FUN SPOOKY TALES FOR YOUNG FAMILIES at The Burren in Somerville, MA

The Burren is a fine music venue, and since Tom Bianchi’s kids grew up listening to my stories (he books shows there), he’s invited me to perform this October 21st, Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m.

Having worked with kid audiences for decades, I know they’re sensitive to good and bad, even good and evil, but are much too sensitive for truly frightening stories. Like the rest of us, they love to be just a little scared, but not so much that they have bad dreams afterwards. And so for this Halloween season, I’ve created a new storytelling show just for them and their parents.

FUN SPOOKY TALES FOR YOUNG FAMILIES features three tales, one based on The Banshee Train, a children’s book I wrote, one from Danny Kaye’s Around the World Storybook, and the last a galloping Italian fairytale with a witch who is roundly defeated by magical helpers who aid a little boy on a quest.

The Banshee Train, with a flat-picked country score on guitar, tells of a trainload of people saved by a banshee in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Kids learn all about steam trains in the process. The guitar playing is worth the price of admission, I’ll bet.

The Stranger at the Dance is a French Canadian story about a girl who almost disappears when Old Scratch, the devil, shows up at a barn dance. Because he’s well-dressed and handsome and she doesn’t know who he is, she dances with him. Luckily she’s saved by her fiancée and the village priest, and the devil is thrown out. It’s performed with a beautiful score on Celtic harp.

The Little Shepherd is a rollicking participatory adventure about a boy cursed by a witch never to grow an inch until he finds a mysterious fairy inside a singing apple. Wild vocal effects, hilarious character voices including tiny fairies and a fun participatory score on 12-string guitar makes this a slightly spooky, but mostly delightful tale, a great way to end this show of child-safe Halloween stories.

Hope to see you there. Please let friends with young kids know about this unique performance!

Tickets are $10 in advance, $14 at the door available here.

 

 

 

A Family Stories Extravaganza at The Livery at Sunapee Harbor NH August 11!

Get your tickets now for Odds Bodkin’s FAMILY STORIES EXTRAVAGANZA for this coming Friday night, August 11th! Hosted by The Livery at Sunapee Harbor , Odds’ fingers will fly across his Celtic harp, 12-string guitars and other instruments as he tells his best, family friendly tales. Wild character voices, uncannily real vocal effects and narrative combine to create imagination entertainments parents and kids always love.

Called “a consummate storyteller” by The New York Times and “one of the great voices in American storytelling” by Wired, Odds invites you not only to listen, but to sing along if you like, create rhythms and simply have fun. Stories from all around the world with music to match!

Tickets are $10 adult, $5 children, $25 for family of 4 here.

WHEN THE MOON DANCED WITH THE SUN: Tales for an Eclipse! at Dighton Public Library, Dighton MA on August 10th

When the Moon passes before the Sun, dare not to look at it (at least without approved lenses)! Yes, the Solar Eclipse is coming, about to sweep across the U.S. on August 21, and to celebrate it, I’ll be telling some great eclipse-themed tales at Dighton Public Library in Dighton, MA on August 10th at 3 pm. Free to the public, the show is filled with music on 12-string guitars and Celtic harp, some very silly characters and three little-known tales. One is from India. Another is a Grimm’s fairy tale. The last, a tale from Tibet,  speaks of what happens when unwise monkeys decide to follow an unwise leader.

Bring the whole family for this fun event! Kids will love it. Adults will laugh.

Got Kids? Get This!

16 hours of audio stories for girls, for boys, even for parents. Odds Bodkin, master storyteller and musician weaves voices and music to spellbind kids. Healthy stories. Hidden lessons. Acoustic music. Artistic beauty.

10 albums plus 3 epic tales as BONUS GIFTS!

Listen to samples and explore!

A Storyteller’s Terrible Mistake

Thirty-five years ago I was a young guy on a mission. I lived in Manhattan and worked with well-heeled independent schools like Spence and Ethical Culture, developing story-based programs for exploring nature in Central Park and beyond.

But I longed to just tell stories––to be a real storyteller. I knew very few tales then, maybe four or five, and my best, I thought, was Sedna the Ocean Mother. It’s a haunting Inuit creation myth about a marrying-age girl and her old father alone on their windy beach. The problem is, Sedna is very picky about a potential husband. One’s too fat. Another puts too few fish on the beach to ask for her. Others have rotten teeth.

Yes, it’s an Eskimo myth. Courtship was like this.

I once told Sedna at an environmental conference and that performance led to an offer from Antioch University New England to teach storytelling and imagination graduate courses, which I did for seven years.

In the story, Sedna’s fed-up father finally forces her to choose a stranger in a kayak who brags about how rich he is.  He won’t take off his snow goggles, however, so she can’t see his eyes, and he won’t stand up, so she can’t see how tall he is. Off she goes, huddled in the back of his kayak. But when they slide up onto his home beach and he steps out, he reveals bird legs and burning red eyes. He’s no man at all. He’s the spirit of the storm petrels, an arctic bird, a powerful supernatural being.

Spooky, right? It gets even worse, much worse. Terrifyingly worse. Treated badly by him, she starves and freezes. At the story’s end, Sedna’s father drowns her in a whirlpool created by the husband who’s found them trying to escape. Her severed fingers become the seals, whales and walruses and she becomes the ocean mother, the goddess who provides food to the Inuit. She’s now supernatural herself. A typical Eskimo origin myth. Scary and elemental.

So what was my terrible mistake so long ago?

I told Sedna to an audience of kids too young to hear it. They were Lower School students at the Fieldston Ethical Culture School. Little kids. As an artist, I thought everyone would be entertained by the music, the wind sounds and the characters. Especially the kids.

Instead, the next day, angry parents demanded to know who this stupid young man was who’d told their children this story. I’d terrified their kids so badly––tears in the car and nightmares in bed––that the parents were up in arms. I’d hurt their children. For weeks I felt awful. Still do, looking back on it.

So after I recovered emotionally, I swore to myself that I would never be at a loss for an age-appropriate story again. Instead, I’d learn to tell many more of them, gentle and beautiful ones, tales that even pre-kindergarteners would love and feel safe within.

And that’s what I did. You can find them here. All with age-recommendations.

Sedna is nowhere to be found.

THE MYTHIC CAR TRIP SALE: 50% OFF ODDS BODKIN’S EPIC ADVENTURES (TEN HOURS OF STORYTELLING)

Become lost in classic myths and legends told by Master Storyteller Odds Bodkin. Pre-teens to adults will enjoy The Odyssey, Beowulf (NEW), Hercules, Sir Percival, Viking Myths, The Iliad: Book I (video) and David and Goliath, all told with unforgettable characters and music. Find out more here!

THANATOS ON THE WEB, JUST FOR TEENS

Thanatos was the ancient Greek god of death. He seldom made an appearance in person. If you think about it, that makes sense. He only shows up when there’s no time left to tell a story about him.

As the son of Night and Darkness, his siblings were Old Age, Deception, Blame, Suffering, Doom, Strife, Retribution and Atropos, a goddess of death herself. She’s the root of our modern word “atrophy.”

As you can sense by his mythical brothers and sisters (the Greek gods were personifications of various human conditions) Thanatos normally has to do with death in old age. Old people die when their times come. That’s the way of nature.

But a new Digital Thanatos Ethic has appeared among teens. Witness the young Massachusetts girl who was just convicted of urging her depressed boyfriend to kill himself in his monoxide-filled truck. Witness the tens of thousands of other young girls who are cutting themselves, along with the millions of boys who worship all-powerful killer monsters they inhabit inside avatars, living a false heroism that has nothing to do with the real world around them.

“The other day I put up a self-harm picture,” she says. “I was alone and in a dark place. […] Of course, nobody would help, but posting it boosted my confidence a little; finding it buried in amongst all the other self-harm posts reminded me I’m not alone.” Full article in The Guardian.

Sites like these where depressed teens commiserate and urge each other to suicide and self-harm are appearing on the web like poisonous mushrooms. Depression blogs. Teen suicides on Facebook Live. Anorexia-promotion sites. This is a new species of digital connection so unnatural, so profoundly unhealthy, that parents and policymakers should take notice and shut these sites down, or at least get their kids away from them. And from cynical, exploitative TV shows that explore and justify them.

As for First Amendment considerations, media like this is the slow-moving equivalent of yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. Loneliness is one thing. But lonely kids who never meet each other in person gathering together online to compare ways to hurt themselves?

Even in an utterly secular world, that’s just not right. It’s a digital disease.

 

Silent Violence in the Back Seat

It’s the daily drive. The kids are in the back. You’re hopeful that the video games they’re playing won’t stunt their intelligence or habituate them to adrenaline rushes as they destroy imaginary enemies. Maybe you’re worried that such casual violence will become normal to them. That as teens, they’ll end up depressed.

“We are a very plugged-in family and never far from electronics and screens. I credit our car rides filled with stories from you for a large reason why my kids never turned on their walkmans/ipods/laptops in the car.”

Plus, frustratingly, the kids are alone in their secret game worlds, and there’s no way to talk about it because you’re stuck in the driver’s seat.

“Unlike most music, the stories you tell invite conversation, discussion, and analysis so as we drove from school to sports to drama to dinner to dance and finally home, we listened and, more importantly, we talked.”

What do old folktales, fairy tales and myths have to do with modern kids’ lives?

“Given the wide range of stories you tell, we could always find connections between what was going on in our lives with some character or situation in one of your stories. Sometimes when a kid was wrestling with something, they’d pick a story they wanted to hear, stop the story somewhere, then talk about what was bothering them.”

Thanks to Valorie Gamer Osterman, a mom from Seattle, for her recent comments.

SHOP

Odds Bodkin Summer Sale #2/The Little Proto Trilogy @ 50% Off

The Little Proto Trilogy is 3 hours and 20 minutes of dinosaur adventures with Little Proto, a character young kids love to imagine. Along with a wise old Triceratops, a retired but still bombastic T-Rex and other dino friends, Proto goes on wild, yet child-safe adventures. Good for ages four and up, these stories talk about friendship and family. Each features songs, too, a full score on 12-string guitar and amazing dino sounds, all created live in the studio by Odds Bodkin. Great for car trips.

 

The Adventures of Little Proto, Little Proto’s T-Rex Adventure and Little Proto and the Volcano’s Fire­­––regular download price $24.95. On sale this week for $12.95.

Not available as CDs.

LISTEN AND EXPLORE! 14 Odds Bodkin Story Collections and Epics for $99! SUMMER SALE!

DISNEY IS GREAT, BUT WHERE’S THE IMAGINATION? (EXCEPT, OF COURSE, AT DISNEY)

ODDS BODKIN STORIES WITH CHARACTERS, SOUNDS AND MUSIC INVITE FAMILIES TO IMAGINE TOGETHER.

Little Proto’s T-Rex Adventure Listening Sample:

 

 

GET ALL THE AWARD-WINNING AUDIOS BELOW FOR ONLY $99. 

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ADVENTURES FOR YOUNG CHILDREN

The Evergreens: Gentle Tales of Nature (3 & up)

The Teacup Fairy Collection (Very Old Tales for Very Young Children)

The Little Proto Trilogy (3 exciting dinosaur adventures with songs!)

Funny Folktales from Everywhere Collection

The Wise Girl Collection (stories for strong, smart girls)

Paul Bunyan Tall Tales Collection (hilarious American folklore)

The Winter Cherries Holiday Tales Collection (family Holidays favorites)

The Blossom Tree Collection: Tales from the Far East

 

AUDIO ADVENTURES FOR OLDER KIDS, TEENS AND ADULTS

David and Goliath: The Harper and the King (the great Bible story)

The Odyssey: An Epic Telling (4 hours!)

Giant’s Cauldron: Viking Myths of Adventure Collection

The Myth of Hercules (teens)

The Hidden Grail: Sir Percival and the Fisher King (a knights in armor adventure for teens)

Stories of Love Collection (teens and adults)

 

All Collections + Bundle

Teens and “The Cauldron of Stimulus”: A Storyteller’s View

From a recent Susanna Schrobsdorff Time article, Teen Depression and Anxiety: Why the Kids Are Not Alright:

“If you wanted to create an environment to churn out really angsty people, we’ve done it,” says Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery. Sure, parental micromanaging can be a factor, as can school stress, but Whitlock doesn’t think those things are the main drivers of this epidemic. “It’s that they’re in a cauldron of stimulus they can’t get away from, or don’t want to get away from, or don’t know how to get away from,” she says.

In my life I meet families all the time whose kids have grown up with my audio stories. At some point the parents found them in this wild, busy world and exposed their children to them during their formative years. For instance, I just met Stephanie from Pennsylvania, a great mom who invited me to perform there a couple of weeks ago. Afterwards she wrote me a kind letter, part of which said,

“I am proud that in our modern age, your stories played a large role in my children’s lives for several years. I can’t remember if I told you that for years we imitated the saluting bedbugs, or that we created an elaborate drip-sand castle and forest at the beach for the lovely Bargaglina after listening to The Little Shepherd on the way to Cape May Point. And of course you know about the Odyssey on the way to the Bay of Fundy. Your stories were such a gift to my kids’ development!”

So maybe part of the cure for kids going off the rails is mythic storytelling. Old tales, filled with the struggles of men and women who are long gone but whose stories tell us that yes, life is rugged and has its dark times, but heroes are people who overcome those obstacles because they never give up. People who are driven by love or honor or just the deep motivation to survive.

And that’s just the story part. The other healthful factor is imagination itself, the natural sort our minds are capable of. When we imagine, endorphins are released into the bloodstream, much like a runner’s high. The cerebral cortex lights up like a fire, drawing on memories and feelings from deep inside, rather than stimulus from that social media cauldron beyond ourselves. It’s a creative act, and quite refreshing. Imagination in childhood becomes creativity in adulthood, and we live in times when creativity and adaptability are premium skills. If there’s one thing young people can count on in their futures these days, it’s rapid change. Unpredictable change.

For younger kids, fairytales operate in the same beneficial way. The Little Shepherd is one I just performed for three hundred K-2 public school kids last week. For twenty-five minutes they sat, still and quiet, for this longest story in the show, all of them lost in fantasy. What’s the value of that? Well, as Bruno Bettelheim wrote in The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairytales, “While the fantasy is unreal, the good feelings it gives us about ourselves and our future are real, and these good feelings are what we need to sustain us.”