Summary of 'The Storyteller' - A Short Story by HH Munro aka Saki

 The Storyteller Summary

The Storyteller Summary

The Storyteller is a short story written by HH Munro “also known as Saki”. The story is set on a hot summer afternoon with three small children: two girls and a boy and their aunt sitting in a railway carriage. They were on their way to Templecombe, which is nearly an hour ahead. They occupied one corner seat. Along with them in the carriage is an unknown man “known as a bachelor” who takes the opposite corner seat and quietly observes their behavior. Both the aunt and the children were in a constant conversation about various things. Most of the aunt's responses start with "Don't," and almost all of the children's replies start with "Why?" The bachelor, though annoyed, said nothing out loud. 

The children are bored and ask their aunt various questions like why the sheep were driven out of the field? Why is the grass on the other field better? And so on. While the smaller girl begins to recite the first line of “On the Road to Mandalay”. Apparently, it was evident that she knew only the first line and started repeating that over and over again. She tells the children to come and sit by the window and observe the surroundings, but that sparks even more curiosity in them. The aunt notices that the constant chatter is annoying the bachelor. In order to keep the children quiet for a while, the aunt decides to tell them a conventional story. So she comes up with an old-fashioned, moralistic tale of a girl who made a lot of friends on the account of her goodness. The aunt told them because of her goodness her friends helped save her life from a mad bull. Upon hearing the story the children kept asking her what would happen if she was not a good person. The aunt’s response left them dry and didn’t convince them. The story fails to capture the interest of the children and creates even bigger discontent in them. They continued asking her questions about the story, which left her speechless. The children told their aunt that it was the stupidest story they have ever heard. As the bachelor also heard the story, he finally decides to point out its flaws. The bachelor told the lady that her story was dumb and that she isn’t really good at storytelling. The aunt takes his remark as an offense and challenges him to tell a better story. Upon which bigger of the small girls also started demanding him to tell a story.

So the man invents a story that begins like the previous one. He tells the children about a girl named Bertha, who was polite, truthful, wears clean clothes, and learned her lessons perfectly. He tells them that Bertha was so "horribly good" that she even has three medals for that, one for obedience, one for punctuality, and the third one for her good behavior. Bertha's metal medals were always pinned onto her dress and they used to clink against each other as she walked. One day the prince of the country got to know about how good Bertha has been and decided to reward her. Once a week, Bertha is allowed to take a walk in the prince's gardens, where no children were even permitted to enter or roam. The story kept the children engrossed. They were asking various questions during the story and the bachelor was answering them patiently and with such perfection that kept their imagination alive. The bachelor continued with the story and tell them that the park was full of delightful things such as different colored pigs, ponds, trees with parrots, and even hummingbirds. The bachelor also told them why there were no flowers in the gardens and why there was no sheep allowed in the park as well as no clock was allowed in the palace. She enjoys her walk up and down the park and thought to herself that if she were not so good, she should not have been allowed to come to this beautiful park. Bertha was enjoying herself until an enormous wolf showed up in search of a pig for its dinner. The first thing the wolf saw was Bertha who started running towards her. Bertha upon seeing the wolf was terribly frightened and ran as fast as she could. Then she manages to hide behind a shrubbery of myrtle bush and almost manages to escape. While hiding she thought to herself that if she had not been so good then she should have been safe in the town. However, she was about to escape the world as the scent of the myrtle was so strong that the wolf could not sniff her. After looking for her for a long time, he thought he might as well go off and catch a pig instead. As Bertha trembled out of fear her metal medals clinked. The wolf heard the sound and dashed into the bush and dragged her out. Wolf eats her all at once leaving only her shoes, bits of clothing, and her three medals for goodness.

Upon hearing the end of the story the only question the children had was whether any of the little pigs got killed to which the bachelor replied: “no they all escaped”. The children love this story, even though they didn’t like the beginning but the ending was beautiful. The aunt, however, was not impressed and finds the story to be "most improper" to tell to young children. She tells him his story undermines the effect of years of careful teaching. The man points out, as he prepares to leave the carriage that unlike her, through his story he was at least capable of keeping the kids quiet for ten minutes, which was way more than she was able to do.