The Plot Thickens: Selections from The Folkstories of Children

The Folkstories of ChildrenThe plot thickens in this week's selection from Brian Sutton-Smith's The Folkstories of Children, a collection of tales told by New York City elementary school students in the 1970s. The volume will be re-released in paperback and ebook this summer. Sutton-Smith, Professor of Education, Emeritus, at the University of Pennsylvania, classified last week's preschooler stories as verse stories because of their "prosodic effects" and "theme and verse structure." The two- to four-year olds demonstrated a sense of beginning and end, but focused more on word play. As the children grew so did their ability to incorporate more narrative elements into their works. The selection below–gathered from children between four and seven–contains a meditation on wildness, a story of orphans and inheritance, and a youthful effort in crossover fiction. The storytellers names were changed, Sutton-Smith wrote, "to preserve both the privacy and the innocence of their expression."


Once there was a tiger
he was in the zoo
someone said "can I buy that tiger?"
"no you can't, know why? because he's wild"
and the end
–Garrett, four-years-old

    Once there were ten children. They were orphans and they couldn't go into an orphan company because they didn't have any money. So when they got older they decided to be tramps. And then hobos and sleeping on trains was fun, but they thought they should earn money. So they tried to find out what they did best. And they inherited something from each of their family. The first one inherited being a tailor from his grandfather; the second one and artist from his grandmother; the third a scientist from his father; the fourth he inherited being a grocery keeper from his mother; the fifth a stargazer from his great-grandfather; the sixth a doctor from his mother's friend; the seventh a postman from his great-great-grandfather; the eighth a creep from his great-great-uncle; the ninth a postwoman from his great-great-aunt; the tenth, well he didn't inherit anthing from his great-great-grandmother or aunt, he inherited from the cavemen all of his ancestors. He became a great hunter. And they didn't earn very much money but the tenth never starved 'cause he could hunt pretty well. And he even became rich.

    Well, one day a very wealthy woodcutter saw him with a deer on a stick and he thought if he can hunt that well I'll give him a payment if he'll get me something for one week. And he did for twenty-five weeks and he became rich.

    And that's the end of my little story–but it's a big story.

–Agatha, between five- and six-years-old


Planet of the Apes versus Count Dracula

    Cornelius was walking the in the woods and he saw Count Dracula. He yelled for the soldier apes and Zaius. They all came running and Cornelius said we must get that vampire. So they all jumped on Count Dracula.

    Then Cornelius's son came over and bit Dracula on the heel and Dracula yelled, "Help!" and Cornelius shot him. But that didn't work so he stabbed him with a stake in the heart.

    Then they took him prisoner and put him in the cell and fifteen gorillas were guarding him. Cornelius said, "Get away gorillas!" and he broke in the jail. he want to see what colro Dracula's blood was but he had none. Then he said, "It's a monster!" and he killed him. Then six hundred vampires came and fought the gorillas and they were going to kill General Orko, Cornelius and Zaius with a stake until every gorilla was laying down on the floor in the mountains. The were tricking the vampires cause the vampires didn't know they were not dead.

    Cornelius yelled, "now fight like apes!" and they killed every vampire in the whole place.

    Then after six years the vampires were born and one vampire was left and told them the story and no vampire ever dared to go near the planet of the apes.

–Clem, between six- and seven-years-old

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