All day they were playing the Story Game, a version of Dungeons and Dragons and Zork and their always love for stories, with one person setting the plot and giving choices. The oldest's was many branching, wide open, and recently informed by the newly discovered pleasure of Zork, the ultimate imaginative adventure set in white text on a black ground, representing the Story master's voice and the response. The second played a similar story, but with predetermined choices: "You see a big tree. What do you do? Do you want to climb the tree?" "Yeah...." "You go into the town full of shops. Where do you go?" "I go to the pub, to talk to people and have a beer." "No, there's a weapon shop. You go to the weapon shop." "You meet a big monster. What do you do?" "I talk to the monster and offer him some of my lunch from the brown sack." "No -- you KILL the monster." "Oh."
Later, the little sister takes her turn. She is newly five. I cannot do justice to her story, can only tell you about it. She begins: "Once there were three people, Jemmy, Junny and Bami." (Bami was a nurturing African nurse in last night's book, Jim's Lion by Russell Hoban.) "No, they had different names. They were... Daisy, Stripe, and Button."*
The story continues (here's where I can't do it justice). It has three sections, three quests, with the last, Daisy's, being the triumphant one. The story structure is perfect, the plot perfect. It incorporates elements of the day's storytelling -- a maze, paths in the forest, treasures, choices. it is economical, and it is perfect. And there is a coda -- at the very end, there's a surprise ending: the grandmother appears and spanks them all!
*As i heard these names and wondered, I realized immediately that sitting by Daisy and listening were her brother in *striped* pajamas and her grandmother, in a brown sweater with large white *buttons.*
The imaginative power is strong, absorbent, as Maria Montessori observed, effortless, and instantaneous. Most of us lose it in the ensuing muddle that is life; a few, the poets and magicians, retain it.