Last week, in the second post in our series on Brian Sutton-Smith’s The Folkstories of Children, the selected stories focused on advances in plot development. In this week’s selections, storytellers aged seven and eight reveal their increasing sophistication by spinning yarns from the point of view of different characters. They also remind us how easily children can tune in to cultural and political events around them. Originally published over thirty years ago, The Folkstories of Children contains stories composed by New York City elementary school students with analysis from pioneering play researcher Sutton-Smith, Professor of Education, Emeritus, at the University of Pennsylvania. The book will be re-released this summer in paperback and ebook. Many of the older children in the study began to write down their own stories for the researchers, while others still prefered to dictate or–better yet–perform them with encouragement from an audience of peers. There names were changed to preserve their privacy.
The following excerpts look at the world through the eyes of a Jet, a pot, and an outspoken grandfather who has a lot to say about Richard Nixon.
We were playing this football game between the Jets and the Miami Dolphins. I was the wide receiver for the Jets, I ran to the 22 yard line of the Miami Dolphins. Joe Namath threw me the ball, but I fumbled it, but I picked up the ball and then I went back to the 50 yard line. . . . We won the game, 27-13.
If I were a pot made on a wheel I would get very dizzy, but it would be fun ti[sic] be taken out of a pack of clay and wonder what I'm gonna be. . . . I would think should I be easy to make or not. So I would be a real mean pot I would start going off center but after a while I would get tired and just let them shape me. Then it would stop, if I was real I would probably throw up. Then I would be put on a shelf to dry and I would starve. Then when I was dry they would put light blue glaze on me. Then I would start getting cold. Then I would dry again. Then I would be put in a kiln and I would get verry very hot! Then the glaze would start blowing up. The would take me out and I would be a nice pot. The end.
–From The Dizzy Pot by Janice, eight-years-old
Well, your old great-great-granddaddy goin’ to tell you a story about Nixon. It was back in 1974 when the idea of Nixon being impeached came upon everyone. Nixon fought back like a rat with no belly button, but eventually they got that old fruit! I just got fed up with that nasty old skunk. It was my idea in the first place to impeach him! "Tell me more great-great-great lying granddaddy."
It all started out with Watergate when Nixon made his speech. And this is how he made his speech: "Well, I think that the shortages are here are stupid and they’ll be taken care of like that. Use all the oil you want to, old friends." And just as he said those words, a little squeaky person from the audience yelled, "And shall we use up all the gas, too?"
And then Nixon yelled at the top of his lungs, "Shut up you punk, I was getting around to that!" Then Nixon’s face turned red in embarrassment and his overalls slipped down to his knees, then his trousers fell and everyone saw that he had been wearing polka-dotted underwear the whole time!
And then Nixon just burped and laughed. And then when they got into Watergate this was one of his calls: "Now you listen here, Bob. I’m going to make a deal with you. You announce that I’ll be president for five more years and I’ll let you listen to my tremendous loud burp." And that was the end of the phone call.
–from Burping Nixon by Felix, seven-years-old