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]

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3 Comments

  1. April 29, 2006 at 7:11 pm

    Hi Saigon Tai-tai, my 2-cents:
    1) I see this as a separate story, kinda like a story leading to the other stories. Not too sure what the [Place Story# here] works out.

    2) Banyan tree… why a Banyan tree in particular?

    3) “Dada” — I was wondering, what do kids in Vietnam call their mums and dads? Is Dada the local term?

    4) Overall I like where the story seems to be heading 🙂

  2. saigontaitai said,

    April 29, 2006 at 11:30 pm

    Thanks again for your encouragement and very good feedback..but actually i am stuck with the story…

    (a) The idea was to have the memory tree be a symbol of the traditional fairy/legendary/mythology tale. So each leave is a woven tale that is strung onto the tree. The narrative works live and outlying shell within which are other stories (told through the voice of the storyteller… something like the original Arabian nights where the princess wove stories to save her life).

    (b) I guess the idea of tales draped from a tree that reminded me of the long hanging roots of the Banyan tree. Also cos i thot the tale had to be set in an Asian context (not necessarily Vietnamese) so i thought a familiar Asian tree had to be described. The Banyan tree has also been a symbol of various things from the resident abode of spirits to an icon of strength in various Asian countries.

    (c) However, i do agree that Dada is not very appropriate. Actually, the boy is looking for his ‘uncle’ (or a male caretaker) rather than his mother or father. Am not sure why…. Mother is “me” and “father” is “be” (i think) in Vietnamese cos my Vietnamese isn’t quite there yet. Basically, the idea is that the child looks for a caretaker and speaks to the storyteller with due respect in the Asian way (thus ‘uncle” and “grandmother” are terms of respect rather than of relationship)

    (d) i am stuck.. cos i am not sure how the grandmother should react. However, i can come up with an ending…. although whether those shining stones are too contrived of the power of technology, i am not sure..

    (e) in between i think it would be nice to place real legends, and stories from Asia….

    Can you help me get unstuck with the story?

  3. April 29, 2006 at 11:48 pm

    Maybe we can combine (a) and (d), where the key to defeating the imp was to return the memories to the tree… uh, but then this may lead to a totally different story…. I was struck by the phrase “So each leave leaf is a woven tale that is strung onto the tree.”

    Since this is a draft, suppose we start from a fresh page and try a different approach:
    1) The tree is losing its leaves and slowly dying. One day it speaks to a boy. It reveals that it’s actually a Memory Tree, where people used to tell stories under the tree, where lovers would whisper sweet nothings, where families would share their laughters and sometimes tears under its shade. But as people left the village, fewer and fewer people fed it stories and so it is dying.

    2) So the boy decides to tell it a story every day. And then that’s where the other stories come in.

    My suggestion for getting “unstuck” is just to set this story aside (it’s blogged already so don’t worry, it’ll be here). Try approaching it from a new angle. And later I suspect we might just be able to find a point to converge.


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