DRAFT #2: The Memory Tree

[This was what Saigon Tai-tai came up with. She saw the Memory Tree story slightly differently. My earlier draft had the boy as the central character whereas Saigon Tai-tai’s version centred around the old woman telling the tale]


“Once upon a memory…” the old woman began, weaving her story into the night. Every evening the village gathered around her. They sat circling a warm fire, under a banyan tree, drawn by a new tale each night. And late into the evening they stayed, dreaming and remembering her story.

She wove stories from memories of the past, from the legends of ancestors, from tales of forefathers. The stories danced and cried, walked and ate and were alive in the hearts of the people. Each thread of her story was carefully picked from a treasured memory – memories that had been guarded and carefully passed to the next generation of storyteller. Then made alive to those willing to hear.

[Place Story one here]

It used to be that with each telling, the memory would grow stronger. As each child, each man and each woman took the story’s threads and wove them in their hearts – a memory.

This evening however, was different.

Dancing with the evening’s shadows, mingled with the light of the fire, was a tiny imp. He had listened enthralled by the old woman’s stories and he hungered for more. And slowly the greedy imp plotted to steal her stories.

[Place Story two here]

So the imp’s greedy mind churned a plan. During the morning, whilst the villagers set off to their plantations and farms to plough the fertile land, the imp scurried to their homes. He placed glittering stones in their homes. They looked like treasures but held little value. A blue one in one home, a green one in another and a brilliant white in the one down the road. In the evenings, the stones shone with a strange glow. Those who had stones sat watching their light. That evening the crowd gathered at the feet of the old storyteller seemed less than the night before.

“Where is dada?” an 8-year old asked, looking around for his uncle. The storyteller’s threads unraveled a little, fluttering in the wind as the crowd grew a little distracted. The imp caught the unraveling threads of stories and buried them in his pockets. A rumour grew in the village, that some had gained prized possessions that kept them from the nightly storytelling gatherings.

“What is that dada?” the 8-year old asked his uncle, who had spent the whole night staring at his glowing stone. Unable to explain, the uncle shared the stone with the child. Looking deep within it, the child noticed tiny creatures dancing in the stone. Then his uncle, tilted the stone in another direction and there were falling snowflakes in a small village. Another tilt and the sounds of waves came from the stone within a scene of bright sun and sparkling sea. So the boy and his uncle remained the rest of the day enthralled.

Meanwhile, the imp strung the threads of stories through the banyan tree. Each treasured memory, slowly woven together.

But the villagers were in an uproar. Why and how did some gain a stone and not the other? And now there was a great hunger for these shining stones. And the imp rubbed his little hands, knowing where the true treasures were.

That evening, as the old storyteller took her seat, she noticed only the little children and the elderly by her feet. She paused for a moment but continued to weave another colourful tale. In the shadows, the imp caught the lose strands of songs and lyrics and wove the memories around the banyan tree.

[Place Story three here]

And so the imp stole the memories and wove the stories around the trees. And each day, more and more villagers acquired rocks of varying colours that captured their imagination, leaving a forgetfulness behind.

Night after night the old lady saw her audience dwindle. Until only the 8-year old boy was left – and an imp in the shadows.

“You have come to listen to a tale tonight?” she asked. “Is there no one else?”

“No one, grandmother,” said the boy, for the imp remained hidden.

“Where have everyone gone to?” she probed.

“To watch their own stories…” he said, matter-of-factly.

“And why are you not with them?” she wondered.

“Your stories have life…” he explained.

[Place Story four here]

By now, the old lady was exhausted. For without the crowd of villagers, the effort of weaving a tale grew heavy. There were no longer the many eyes to watch the colours of a story unfold, there were no longer the many ears to hear cries of legendary creatures, there were no longer the hands to clap along a tale’s song. Her memory dimmed as the night grew longer and darker.

But the imp continued to collect until the evening dimmed.

“Are you still here?” the old lady asked the little boy.

Half asleep, the boy nodded as his memory and his dream worlds merged.

And in the light of dawn, the woman noticed the crooked shadow. The imp!

[Place Story five here]


DRAFT: The Memory Tree

[This was the email I sent to Saigon Tai-tai, that sparked off our story discussion, which eventually led to the creation of this blog. The title “The Memory Tree” came to me like this: I was listening to an Enya album, which led me to think of an earlier album titled “The Memory Of Trees”. At that moment, I was thinking about how stories were a record of memories. So then the axioms in my brain must have fired and made the connections… “Memories + Song title “Memory of Trees” => Memory Tree => Tree that captured Stories”. Over the next few days, I whacked a few lines and an outline of the story was formed. What’s posted below is a mix of preliminary sentences in how I thought the story could develop. Notes/ commentaries are in italics].


It was a time of famine. The lands were parched, the sallow colour of earth.

“Sell your memories to me. A memory in exchange for a meal.” [an imp said this?]

“How do I sell it/ them?” [probably a boy asked this]

“Meet me by the old tree, the old one the red leaves that never fade throughout the seasons. Meet me by the light of the half-moon.”

The old woman was there. [Why old woman? Where did she come from? How does she fit into story?]

“Now speak of your memory.”
And the boy did.
“A copper coin for your memory.”

He brought back food for his starving brothers & sisters. He was tired but glad that they were fed. But each day when the harsh sun broke through the cloudless horizon, his sisters and brothers would cry.

So night after night, he would visit the old woman under the memory tree.

Soon, he realised he could not remember what fish tastes like. But no matter. My siblings are fed, that’s all that matters.

Soon he could not remember his childhood. But no matter, my siblings do not go to bed hungry each night.

One day, he could not remember their names. So he called them “Little Ones” and they laughed for they thought he was playing a game.

One day he could not remember his parents.

He realised he could not remember his name.

Finally, he could think of no other memory except those of his parents who were gone. He told of their gentle smiles and loving touch. Of how they would tend the fields for the children uncomplainingly. [“uncomplainingly”? Should be “without complaint, but that lacks a certain kick even though it’s grammatically correct]

“I wish to have my memories back. I only wish to have those of my parents.”

The imp refused. “A deal’s a deal. You sold them to me and you can’t have it!”

“I will work for you for a year. Five years. Ten! If only you’ll give me those memories back”, he pleaded. But to no avail.

The water buffalo overheard this and took pity on the ball. Together they hatched a plan to trick the imp. [Ok, how did the buffalo get into the picture? Too abrupt]

Stones! Stones and broken rock! [This was whwhen the imp discovered, i.e. tricked. But can’t figure out how it got tricked and why it got tricked]

The imp chased the boy, over the dry river bed.

“Return me the memories of my parents!”

Done! And he remembered.

“Now return me my name, and of my brothers and sisters!”


[Ok, that was all I wrote. Then I was stuck. What could the imp want so badly? How could the imp be tricked? Greed? I emailed this to Saigon Tai-tai and she added her comments. Will post that in the next post]

How this blog came to be: A short story

Once upon a time, there were two friends who called themselves the Rambling Librarian and Saigon Tai-tai. They toyed with the idea of co-writing a story (about libraries, if you must know). But as time went by, their plans became more of a memory, as their individual work and other personal committments took precedence.

One day, while the Librarian and the Tai-tai were IMing each other on what’s happening in their professional and personal lives, the topic of writing stories was mentioned again. Perhaps the planets were in the right alignment that day, for in their conversation and email correspondence over the next few days, an outline of a story for children was developed — or at least an idea of what the Children’s story might be. The title of the story/ idea was called “The Memory Tree”.

On a whim, the librarian decided to create a blog. Perhaps he had too much tea that day and was feeling hyped. Maybe he was inspired by other author blogs he’d come across. Or it was one of those “Why-The-Heck-Not” moments. Whatever the reason, this blog was created under 5 minutes (courtesty of WordPress.com). Within the next 5 hours, the Tai-tai received an email about the blog. She decided to humour her librarian friend and created her own WordPress.com account.

The first leaf sprouted on 24th April 2006.

That’s how The Memory Tree blog came to be.


its interesting to see that folktales and legends are all part of a collective memory. i think much is slowly fading away, eroded by the distractions of modernity. but it is this same modernity that is keeping some of our folktales alive… Check out some interesting websites on folktales i’ve chanced upon in preparation for writing the Memory Tree

here’s a list of Indian stories (www.4to40.com/story/default.asp?article=story_index), and if you click the tabs, you can find poetry, legends and folktales. some are illustrated with fine drawings.

on a different vein is Aaron Shepherd (www.aaronshep.com). he writes beautifully simply! if you discover similar treasures, please share them here….

~ saigontaitai

First leaf: The birth of The Memory Tree

Hello World! Consider this the first “leaf” — bud, shoot, sprout, page — of The Memory Tree.

“What’s The Memory Tree?” you ask.

In brief, this is a collaborative Story Blog for a Children’s Story that my colleague and I plan to write. The idea for this collaborative story blog came to me some five minutes ago.

OK, I’d love to write more but it’s already 2.13am and if I don’t go to bed soon, I’d be late for work tomorrow. So in the tradition of blogging, I’ll post updates on how this site intends to develop. We’ll see how it goes.

~ Rambling Librarian