MoonHunter Sayeth 20180226


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A PSA and the reasons why it is important

On February 26, have a happily ever after kind of day. It’s National Fairy Tale Day!

What were once oral histories, myths and legends retold around the fire or by traveling storytellers, have been written down and become known the world over as fairy tales.

The origins of most fairy tales were unseemly and would not be approved or rated as appropriate for children by the Association of Fairy Tales by today’s standards. Most were told as a way to make children behave, teach a lesson or to pass the time much like ghost stories around a campfire today.

Many of the stories have some basis in truth. For example, some believe the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is inspired by the real life of Margarete von Waldeck, the daughter of the 16th century Count of Waldeck. The area of Germany where the family lived was known for mining. Some of the tunnels were so tight they had to use children – or small people such as dwarfs – to work the mines.

Margarete’s beauty is well documented, and she had a stepmother who sent her away. She fell in love with a prince but mysteriously died before she could have her happily ever after.

As the stories evolved, they took on a more magical quality with fictional characters such as fairies, giants, mermaids and gnomes, and sometimes gruesome story plots.

Toes cut off to fit into a slipper, a wooden boy killing his cricket or instead of kissing that frog prince his head must be cut off, but those are the unrated versions.

The brothers Grimm collected and published some of the more well-known tales we are familiar with today. Jakob and his brother Wilhelm together set out on a quest to preserve these tales at a time in history when a tradition of oral storytelling was fading. In 1812, they published their first volume of stories titled Household Tales. Their stories had a darker quality and were clearly meant for an adult audience.

Rumpelstiltskin is one of the tales they collected. There were several versions, and the little man went by many names in different parts of Europe. From Trit-a-trot in Ireland to Whuppity Stoorie in Scotland, Rumplestiltskin was one difficult man to identify.

Interestingly, Professor Rumplestiltskin Schwartz has been known to debate the origins of some Mother Goose stories, including the fabled Three Little Pigs. The tale is full of Jewish allegory and symbolism. Based on this and much more, Schwartz would place the origins of these particular set of piggies in 14th century Gdansk. Read more here:

While some storytellers have a long and sometimes ancient history such as Aesop (The Fox and the Goose, The Ant and the Grasshopper), other storytellers are more recent like the Grimm brothers.

Hans Christian Andersen first published in 1829 and brought to us written versions of the Princess and the Pea, The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid and many more. Where Grimm’s tales could take on a darker cast and were unmistakably written with adults in mind, Andersen’s stories are sweet and warm.


How to Tell a Great Story:

Engage your audience. Children like to participate. Have them quack every time the Ugly Duckling is mentioned, or make the motions of climbing Jack’s beanstalk.
Use repetition. This will also keep the kids engaged. It not only helps them to remember the story but sets them up for the next round of the repeated phrase or stanza.

Give your characters a voice. Nobody likes a monotone storyteller. Buehler, Buehler, Buehler. No, not even children like the monotone. Varying your voice for each character and inflecting excitement, sadness and disappointment will create drama and stimulate the imaginations of the little minds listening to you.

Ask questions as you go. It’s a good way to keep your story flowing and to gauge the children’s listening skills.

Find out if someone has a story of their own. You might be in the presence of a great storyteller!

Share your favorite fairy tale with friends and family. Try relating them from memory as this has long been a tradition. Visit a library or local bookstore for story time. Use #TellAFairyTaleDay to post on social media.
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You know me, always finding unique places to get GM advice.

Why today is vaguely important to gamers is that this is "our roots". This is the anchor material that spawned most of our ideas about "fantasy". Without fantasy tales, there would be no Tolkien, with no Tolkien there would be no D&D, without D&D there would not be the plethora of games in the hobby today. (Okay, simplistic, debatable, but I am making a secondary point here... so work with me.) So learning a few fairy tales, and not the Disney ones, might give you some insights into how fantasy tales work.

If you read them carefully and with an eye for gaming, they will also teach you about story structure/ adventure structure. See the flow of things. See the patterns. See how people have been doing this for centuries.

Telling a tale to an audience will teach you more about the presentation aspect of GMing that any book section.

In the observation section of this holiday piece, they actually gave you "the basics" of some great GM techniques.

Engage your audience: In your case, your audience is your players. Get them involved with interactions, die rolls, and drama around their characters. If they are not paying attention to you while you are GMing, you have lost.

Give your characters a voice. When storytelling I have at least two voices. I have a narrator voice, that sounds suspiciously like a BBC presenter (or on a good day, David Attenborough.) I then have at least one character voice I use for a notable Non-Protagonist Character. Now this voice isn't about high pitches, breathy words, or dropped vowels. A character's voice is about their cadence, their rhythm, their word choice, and how they present themselves. (If you can do the other stuff, great... but it is not required.)

As a story teller, you are an actor. Use your body, your face, hand gestures, shrugs, and even props, to express your character. They are part of "your voice" in the acting sense.

Ask questions as you go. You are the senses of the protagonist characters. However, unless you are very, very careful, you might paint an incomplete picture of the environment around them. It is "good form" to stop and check with the players every now and again if there is "something they want to ask about the environment or the characters present". It is best practice to ask a directed question or two about a specific area of the setting or part of the situation or the NPC present... to get the ball rolling. Then ask the general, "Do you have any questions about the environment here?" (They may also have questions about the culture or the situation or something else... you can answer those too).

Find out if someone has a story of their own. Eventually you might want to play as well. Cultivating the skills and abilities of another GM, teaching them some skills, will make your play experience and their GM experience better.

Just been saying, you can find inspiration everywhere if you are open to it.

So go read some old school fairy tales. Maybe plan on storytelling one or two over the next year at a library, or day care, or school. Not only do you hone your own GMing presentation skills and sharpen your story skills, but you inspire the next set of kids coming up the ranks to dream and possibly game.
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