Folk tale story time made for intimate atmosphere

Whether it was story hour at the local library, naptime at school or bedtime, almost every child relished in imaginative fairy tales. Students revisited these fond times when Joe Dudis, professional storyteller, came to the College.

“Folktales from Around the World,” held in Cromwell Hall main lounge, was an intimate one since the audience was a small gathering of only seven students. Those in attendance sat on couches arranged in a semi-circle around the storyteller.

“It was very engaging, and it was nice that there was a small group,” Caroline Sandiford, senior international studies major, said. “It was very intimate.”

There was no lack of enthusiasm or animation in Dudis’s delivery and the audience’s response reciprocated this emotion. Their enjoyment was obvious by the smiles and laughter seen and heard throughout the presentation.

He began the evening with a few light stories of a comical nature. The first was a Southwestern American folktale about an affectionate and loyal pet rattlesnake. The second was delivered completely in rhyming verse and was about an arrogant man who was taught a lesson by being tricked into believing he had ingested a worm (which was really a strand of spaghetti).

The next story was about “Wicked John,” who was barred from both heaven and hell and forced to start a hell of his own. This tale, as is characteristic of a Greek myth, was posed as the true explanation for a natural phenomenon. His hell was said to be the source of the New Jersey “spook lights” that scientists say are caused by swamp gas.

There were also life lessons to be learned. Dudis told a story about an Irish peddler who everyone mocked and saw as foolishly generous and naive. The peddler did become penniless and hungry so it seemed as though his critics were correct. That is, until a clever twist led the philanthropic peddler to a golden treasure and his good nature was rewarded.

The lights were dimmed to set the mood for the two ghost stories that were told. These were famous tales that many had heard before: “The Golden Arm” and “The Monkey’s Paw.” Despite their familiarity, Dudis was able to provoke both screams and jumps from the audience.

The evening ended with a final touching tale of two strangers, a child and a woman telephone operator, who never met in person but nevertheless meant a great deal to each other’s lives. The child filled a void in the woman’s life, since she never had any children of her own, and the woman was often a comfort to the boy in his times of need.

While Dudis was called a storyteller, his performance encompassed much more than simply reciting a tale. His whole body became involved in the presentation. His delivery was filled with intricate facial expressions, hand motions, sound effects and even some wiggling and dancing.

“Storytelling really draws on a lot of skills and this gentleman engaged my interest, but best of all my imagination,” Ruth Kassop, a graduate student who is earning her masters in reading education, said.

“It was really great,” Evelyn Chukwuneke, cultural programs director of the International Business Association and senior international business major, said. “I didn’t expect it to be this good or this dramatic.”

The International Business Association sponsored the storytelling session. Although storytelling may seem slightly unrelated to business, the members of the club said that many of their events and activities are centered on culture. Dudis’s tales originated from a diverse group of nations.

There had been a similar event a few years ago and the club thought it would be an enjoyable event to hold again.