Draft #6: The Imp, the Girl, and the Memory Tree

Refined from draft#5. Have retitled it “The imp, the girl,and the Memory Tree” to match the sequence of the story. Also tidied up a few words, moved up a line or two.

“Once upon a memory,” the village elders would always begin, as they started told their stories under the old tree. It was their tradition, for as long as the elders could remember, to tell stories at that tree.

By day, the villagers worked hard, farming and tilling the land. By night, they would gather under the old tree to listen to stories being told by the elders.

Sometimes there were new stories, and sometimes there were ones the villagers have heard before those told before. The villagers would smile at how the mouse-deer tricked the crocodile; how the rat outwitted the snake; how the frog escaped from the well. The villagers would laugh if it was a funny story. Sometimes they would cry if the story was a sad one.

One night, an imp chanced upon the villagers and their evening stories. Imps being imps, it had an evil heart. It saw how the villagers were enjoying themselves and it decided to play a trick on them.

Over the next few evenings, the imp secretly visited each of the villagers’ homes. The imp gave each of them a magic stone each. and the The villagers would be amazed to see beautiful images and lights from a simple stone, staring at it for hours.

Evening after evening, the imp tempted the villagers away from their nightly stories under the tree.

Through the imp’s magic, the stones showed different things each time they looked at it. The villagers were spellbound by the stones, so much so that they were too tired to do anything else. Some days, they were too tired to even go to the fields to tend their crops.

Night after night, one by one, the villagers stayed away from the gathering under the tree and preferred to just admire their stones.

Finally no one bothered to gather at the old tree.

When this that happened, the imp danced around the old tree and chanted gleefully, “Fools! Now there is no one left to share their stories”.

The imp thought it was all alone, but near the old tree was a young girl. She overheard the imp and realised it was the imp that used its magic to make all the villagers stay away.

She found her courage and confronted the imp.

“I know what you are trying to do!”

The imp turned around and when it saw that it was only a young child, it laughed.

“So what if you do? You cannot do anything. You are a child, weak and powerless.”

The imp creeped crept menacingly towards the girl. The little girl knew she could not fight the imp, nor run fast enough. She could only do what she did best — she started to recite the stories that she had heard so many evenings before under the tree.

She started reciting stories told of how the mouse-deer tricked the crocodile; how the rat outwitted the snake; how the frog escaped from the well. She told funny stories and some sad ones.

The young girl was frightened of the imp, but she refused to give in to her fear, and drew strength from the tree instead.

As she recited the stories Her voice carried into the night. One by one, the villagers came out of their homes, drawn by the familar sounds. The villagers rubbed their eyes. Something in the words woke them.

The imp’s spell was broken!

When the imp realised what had happened, it turned and ran off into the night. It was never seen again in that part of the land.

And so, “Once upon a memory,” the village elders would continue to say, as they shared their stories under the old tree once more. They now called then named their tree, the Memory Tree, for it was where they remembered…

I decided to leave the ending as it was. To make the kids think/ discuss about what it was the villagers remembered.

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Draft #5: The girl, the Imp, and the Memory Tree

Decided to change to a young girl. Combined from draft 4 and earlier ones.

“Once upon a memory,” the village elders would always begin, as they started their stories under the old tree.

It was a tradition in the village, for as long as the elders could remember. By day, the villagers worked hard, farming and tilling the land. By night, they would gather under the old tree to listen to stories being told by the elders.

Sometimes there were new stories, and sometimes there were the ones the villagers have heard before. The villagers would smile at how the mouse-deer tricked the crocodile; how the rat outwitted the snake; how the frog escaped from the well. The villagers would laugh if it was a funny story. Sometimes they would cry if the story was a sad one.

One night, an imp chanced upon the villagers and their evening stories. Imps being imps, it had an evil heart. It saw how the villagers were enjoying themselves and it decided to play a trick on them.

Over the next few evenings, the imp secretly visited each of the villager’s homes. The imp gave each of them a magic stone and the villagers would be amazed to see beautiful images and lights from a simple stone, staring at it for hours.

Evening after evening, the imp tempted the villagers away from their nightly stories under the tree.

Through the imp’s magic, the stones showed different things each time they looked at it. The villagers were spellbound by the stones, so much so that they were too tired to do anything else. Some days, they were too tired to even go to the fields.

Night after night, one by one, the villagers stayed away from the gathering under the tree and preferred to just admire the stone.

Finally no one bothered to gather at the old tree. When this happened, the imp danced around the old tree and chanted gleefully, “Fools! Now there is no one left to share their stories”.

The imp thought it was all alone, but near the old tree was a young girl. She overheard the imp and realised it was the imp that used its magic to make all the villagers stay away.

She found her courage and confronted the imp.

“I know what you are trying to do!”

The imp turned around and when it saw that it was only a young child, it laughed.

“So what if you do? You cannot do anything. You are a child, weak and powerless.”

The imp creeped menacingly towards the girl. The little girl knew she could not fight the imp, nor run fast enough. She could only do what she did best — she started to recite the stories that she had heard so many evenings before under the tree.

She started reciting stories of how the mouse-deer tricked the crocodile; how the rat outwitted the snake; how the frog escaped from the well. She told funny stories and some sad ones.

The young girl was frightened of the imp, but she refused to give in to her fear, and drew strength from the tree instead.

As she recited the stories, her voice carried into the night. One by one, the villagers came out of their homes, drawn by the familar sounds. The villagers rubbed their eyes. Something in the words woke them.

The imp’s spell was broken!

When the imp realised what had happened, it turned and ran into the night. It was never seen again in that part of the land.

And so, “Once upon a memory,” the village elders would continue to say, as they shared their stories under the old tree once more. They now called their tree, the Memory Tree, for it was where they remembered…

I got stuck at the end… remembered what? Any ideas?

Draft 4: Opening paragraph – The Boy, the Imp, and the Memory Tree (was The Memory Tree)

I’ve decided to rename the title to “The Boy, the Imp, and the Memory Tree”. Darn but the first paragraph is tough. I’ve been putting it off but here goes:

A long time ago, there was a village. The people in this village was a hardworking bunch. They farmed and tilled the land. The land was fertile and with their hard work, the villagers prospered like the crops in their fields.

In the village there lived a boy. He was different from the rest of his friends, for his legs were weak from young. He could not run as fast or play as hard as his friends could. He hardly had any friends. The only time he was happy was in the evenings.

The village was also known for a grand old tree. No one knew how old that tree was. Every evening without fail, the villagers would gather under the tree to listen to stories being told. From the young to the old, they shared simple tales of what happened in the day. Sometimes they shared elaborate stories of things that happened in the past. They told of stories of lives past and present.

I decided to start simple and tell the story directly, using a narrative style. So Saigon Tai-tai, what do you think honestly?

References for the “Memory Tree” illustration

Photo references supplied by Saigon Tai-tai for the tree.

#1
coconut

#2

#3
TempleTree

#4
Tree_building

I love picture #3 and #4. It’s exactly how the Memory Tree would look like. Excellent!

Draft: Burglary (working title)

burglary: noun ( pl. -ries) entry into a building illegally with intent to commit a crime, esp. theft. ORIGIN early 16th cent.: from legal French burglarie, from burgler…. related to Old French burgier ‘pillage.’

Am IMing with Saigon Tai-tai as I post this. Was asking her how’s things after the burglary (mentioned at the end of this post). She says still discovering things that were stolen, like her writing board. She doesn’t even have a watch to tell the time. But she quickly adds that one has to let go of those things, and that most important her family is safe and didn’t get poisoned by the theives or worse.

Why not make a story out of this mishap, I asked. So ok, here’s the outline:

  • Story, as told from the eyes of a young girl, starts with an introduction about her family — her mother (who likes to take photos), father (who likes to play golf), her younger brother (who’s only one year old), her grandma (who has a quiet smile), her family dog.
  • She also talks about her favourite things around the house. Like, “This is my room where I sleep and study. This is my Teddy Bear that I bring to bed everynight… This is my dog, Snowy. My brother is one year old, and he doesn’t know how to speak yet. This is my…” (you get the idea).
  • Then one day, the family discovers that their house has been broken into. They rush in and discover that things are missing. So they go about the house. “Oh No, the TV has been stolen”… “Oh No, my Teddy Bear has been taken”… (using the technique of repetition, which young children like in the story)
  • So the girl, the mother, the father all get very frantic. The mother said “They stole my camera with the pictures in them. They were some of my best. sob sob sob”. The father says, “My golf clubs! All gone!” why why why. Snowy the dog discovers his food dish missing. Woof woof woof (ok, can’t think of what the little girl might say)
  • Finally the grandmother (always the wise one) says “But there’s lots of things they didn’t manage to steal or take away from us”. They look around and at each other. And then the grandma said, “We still have each other, safe and sound”.
  • And the mother added, “That’s right” and held the father’s hand. The father smiled and held the girl’s hand. The girl smile and held her baby brother’s hand, thinking “Baby Brother is still here, his stinky clothes and all”.
  • And then grandma says “We still have our memories, and our love. They did not steal that.”
  • Optional ending: The girl discovers her crayons were still around. The mother gathered some paper and the whole family started to draw — the mother’s photos, the father’s golfclubs, the girl’s teddy bear. Grandma, she just sat and watched them and smiled her quiet smile.

Possible drawing for The Memory Tree

Tree in Park (19 Apr 2006)
“Tree in Park”, 19 Apr 2006. Pencil on sketch paper (scanned image: 976 x 875 pixels)

A possible reference sketch for the Memory Tree in the story. I envison the tree to be thicker and more regal. Perhaps this one could be the shrivelled version. A little photoshopping here and there, chop off the top and make the leaves bushier… Or perhaps I should think of a tree that’s closer to a Banyan that Saigon Tai-tai proposed in Draft #2.

[Reference: Tree in Park (Apr 2006)]

Combining Drafts #2 and #3

While Saigon Tai-tai sprouts a new bud, I’m wondering if there’s another way to end the story to Draft #3.

In Draft #3 as well as Draft #1, my tendency is to use the “boy outwits imp using riddles” angle. But from Saigon Tai-tai’s Draft #2, while the approach was still “imp gets outwitted”, somehow the outwitting had to do with stories being traded. I wonder if I can build on that to create an ending.

Let’s see…how about:

  • As people stayed away from the evening storytelling sessions, the tree also shrivels and loses it’s magic (it’s a magic tree that feeds on villagers stories, andi in turns creates good magic that helps villagers)
  • Imp distracts the villagers away from tree
  • Boy discovers the plot. The boy is able to recall all the stories and revives the tree, which in turns revives the villagers’ memories.
  • The imp cannot win against this and flees.

BTW, the “tree gets shrivelled” idea came from Saigon Tai-tai. She just emailed me to say her home’s been burgled. The loss of valuables and property meant she’s currently catching up with work to make for lost time (yup, this Tai-tai have to work for a living). She said she might not have time to work on the Memory Tree and that “the image of a nice tree is now lost forever…”

Luckily she’s looking at things positively.

Draft #3 – “The boy, the imp and the Memory Tree”

Here’s a reworking of the story from draft #2. Discussed with Saigon Tai-tai that maybe we cut away the fluff and see what we can come up with. I copied her Draft #2 to a document, removed the dialogues etc and then I pared down to an outline, which was essentially:

  • Story takes place in a village
  • Gathered around to listen to stories
  • Imp came along and made the villagers stay away
  • Someone saw through the ploy
  • Turned the tables and saved the village

And this was what I came up with, Draft #3, with a boy as central character (sort of), and imp, and the tree:

~~~
A long time ago, there was a village. The village was known for an old tree that resided in the center of the village.

In the village there lived a boy. He was different from the rest of his friends, for his legs were weak from young. He could not run as fast or play as hard as his friends could. He hardly had any friends. The only time he was happy was in the evenings.

Every evening without fail, the villagers would gather under the tree to listen to stories being told. From the young to the old, they shared simple tales of what happened in the day. Sometimes they shared elaborate stories of things that happened in the past. They told of stories of lives past and present.

But one year, an imp chanced upon the village and spied upon the villagers and their evening routine. It saw how the villagers were laughing and enjoying themselves and decided to play a trick.

Each evening, the imp would visit one of the villager’s homes. It tried to tempt the villagers from going to the evening gatherings under the tree.

Each family was surprised when the imp visited them. The imp quickly explained, “Why spend time in outside when you have laboured all day? Let me show you something better.”
And the imp produced a polished stone. The imp bade them to look into the stone and the villagers were amazed to see beautiful images and lights from a simple stone.

Evening after evening, the imp secretly visited each family and showed them a magic stone. And day after day, the villagers stayed away from the gathering under the tree and preferred to just admire the stone. Through the imp’s magic, each stone showed different things each time they looked and by the time they were finished looking, they were too tired to do anything. Some days, they were too tired to even go to the fields.

This continued until one evening, there was no one who bothered to gather at the old tree.
The imp danced around the tree and chanted gleefully, “Now there is no one left to share their stories”.

The imp thought it was all alone, but it was overheard by the little crippled boy who was hiding near the tree. He overheard the imp and realised it was the imp that used its magic to make all the villagers stay away.
~~~

Right, this is where I need to find some ideas of how to have the boy defeat the imp. The boy will use his intellect of course. The magic stones are obvious analogy about a sedentray lifestyle. So how is he able to trick the imp? I realised I’ve used the angle of Draft #1 as the ending. Ok, can this story outline work?

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]