Telling Tales from Saint Lu­cia by Nahd­jla Bai­ley

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Clau­dia Elei­box

Telling Tales from Saint Lu­cia and the au­thor’s other ti­tle, Time for Po­etry, have al­ready sold out once at The bookYard. The au­thor, Nahd­jla Bai­ley, kindly re­turned with plenty more au­to­graphed copies.

Bai­ley has trav­elled to many places in Saint Lu­cia and be­yond to teach. She has had sev­eral works pub­lished and re­ceived mul­ti­ple awards. Both her teach­ing and writ­ing have been ded­i­cated to young­sters and this par­tic­u­lar book is to chil­dren who have been de­prived of the priv­i­lege of lit­er­acy.

Telling Tales from Saint Lu­cia is a col­lec­tion of short sto­ries with story lines, sit­u­a­tions and set­tings all fa­mil­iar to the is­land. The ten sto­ries are set in var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties and in dif­fer­ent eras, from the days of slav­ery to the present day “vaval” fever. There are some folk tales, like the story of ‘The Devil’s Bridge’ which Bai­ley doesn’t tell in quite the same way as has been tra­di­tion­ally re­layed. All of her ver­sions have an op­ti­mistic ap­proach and even the vil­lains some­times find happy end­ings. This gives all the sto­ries a per­son­alised twist, be­cause it’s never re­ally how one would think, or re­mem­ber it to end.

Bai­ley also proves to have prop­erly re­searched the dif­fer­ent el­e­ments of sto­ries and sto­ry­telling in Saint Lu­cia. There is men­tion of the wars fought, ex­is­tence of brig­ands and obeah. In ‘Grandma Dora Helps Out’ she cre­ates an ac­tive story-telling com­pe­ti­tion with par­tic­i­pants re­count­ing Konpe Lapen sto­ries, some not men­tioned in Jacintha Lee’s col­lec­tion. (See Book Re­view in the July 16 edi­tion of The STAR.)

‘Moun­tain in the Mist’ was most in­ter­est­ing for me. The two young boys in the story are par­tic­u­larly fas­ci­nated with the moun­tain La Sorciere and gather as much in­for­ma­tion about it as they can. The num­ber of sto­ries as­so­ci­ated with one moun­tain, and how they dif­fered in the gen­er­a­tions and cul­tures that live on the is­land, was in­trigu­ing. The boys even­tu­ally climb the moun­tain, with raw de­ter­mi­na­tion, to prove that most of the sto­ries are myths. How­ever, they are sur­prised to find some of the el­e­ments of the sto­ries on the moun­tain.

Telling Tales from Saint Lu­cia is def­i­nitely meant for chil­dren. The writer’s abil­ity to be uplift­ing and to por­tray good traits of kind­ness, wit and de­ter­mi­na­tion through most of her char­ac­ters would be an in­spi­ra­tion to young peo­ple. Just as im­por­tantly, this col­lec­tion is cul­tur­ally and his­tor­i­cally en­rich­ing for lo­cal young peo­ple who are con­stantly be­ing un­der­mined for not know­ing enough about their coun­try.

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