Open Storytelling Circle March 2015

Shonaleigh CumbersWhat a night! From start to finish, an audience of some 20 people packed into the little back room of the Haworth Old Hall, ages ranging from about 8 to 80, remained entranced, enchanted and enthralled for an hour and a half. Shonaleigh Cumbers, very possibly the last drut’syla, the last in a maternal tradition of Jewish storytelling, kept us bewitched with tales from the Ruby Tree, tales of a King and Queen who could not have a child unless he plucks a fruit from the mysterious and magical Ruby Tree, planted by Elijah himself and guarded by a shapeshifting witch, a machscheve. But the story didn’t end, nor start, there… as the story unfurled new events became, as Shonaleigh would say, “another story”, and the audience would reply “for another time”… unless someone decided that they wanted to hear that story now, in which case the drut’syla was honour bound to tell it. And so we meandered, guided by the whim of the listeners, through tales as old as imagination itself, sometimes returning, sometimes going deeper still, and thus we were told why the stones that built the wall that hid the Ruby Tree screamed, we learned how the curse of the Eagle Prince was almost lifted. We found out how the wind repaid Ruth for a challah, a loaf of bread, and why men appeared at her door in their underpants (much to the delighted amusement of our younger listeners). We discovered how the wicked machscheve used thread taken from the sun to make a beautiful dress to compound her curse, and how a victorious king found suitable gifts for his three daughters, including a mirror that filled the viewer with a deep, deep sadness. We met a princess who went through unimaginable pain and fear to discover if her husband’s love was real, and we learned the fate of Elijah’s violin.

The tales of the drut’syla literally weave an enchantment. Each story opens up doorways to others, and it is up to the listeners to decide which doors to take.

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