”, answered the Teller “ are stars in the dark night of earthly existence, which I have set alight. The people are upset because they have tried to grab the stars and they have burned their hands on the bright glow. Stars cannot be grasped. Only for those who look at them silently do they spread their blessing light. And so it is for stories as well, Sire”.
The King frowned deeply, he could not understand what the storyteller was saying.
“Throw this man in prison and execute him in the morning” the King decreed. This came to pass and the people of the land rejoiced and said “Now we will have our peace and contentment again”. The Storyteller was buried somewhere in a silent corner of the earth, but his stories are still around. They roam across the planet and upset those who do not understand them. But for those who recognise the soul of the story, those who can listen with a wholly opened heart to the Teller, for those people, the stories are the bright stars in the dark nights of their existence.
This story was written (in Dutch) by my Grandmother, Isa Hoog, in December of the year 1946.
I translated and publish this story as a tribute, I owe much of my love and passion for stories to her.To place a donation for ‘Grandma’s stories’ click here