What brings Happiness
Is it fate, or do we decide ourselves?
This is the sort of existential question folk tales are particularly good at posing. The validity of various answers is doubtless a reason why we still enjoy them thousands of years later.
I first heard a version of this tale over 25 years ago. Since then I have tried out a number of different ways of framing the story, and so my own version has gradually evolved.
An Afghani version, “The Wooden Sword”, is in Heather Forest’s Wisdom Tales.
The same motif is shown in the short text by the 15th century Korean writer, Yi Ryuk (see Tales of Korea, trans. James S. Gale ch. 49).
A recent discussion of this story on the Storytell listserv brought the following information from Cherie Schwartz. I have added this with her kind permission.
PROVENANCE OF THE STORY
by Storyteller Cherie Karo Schwartz
The story of “The Wooden Sword” is also a very well-known Jewish story. It appears in Dr. Dov Noy’s Folktales of Israel (part of the University of Chicago Press series on worldwide folktales).
Dov Noy, of blessed memory, founded the Israel Folktale Archives. As people made aliyah, as they came into Israel from around the world into Israel starting in the late 1950s, their stories which were remembered from their countries of origin were recorded by Israel Folktale Archives staff and translators.
This wooden sword story has variants from Turkey, Greece, Finland, Czechoslovakia, Germany and Italy. There is also a Sephardic Jewish version and another that is Uzbek. The story, under the title “Blessed be G!d Day be Day”, comes from The Israel Folktale Archives: IFA 412; Tale type 1736A. It was recorded by Zvulun Kort, as heard in Afghanistan in his youth.
My recording was made on 26th April 2016 as part of a benefit performance at Edith-Stein-Schule, Darmstadt in support of refugee projects.
The video clips here are all amateur quality, shot in various theatres.
Their intention is just to show the range of my storytelling and give a flavour of a live performance.
Permission is granted for use in non-commercial educational contexts.
The videos are © Richard Martin.
Professionally recorded CDs and DVDs are available here.
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For those who are teachers: Telling stories in the classroom: basing language teaching on storytelling