Manipulating Persons and Place and Time — is the way I contrive most of my stories. “The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” is the idea behind Why the Weather Goes Wrong. The old woman lives in railway carriages on the banks of the Great Grey-Green Darling River. She has so many children living with her… the children that nobody wants or loves, the lost boys and girls, the runaways and the dreamers who dream themselves there… and they are responsible for making our weather go wrong.
Norman Lindsay stated that he wrote “The Magic Pudding” around ‘fights and feeds, which is child psychology at its simplest.’ His maxim of more exactly: problems and provender, peppers most of my stories. This is the case with Colin Cod. For an adaptive manipulation of persons and place, Smuggler Smith is an example. He is like Swagman, but is more likely to pop up in a coastal workshop as we make his billy of stone soup into a book in a day.
Smuggler Smith also has an interesting life story that adds spice to any session of storytelling.
The Hare and the Tortoise generated Coffin Charlie and the Innamincka Bike Race.
It is an example of Fact-Fiction-Fantasy: expounding the history of the bike-riding shearers travelling from Tasmania to the Outback, contriving a contest between unequals and concluding in the tall tale tradition.
A more complex story in Time is “The Pittwater Pirate.” It draws on a vast literary heritage, modern technology and the imagination. The “Golden Hope” drifts through a time warp — from Drake to the present.
The navigator is, Swanlin, son of Merlin. His problem is navigating out of the time warp — linked to Leap Years and the Solstice — when he doesn’t know that the calendar was changed in 1752. Technobrats using computers, CD-ROMs and intelligence unravel the mystery. Swanlin recalculates his calendar and the “Golden Hope” slips out of Smith’s Creek, on the high tide of March 21, for Merrie Englande and Good Queen Bess I.
As storytellers, librarians and educators we need to foster an environment for learning: for reading, for writing, for seeing, for discovery, for speaking, for feeling, for listening and for imagining – – and language, in all its forms, is the major communicator.
Peter Dargin © 1996