Regardless of the weather outside, inside the warmth of the Fireplace Room at the Fairhaven Library in Bellingham members of the Storyteller’s Guild transport listeners to far away lands during storytime one Friday each month.
I’ve been curious about this monthly storytelling gathering for quite some time, and I have to admit I regret not making it to one of their third Friday story nights sooner.
Guild member Doug Banner says story night at the library has been going on every third Friday since 2012 and they have only missed one Friday in all that time – due to a massive snow storm. Story time runs from 7-8:30 p.m. with a different theme each month.
I don’t think my kids and I could have picked a better introduction: The first story was that of the “Fragrant Farts,” which immediately got the kids laughing and engaged.
Not heard this story before? It’s an old Chinese folk tale, and our storyteller heard this story from an 11-year-old boy during a storytelling exchange trip to China. Then the boy brought him home to have his grandmother tell it.
I can’t do it justice here, but let me give you the gist of it:
Two brothers inherit their father’s estate, but the younger son gets only a rocky piece of land and an old ox. The ox and the man become friends over the years, but one day the ox dies.
The man is bereft to have lost his friend, but overjoyed that night when the ox comes to him in a dream. In that dream he tells the man all his problems will be solved when the lone tree on his land bears fruit.
Of course the man can’t believe this dream for the tree has never borne fruit before, but only a few days later the tree blossoms and grows fruit.
The man gorges himself of the delicious red fruit, and then notices something peculiar – his flatulence is sweet smelling!
(At this point my 11-year-old son is practically rolling with laughter and whispering to me “This is BEAUTIFUL!”)
The man from our story then uses this new “gift” to cure a wealthy merchant in town (that part of the story I’ll save for another day), and he receives 10,000 gold bars for saving the merchant’s life.
Now the poor man is wealthy, and happily lives out the rest of his days.
From our first story’s location in China we then went on a journey with Schlemiel from Chelm to Warsaw (or so he thought), to the banks of the river Jordan, to the American South and finally to a German concentration camp, each journey with a different storyteller sharing their gift.
Gathered in the audience for the storytime were ages ranging from roughly 8 to 80, and truly all ages in between. While the guild says the storytime is appropriate for children age 4 and older, I would suggest that children younger than 7 or 8 might have a hard time sitting still and listening to stories not accompanied by a picture book. (Of course, you’ll know your child’s tolerance for sitting still best, but the storytime did last for a little more than an hour, which would equate to lots of wiggles for many younger kids.)
While storytime starts at 7 p.m., starting at 6 p.m. guild members share the art of storytelling with those who would like to learn. Doug from the guild says students from Western are often in attendance for these workshops.
The 7 p.m. start time was perfect for the kids and I to get a bite to eat at the Filling Station before the storytelling started. Note that the main library is closed by then, so you must enter by the lower door on the right hand side of the building.
More Family Fun at the Fairhaven Library
Another fun family event that takes place in the library’s Fireplace Room is the Builders Club on the fourth Saturday of the month. The library provides Legos, Duplos and other building sets from 10 a.m. to noon. This event is perfect for little ones (as soon as you’re not worried about them eating the Legos!) and even older kids who love to build. My 11-year-old still enjoys spending some time on a rainy Saturday morning at Builders Club, even though he has plenty of Legos at home.