Masterful Storyteller Provides a Christmas Gem

Storyteller Karen Chace

Every Christmas season I turn to a masterful professional storyteller, Karen Chace of East Freetown, MA, asking her to share a story that will warm the hearts of children and adults–and will personify the meaning of the season. Once again, Karen has come up with a gem.

Read the story, and then note how you can respond with your comments.

Also, after the story you’ll find Karen’s contact information–and the link to a 60 minute radio interview with her.

THE SILVER CONES
Adapted from a story by Johanna Spyri
Found in Educating by Storytelling Published in 1918

In the mountain land of Bohemia there lived in the long ago a miner with his wife and little daughter. They were happy in their hut in the forest, but after a time the father and mother died, and the child was left alone in the world. She had no money, and no aunts or cousins to take her in, and it seemed as if she would have to go hungry. But always there are kindly hearts among the poor, and one of the miners opened his house that she might have a home. He had six children of his own and little bread and meat to spare, but his good wife said, “We will divide what we have,” So little Hilda became one of the family, and they grew to love her very much.

It was midwinter, and Christmas day not far away. The children thought of nothing but the coming of St. Nicholas, who they hoped would not forget them on the Holy Night, when every boy and girl in Bohemia expects a visit from the gift bringer. But when they spoke to the miner about it he shook his head and said, “Do not set your hearts upon his coming. Our hut is very small and stands so far in the forest that he may not be able to find it.”

Gretchen, his little daughter, had a very different idea. She declared St. Nicholas could find a house in the dark if it were no bigger than an ant hill, and went to bed to dream of the toys and sweetmeats he would bring.

Day after day passed, and nearer, nearer came the season of Christ’s birth. The children talked of him as they sat by the fire at night, as they picked up dead branches in the forest, and as they bedded the goats and shut them in, for Bohemian mountain folk are a toiling people, and even boys and girls must work.

At last the day before Christmas came, and in the afternoon little Hilda started out with her basket to get some cones. She wanted the fire to be brighter and more cheerful than ever that night, and perhaps if she met a servant from the castle, he might take some to feed the prince’s fire, and give her a silver piece.

“And if he does,” she thought as she trudged on her way, “I can buy something for the miner and his dear children.”

Now, in that land of Bohemia, on the summit of a lofty mountain, a creature named Riibezahl made his home. He possessed all magic powers, and was so mighty that his sway extended to the very center of the earth. There he had chambers of gold and silver, and diamonds and jewels without number, and often gave of his treasures to those who were good enough to deserve them. He could change himself at will into any form. Now he was a bat flying in the night, now a country swain selling his wares at the fair, and now a woodman cutting down trees in the forest, because thus he was able to find out who was worthy and who unworthy, and to reward or punish them as they deserved.

Hilda had often heard of the strange ways of Riibezahl, and wondered if he would ever cross her path.

“I suppose not,” she murmured, “because I am just a little girl.”

As she came near the fir trees, a tiny white-haired man walked out of the shadow. He had a long white beard and a jolly red face, and looted as if he were the friend of children.

“What are you doing?” he called to her.

“I’ve come to gather cones,” she replied; “some for our fire and some to sell, if the servant from the castle will only buy.”

Then she told him of the miner’s family, of how eager she was to get some money that she might buy a gift for his children and of her hope that St. Nicholas would not forget them on the Holy Night.

The little old man seemed much interested, and when she finished her story he said, “The largest cones are on that tree. If you hope to sell, gather the best ones.”

He pointed to a great, dark fir just beyond them, and then went back into the shadows of the forest.

Little Hilda thanked him and ran to the spot. She could see the cones like beehives on the branches, and just as she came under them there was such a downfall of beautiful brown things it frightened her and she began to run. But thinking of what she could do with such big ones, she went back, filled her basket, and started homeward.

It was very heavy, and the farther she went the heavier it grew.

“I’ll have to ask little Gretchen to help me take it up the hill path to the castle,” she thought. But by the time she reached the hut it had become such a load she could not move it, and the miner had to carry it in himself.

“They are lovely big ones and of a beautiful brown color,” she said as the children crowded around to see.

But when they looked at the basket again, they saw no brown at all. Instead there was a gleam brighter than that of the moonbeams through the fir trees, for a wonderful thing had happened. In the twinkling of an eye every one of those cones had turned into shining silver, which sparkled and glistened so that they dazzled the eyes.

Then the little girl remembered the old man in the forest and told the miner about him.

He nodded his head in a knowing way and said, “Surely it was Riibezahl, and he has rewarded you for being sweet and gentle.”

All of which seemed like a dream to little Hilda, but when she looked into the basket she knew it was true. And so knew all the other mountain folk, when the stars of the Holy Night shone out and the children went from door to door distributing silver cones. The good folk who gave her a home received so many that never again were they poor. They built a fine house with a porch and twenty windows, and were as rich as anyone in Bohemia.

To make things lovelier still, St. Nicholas found the hut, just as Gretchen had said he would, and left some sweets and toys for the children. He laughed loud and long when he saw the shining cones, for he had heard all about it from Riibezahl himself.

Pronunciation – Riibezahl (re’be tsal)

RESPOND WITH YOUR COMMENTS
Karen and I will welcome your comments.

Go to the end of the blog entry in the section below and click NO COMMENTS if none have been made, or if comments have been made click 1 comment, 2 comments, or whatever the comments button says. The comments section will appear.

ABOUT KAREN CHACE
Visit Karen’s Web site, where you will find valuable resources about stories. Read her blog, and enter your e-mail address in the slot to sign up for her newsletter. Use her contact information to talk with her about a professional presentation to your conference/convention. Not only has she attained high awards from her professional organizations, Karen has become a popular presenter to a variety of audiences. Her site link:
http://www.storybug.net

HEAR MY RADIO INTERVIEW WITH KAREN CHACE
As the host of “The Communication Corner” on WBCX-FM, I was privileged to interview Karen about storytelling. This link gives you access to the full 60-minute interview:

http://thecompletecommunicator.com/?p=2021

Christmas Story from “Storybug” Karen Chace

Storyteller Karen Chace in Action

While she refers to herself whimsically as “Storybug,” Karen Chace–based in East Freetown, MA–is quite seriously dedicated to her storytelling profession. That’s why I turned to her when I wanted a Christmas story to share with my blog readers. You’ll find this story heartwarming, with a grand message.

THE BEST WISH–THE STORY OF THREE BROTHERS AND AN ANGEL
NOTE: This story is a public domain European folktale found in Czechoslovak Fairy Tales by Parker Fillmore.

There were once three brothers whose only possession was a pear tree. They took turns guarding it. That is to say while two of them went to work the third stayed at home to see that no harm came to the pear tree.

Now it happened that an Angel from heaven was sent down to test the hearts of the three brothers. The Angel took the form of a beggar and approaching the pear tree on a day when the oldest brother was guarding it, he held out his hand and said:

“In heaven’s name, brother, give me a ripe pear.”

The oldest brother at once handed him a pear, saying:

“This one I can give you because it is mine, but none of the others because they belong to my brothers.”

The Angel thanked him and departed.

The next day when the second brother was on guard he returned in the same guise and again begged the charity of a ripe pear.

“Take this one,” the second brother said. “It is mine and I can give it away. I can’t give away any of the others because they belong to my brothers.”

The Angel thanked the second brother and departed.

The third day he had exactly the same experience with the youngest brother.

On the following day the Angel, in the guise of a monk, came to the brothers’ house very early while they were still all at home.

“My sons,” he said, “come with me and perhaps I can find you something better to do than guard a single pear tree.”

The brothers agreed and they all started out together. After walking some time they came to the banks of a broad deep river.

“My son,” the Angel said, addressing the oldest brother, “if I were to grant you one wish, what you ask?”

“I’d be happy,” the oldest brother said, “if all this water was turned into wine and belonged to me.”

The Angel lifted his staff and made the sign of the cross and lo! the water became wine from great wine-presses. At once numbers of casks appeared and men filling them and rolling them about. A huge industry sprang up with sheds and storehouses and wagons and men running hither and thither and addressing the oldest brother respectfully as “Master!”

“You have your wish,” the Angel said. “See that you do not forget God’s poor now that you are rich. Farewell.”

So they left the oldest brother in the midst of his wine and went on farther until they came to a broad field where flocks of pigeons were feeding.

“If I were to grant you one wish,” the Angel said to the second brother, “what would you ask?”

“I’d be happy, father, if all the pigeons in this field were turned to sheep and belonged to me.”

The Angel lifted his staff, made the sign of the cross, and lo! the field was covered with sheep. Sheds appeared and houses and women, some of them milking the ewes and others skimming the milk and making cheeses. In one place men were busy preparing meat for the market and in another cleaning wool. And all of them as they came and went spoke respectfully to the second brother and called him, “Master!”

“You have your wish,” the Angel said. “Stay here and enjoy prosperity and see that you do not forget God’s poor!”

Then he and the youngest brother went on their way.

“Now, my son,” the Angel said, “you, too, may make one wish.”

“I want but one thing, father. I pray heaven to grant me a truly pious wife. That is my only wish.”

“A truly pious wife!” the Angel cried. “My boy, you have asked the hardest thing of all! Why, there are only three truly pious women in all the world! Two of them are already married and the third is a princess who is being sought in marriage at this very moment by two kings! However, your brothers have received their wishes and you must have yours, too. Let us go at once to the father of this virtuous princess and present your suit.”

So just as they were they trudged to the city where the princess lived and presented themselves at the palace looking shabby and travel-stained.

The king received them and when he heard their mission he looked at them in amazement.

“This makes three suitors for my daughter’s hand! Two kings and now this young man all on the same day! How am I going to decide among them?”

“Let heaven decide!” the Angel said. “Cut three branches of grape-vine and let the princess mark each branch with the name of a different suitor. Then let her plant the three branches to-night in the garden and to-morrow do you give her in marriage to the man whose branch has blossomed during the night and by morning is covered with ripe clusters of grapes.”

The king and the two other suitors agreed to this and the princess named and planted three branches of grape-vine. In the morning two of the branches were bare and dry, but the third, the one which was marked with the name of the youngest brother, was covered with green leaves and ripe clusters of grapes. The king accepted heaven’s ruling and at once led his daughter to church where he had her married to the stranger and sent her off with his blessing.

The Angel led the young couple to a forest and left them there.

A year went by and the Angel was sent back to earth to see how the three brothers were faring. Assuming the form of an old beggar, he went to the oldest brother who was busy among his wine-presses and begged the charity of a cup of wine.

“Be off with you, you old vagabond!” the oldest brother shouted angrily. “If I gave a cup of wine to every beggar that comes along I’d soon be a beggar myself!”

The Angel lifted his staff, made the sign of the cross, and lo! the wine and all the wine-presses disappeared and in their place flowed a broad deep river.

“In your prosperity you have forgotten God’s poor,” the Angel said. “Go back to your pear tree.”

Then the Angel went to the second brother who was busy in his dairy.

“Brother,” the Angel said, “in heaven’s name, I pray you, give me a morsel of cheese.”

“A morsel of cheese, you lazy good-for-nothing!” the second brother cried. “Be off with you or I’ll call the dogs!”

The Angel lifted his staff, made the sign of the cross, and lo! the sheep and the dairy and all the busy laborers disappeared and he and the second brother were standing there alone in a field where flocks of pigeons were feeding.

“In your prosperity you have forgotten God’s poor,” the Angel said. “Go back to your pear tree!”

Then the Angel made his way to the forest where he had left the youngest brother and his wife. He found them in great poverty living in a mean little hut.

“God be with you!” said the Angel still in the guise of an old beggar. “I pray you in heaven’s name give me shelter for the night and a bite of supper.”

“We are poor ourselves,” the youngest brother said.

“But come in, you are welcome to share what we have.”

They put the old beggar to rest at the most comfortable place beside the fire and the wife set three places for the evening meal. They were so poor that the loaf that was baking in the oven was not made of grain ground at the mill but of pounded bark gathered from the trees.

“Alas,” the wife murmured to herself, “it shames me that we have no real bread to put before our guest.”

Imagine then her surprise when she opened the oven and saw a browned loaf of wheaten bread.

“God be praised!” she cried.

She drew a pitcher of water at the spring but when she began pouring it into the cups she found to her joy that it was changed to wine.

“In your happiness,” the Angel said, “you have not forgotten God’s poor and God will reward you!”

He raised his staff, made the sign of the cross, and lo! the mean little hut disappeared and in its place arose a stately palace full of riches and beautiful things. Servants passed hither and thither and addressed the poor man respectfully as “My lord!” and his wife as “My lady!”

The old beggar arose and as he went he blessed them both, saying:

“God gives you these riches and they will be yours to enjoy so long as you share them with others.”

They must have remembered the Angel’s words for all their lives long they were happy and prosperous.

ABOUT KAREN CHACE
Visit Karen’s Web site, where you will find valuable resources about stories. Read her blog, and enter your e-mail address in the slot to sign up for her newsletter. Use her contact information to talk with her about a professional presentation to your conference/convention. Her site link: http://www.storybug.net

HEAR MY RADIO INTERVIEW WITH KAREN CHACE
As the host of “The Communication Corner” on WBCX-FM, I was privileged to interview Karen about storytelling, a profession she has mastered. This link gives you access to the full 60-minute interview:
http://thecompletecommunicator.com/?p=2021

RESPOND WITH YOUR COMMENTS
Karen will welcome your response to this story. Go to the end of the blog entry in the section below and click NO COMMENTS if none have been made, or if comments have been made click 1 comment, 2 comments, or whatever the comments button says. The comments section will appear.

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