Writing as a Gift: Fable Writing

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by Debbie Vancenotebook

The holiday season is upon us, which means so is the biggest gift-exchange of the year. This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about writing as a gift–poems, short stories, that kind letter you’ve been meaning to write to your mother but haven’t yet–and then I found a beautiful children’s notebook at an art store. It’s covered in purple velvet and has a sweet illustration of a Arabian boy and girl, royally dressed, with a silver moon smiling down on their adventuring. It reminded me of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. It’s a beautiful (and quite sad) story of a little prince from another planet who lands on earth and befriends an adult. He tells him all about the other planets he’s visited and the people who inhabit them–lamplighters and drunkards and kings–and most of all of his home planet and his beloved rose, whom he protects:

“The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.
‘You’re not at all like my rose,’ he said. ‘As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You’re like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made a friend, and now he’s unique in all the world.’
And the roses were very much embarrassed.
‘You’re beautiful, but you’re empty,’ he went on. ‘One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you–the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she’s more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is for her that I’ve killed the caterpillars (except the two or three we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is MY rose.’”
― Antoine de St. Exupery
With this fairytale-like feeling, I began to create a tale around the picture on the purple velvet notebook. It quickly became a how the moon was hung in the sky story, which led me to Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, where each chapter is a different origin tale, a different fable: “How the First Letter was Written,” “How the Camel Got Its Hump,” “The Beginning of the Armadillos.
The Little PrinceThere’s a wonderful writing prompt in 826National‘s Don’t Forget to Write–writing lessons for elementary grades: Choose an element of nature (waterfall, carbon, palm tree, frog, thunder, etc.), and a simple verb. (If you’re doing this with kids, have them brainstorm lists for both categories and then write their words on cards. Collect, shuffle, and distribute the cards so that each child gets a surprise combination with which to create their story.) Then, just like Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories tell legends in the form of “How the __ got its __,” so you, too, will write a legend using your two words. i.e. How the Cactus Learned to Rain. How Ice Got Its Laugh. How the Toad Learned to Lean.
Give it a shot. Write your own a legend. Then give it as a gift to a niece or nephew, grand baby, neighbor baby. Or, better yet, help them write their own fables. Christmas gifting just got so much more fun.
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