The Witch, the Maid and the Gold in the Chimney -with tips on how to tell it…

The best stories for oral telling are those that contain lots of repetition. The key is to get the audience involved. It could be through joining in with repeated phrases, miming an action like ‘huffing, puffing and blowing’ or stirring Stone Soup, or singing along with a chorus.
Erik K Taylor in his book ‘Using Folktales’ (Cambridge University Press) gives these tips on telling.

1. Don’t try and memorise the story – far too much mental energy and leads to sounding stilted and awkward.
2. If you haven’t told the story before, make a brief outline. You may not use the outline during the telling but just the act of writing notes help you to order the events in your head. It also gives you something to refer to if you really do get stuck.
3. Write down your opening sentence and your closing. Getting in and getting out is often the most difficult part.
4. If there is a repeated refrain or short segment where exact wording is critical, write these words down. Hopefully you won’t need them but just in case!
5. Think about how the different characters are feeling at different points in the story. This will help you convey the right emotion during the telling.
6. Think about ways to get the audience involved. This could be through a repeated chant, intonation, rhythm, song or acting.

Also, from Taylor’s book is this great story adapted from an African-American folktale about two sisters, a witch and a bag of gold. It has repetitive language that could be chanted or sung, animals that can be acted, and generally lots of opportunities for involving the listeners. I can’t help feel though that the witch is quite hard done-by in that she first has her fortune stolen and then is ground up in the mill. Enjoy this story and then give it a go!

Gold in the Chimney

Not three times, not twice but once there were two sisters. One day, one sister went out. She came to a house that belonged to a witch. She asked, ‘Can I stay here?’
‘Well,’ the witch said, ‘all right you can stay here. But I need to go out for a while. Whatever you do while I’m gone, you mustn’t look up the chimney.’ As soon as the witch was out of sight, the girl looked up the chimney. There hung a bag of gold.

So the girl grabbed the gold and set out from the house at once. As she went along, she came to a cow.
The cow said to her, ‘Please milk me, little girl. I haven’t been milked for seven long years.’
The girl answered, ‘I haven’t got time.’ And she continued on her way.
Before long she came upon a sheep. The sheep said to her, ‘Please shear me, little girl. I haven’t been sheared for seven long years.’
But the girl answered,’I haven’t got time.’ And she continued on her way.
Before long she came upon a horse. The horse said, ‘Please ride me, little girl. I haven’t been ridden for seven long years.’
But the girl answered, ‘I haven’t got time.’ And she continued on her way.
Before long she came to a mill. The mill said, ‘Please turn, me little girl. I haven’t been turned in seven long years.’
The girl answered, ‘I haven’t got time.’ Then she went and lay down behind the door and went to sleep.
Well, the old witch came back and saw that the girl was gone. She looked up her chimney and saw that her gold was gone too. So she set out after the girl at once. When she came to the cow she said,

Cow of mine, cow of mine,
Have you ever seen that maid of mine,
With a wig and wag and a long leather bag,
Who stole all the money I ever had?

And the cow answered, ‘Indeed I have. She just passed.’
The old witch went on, and when she came to the sheep she said,

Sheep of mine, sheep of mine,
Have you ever seen that maid of mine,
With a wig and a wag and a long leather bag,
Who stole all the money I ever had?

And the sheep answered, ‘Indeed I have. She just passed.’
So the old witch went on until she came to the horse, and she said,

Horse of mine, horse of mine,
Have you ever seen that maid of mine,
With a wig and a wag and a long leather bag,
Who stole all the money I ever had?

And the horse answered, ‘Indeed I have. She just passed.’
So the old witch went on until she came to the mill and said,

Mill of mine, mill of mine,
Have you ever seen that maid of mine,
With a wig and a wag and a long leather bag,
Who stole all the money I ever had?

And the mill answered, ‘Indeed I have. She is lying over there
behind the door.’
So the witch went over behind the door and turned the girl into
stone. Then she took her gold and went back home.

Well, before long the other sister came to the witch’s house and
said, ‘Can I stay here?’
The witch answered, ‘Yes, you can, but I need to go out for a
while. Whatever you do while I’m gone, you mustn’t look up the
chimney.’
As soon as the witch was out of sight, the girl looked up the chimney. There hung the bag of gold. So the girl grabbed the gold and set out from the house at once. As she went along, she came to a cow.
The cow said to her, ‘Please milk me, little girl. I haven’t been milked for seven long years.’
So the girl milked the cow, and then continued on her way.
Before long she came upon a sheep. The sheep said to her, ‘Please shear me, little girl. I haven’t been sheared for seven long years.’
So the girl sheared the sheep, and then continued on her way. Before long she came upon a mill.The mill said, ‘Please turn me. I haven’t been turned for seven long years.’
So the girl turned the mill, and then continued on her way.
Well, the old witch came back and saw that the girl was gone. She looked up her chimney and saw that the gold was gone too. So she set off after the girl at once. When she came to the cow she said,

Cow of mine, cow of mine,
Have you ever seen that maid of mine,
With a wig and a wag and a long leather bag,
Who stole all the money I ever had?

But the cow answered, ‘No, I haven’t seen neither hide nor hair of her.’
So the old witch went on until she came to the sheep, and she said,

Sheep of mine, sheep of mine,
Have you ever seen that maid of mine,
With a wig and a wag and a long leather bag,
Who stole all the money I ever had?

But the sheep answered, ‘No, I have seen neither hide nor hair of her.’
So the old witch went on until she came to the horse, and she said,

Horse of mine, horse of mine,
Have you ever seen that maid of mine,
With a wig and a wag and a long leather bag,
Who stole all the money I ever had?

But the horse answered, ‘No, I have seen neither hide nor hair of her.’
So the old witch went on until she came to the mill and she said,

Mill of mine, mill of mine,
Have you ever seen that maid of mine,
With a wig and a wag and a long leather bag,
Who stole all the money I ever had?

The mill answered, ‘I can’t hear you well. Get up in my hopper so I can hear what you are saying.’
So the witch got up into the hopper and said,

Mill of mine, mill of mine,
Have you ever seen that maid of mine,
With a wig and a wag and a long leather bag,
Who stole all the money I ever had?

The mill answered not a word, but began grinding at once and ground the old witch up. Then the girl came back, turned the stone back into her sister, and they lived happily ever after.

‘World Folktales’, by Atelia Clarkson and Gilbert B. Cross (1980) contains an old African-American version entitled Gold in the Chimley.

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About The Henry Brothers

We are English teachers involved in ELT publishing in Turkey, and also touring the country giving workshops and presentations to English teachers, mainly on the use of poetry, storytelling and other lively activities in the classroom. We can be contacted by e-mail to istanbuljohnm@hotmail.co.uk.
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2 Responses to The Witch, the Maid and the Gold in the Chimney -with tips on how to tell it…

  1. Pat Daly says:

    This story,with slight variations, was told and taught to me more than 55 tears ago by my mother and grandmother in rural Ireland. My mother passed it on to my children and it is being passed on to my grand children.

  2. T C Ferguson says:

    I remember being told this story, over 70 years ago, by my Co. Mayo, Irish Father in Liverpool England. He had spent time working in USA but I always assumed he learned it as a child in Eire.

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