A Story to Tell – The Bundle of Sticks
An Aesop story adapted 
by Glenda Bonin
The old man was getting weary. His sons were constantly arguing – you know how brothers can be – if not in competition with each other about this or that, they usually find something to disagree about. He considered the situation. He asked each of his sons to bring him a bundle of sticks. When they returned, the boys were arguing again. This time it was about who had gathered the largest bundle and who had returned home first.
Calling for silence, their father picked up a bundle of sticks, handing it to each of his sons in turn, he asked if they could break it. One by one, his sons tried to break the bundle of sticks, but none was successful.
Then their father untied the bundle and gave one of the sticks to each of his sons. When he asked if they could break the stick, they had no problem doing so.
“My sons,” he said, “I hope you can see there is great strength in number. When we work together, we become as strong as this bundle of sticks. But when we argue, compete and stand alone, we are but like a single stick – easy to break and control. If you understand this one lesson, you will do well in life.”

In time, the brothers understood what their father was telling them, but I am sorry to say that it took a while. . .

photo by Glenda Bonin
Where Does a Storyteller Find Stories?
I have been asked by quite a few people where I find the stories I tell, and I have to resist the temptation to respond with one word: everywhere. The fact is, stories are all around us, but because life gets so busy, it is easy to miss them.
When I present a program of family stories to an adult audience, I am delighted when I mention something that causes a listener to remember a similar person or event from their own life. This is often how a story springs forth for many of us – one thought or idea connects to a memory, and that memory contains the seed for what can become a great story. The trick is to stay with the idea enough for it to stand on its own as a story.
Like most storytellers, I read a lot: folktales, stories from other cultures, ghost and scary stories, tales about history, current literature and books about the art of storytelling by other storytellers. Sometimes I read with a purpose in mind, like when I needed a story about dragons for a grandchild. Then there are times when I look for a story to inspire others, touch the heart or make a point. As I read, I often have an audience in mind. Since different audiences require different stories, it would be wrong for me to think one story could possibly be a good fit for all.
There is one cardinal rule I always follow. If I don’t like a story, even if I think it might be something a specific audience might enjoy, I never try to tell it.

So the honest answer to where I find the stories I tell is that I am constantly on the lookout. I find my stories in books, on the Internet, in conversations, in scrapbooks and photo albums. When I find a story that resonates with me, I add it to my repertoire.

About this Aesop Tale
I appreciate the value of this story since I raised five children, each with strong views and a competitive spirit. Parents and teachers need little stories like this one to help youngsters consider the consequences of their actions. Best of all, it is possible to present these classic tales to stress a point without coming across as overtly preachy. To do this, simply avoid the temptation of stating the moral of the story at the end, and let each person draw their own conclusion.
Aesop stories also apply nicely to a variety of different groups and situations. I know several corporate storytellers who regularly call on the wisdom found in these ancient tales to build team spirit and solidify group goals.
I believe a book of Aesop Fables should be on the desk of every individual interested in the art of storytelling. The stories are short, adaptable and easy to understand. Aesop’s stories not only entertain: they can initiate discussions, solve problems, point out what might seem obvious to some and create a climate of understanding. Since his stories are known around the world, the wisdom to be found in a collection of stories by Aesop is beyond compare.

If you haven’t visited Aesop lately, I encourage you to spend a few minutes with his stories every day for a week. You are bound to come up with some wonderful tales to share with others.
A Squirrel Gets Into the Works
I apologize to my readers about the lateness of this newsletter. I have been distracted by a squirrel – a puppet squirrel at that! Yes, I know this seems like a weak excuse (almost as good as “the dog ate my homework”), but this is the truth, honest.
Last year’s summer show, “Squirrely Shirley Makes Waves,” was a smashing success, so we’ve been working on creating a new show for 2012 featuring the squirrel again. Believe me, this has not been easy. She doesn’t like to plan that far ahead, so getting Shirley to sit down and talk about what we will be doing next year is not her idea of a fun thing to do.
Anyway, we’ve come up with the title of next year’s show: “Squirrely Shirley Meets Fry-Fry.” You see, Shirley has not been herself lately. Whenever Shirley gets a chance, she snacks on people food – mostly left over picnic stuff. As a result, she doesn’t always feel her best. She also has a new “friend,” His name is Fry-Fry, and he’s a greasy character who tells Shirley that a diet of nuts and berries and regular squirrel food is B-O-R-I-N-G! Well, you have the idea. . .the show next year will be full of fun, audience participation and nonsense while touching on the benefits of exercise and healthy food choices.
We would like to be able to offer this show without cost to libraries, schools and community centers around the country during a six-month tour next year. We also have some great ideas about stuff we’d like to give the children and parents who attend our show (a new Squirrely Shirley coloring book, a picture recipe book of healthy after-school snacks kids can prepare, etc.). To be able to do this, we have written a proposal to find partners to help fund the program. Wish us luck!
I will keep you posted on how this plan unfolds.