As a young boy I lived at one time in an old red brick home in Sydney in a suburb called Croydon. Every night, before bed time, my little brother and I would rush dad and sing him a song: “Tell us a story, tell us a story, tell us a story before we go to bed. You said you would, you know you should, we are ready now, so please be good. Tell us a story before we go to bed”.
And so, much to our mum’s consternation, we would snuggle up to dad in mum and dad’s bed and listen spell bound as Dad told us stories about the killer black panther in the African jungles, or the Australian gold prospector who was down on his luck and then finally struck it rich just before his supplies run out.
My Dad told us lots of snake stories, some real and some imaginary. They always ended the same way, the evil and offending snake was thrown onto the nearest bull ants’ nest where, in a matter of hours or days, the snake was reduced to bare bones by the voracious bull ants.
I remember stories of Sadhu Sundar Singh. Sadhu was brought up as a devout Sikh in northern India but when he was sixteen he became depressed and wanted to commit suicide. It was then that he had an encounter with God and began to live the life of a holy man, complete with turban and yellow saffron robe and a vow of poverty.
Dad told us how Sundar Singh was travelling through an area where there was a man-eating tiger that was preying on the local villagers. Sadhu was staying in a house on the edge of the village, facing the jungle. Sadhu had a habit of going into the jungle to pray at a log in the late afternoon as the sun went down.
The owner of the house, a friend of Sadhu was worried about Sadhu’s safety but Sadhu would not listen to him – he had a complete trust in providence. Late one afternoon Sadhu went out to sit on the log in the clearing at the edge of the jungle. The owner of the home silently watched from the veranda of the home as the sun went down and the twilight grew.
All of a sudden, out of the jungle the large man-eating tiger appeared. The tiger silently crept up behind Sundar Singh, who was sitting on the log, seemingly oblivious to his fate. Sundar’s friend was transfixed with fear. Should he yell a warning? But that might make the tiger pounce upon his victim and carry him into the jungle. These thoughts were racing through his friend’s mind, making his body freeze along with his vocal chords.
Meanwhile the huge tiger crept closer and closer. Now only a few feet behind Sundar, his friend thought that Sundar would be dead in seconds.
At that moment, Sundar Singh reached his hand behind his back without looking and began to pet the tiger. The man-eating tiger acted inexplicably like a kitten and rolled over while Sundar scratched his belly. It seemed that Sundar Singhs relationship with his creator put him in harmony with creation and even that part of creation that wanted to eat him.
Sundar Singh’s friend watched for quite some time while Sundar played with the tiger before that man-eating tiger crept back into the jungle.
Such stories from Dad left my brother and I in awe, and of course passed something on to us that no similar TV, internet or radio story ever could.
Our favourite stories were of our dad’s real life tales and adventures. I venture to say it will be the same with your children.
‘Dads telling stories to children’ is a lost art that must be regained. It starts with reading bedtime stories, but your own stories, both real and imagined will always be your children’s favourites and the memories will last a lifetime, perhaps for several lifetimes . . . and that’s a legacy that will not be forgotten.
Start telling stories to your children whether you are a father or a grandfather. Anyone can learn the art of storytelling. Practice makes perfect. Your children will love it and you will leave a legacy for your children’s children.
If you want some hints on story telling check out our Special Feature by Sean Buvala, Google ‘the art of storytelling’ or for an overall picture on storytelling go to www.australianstorytelling.org.au
Yours for more Dad Stories