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The Gypsy Storyteller

The title may sound a bit odd for this toy blog, but it is rooted in a tradition I have built with my two kids over the past year and a half… storytelling.
Every family has a storyteller. Perhaps it’s some old uncle, a grand-parent or maybe you’re the storyteller. In our family, I have been the inventor of tall-tales for most of my life, our family being an innocent version of the movie Big Fish (but hopefully a better ending for the patriarch). I think the books are separate from storytelling so I wouldn’t include these sentences. My audience began as a captive one, but now is a captivated one too. I began to tell our kids invented stories at bedtime to break up the memorization of our favorite bedtime books. Besides being mutually entertaining, a great bonding agent and a creative outlet; I have a tool to interject morals, adventure, life lessons, fantasy, characters and gypsies… All seemingly missing from ordinary life on the farm.
Every notable saga has good guy and bad guy, ours happen to be two brothers (until recently): Zagreb and Dmitry, the antagonists being the dreaded gypsies. I have brought, in a small way, our own version of folklore to our little family. The boys typically begin their adventure on the idyllic family farm somewhere in Eastern Europe, finishing chores, being helpful and trying to outwit or battle bands of gypsies…Sometimes we encounter the mysterious ghost gypsy that lives in the woods. Did I mention that we live on a farm, and have small pockets of woods? I am hoping the kids can relate to the stories a little better.
One night last fall, we were sitting around the table having dinner together (we have dinner together just about every night… source for another blog). It had gotten dark early and the moon was bold against the black sky. This night would change how the kids looked at the moon for ever more. You see, I introduced the concept of The Gypsy Moon. This moon happened to look extra creepy as it rose through the distant cottonwoods over hay covered meadows and became terrifying as I mentioned that this is the type of moon that brings out the gypsies into the night. Everyone knows that gypsies are known to steal kids in the middle of the night… right?
This is the point where I get a scowl from my wife. The kids are frozen at the table looking at each other in a state of confused horror. Charms are the only thing I can think of to ward off the traveling tinkers. I know, I know, this only deepens the belief, but I had to react and pronto. Evil Eyes are so passé, so we opt to make construction paper apotropaic ‘s with the full moon in yellow and cloud in gray on black paper. This seems to work. It does work. Who knew that storytelling would lead to art projects… during dinner? This might re-define quality time with the kids.
I still like to push the boundaries on occasion, take the kids right to the edge of where they think we are headed… and go someplace completely different. Over the past few months, the stories have become more interactive, we brainstorm on the fly, even throwing in a ghost here and there on suggestion from the youngest. We lay in a dark bedroom; eyes closed or eyes open, using our minds, being inventive, each having a different image in our heads and we talk.
Tonight was a special night as we introduced Clara into our gypsy stories; she is Zagreb and Dmitry’s cousin that has come to live with the boy’s family. She is a feisty adventurer with a bit of flare and a sling-shot, and will be bringing a bit of balance to our boy-heavy cast. I am excited to see where she leads us tomorrow night.
If you managed to make it though this posting, I thank you. I hope you find that Sprig brings a bit of heart and soul into our toys and many come from experiences we have with playing with our own children. The new Story Builders sets and books are perfect tools for you and your preschooler to foster storytelling in your family (though, I don’t think we will be making a gypsy set any time soon).
Remember, every family has a storyteller. Is it you?


About jdiscoe

A toy designer, farmer and co-founder of Sprig Toys.


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