The Importance of Rewriting Old Folklore

The Armadillo’s song is a folklore piece that has been around for ages but recently was retold by S.E Schlosser. In present days, Bolivian folklore can be seen everywhere, especially on music festivals. For example, the festival of San Miguel took place in a small town, where one of the peasants witnessed the image of Saint Michael. Also in his honor, there is a church built in the very spot where he appeared.

In the area of musical folklore, the stories rotate around the reasons for the existence of certain musical instruments. In our case, the instrument, whose creation is being explained, is the Charango, a Bolivian version of the banjo, which is made out of an Armadillo’s shell. It belongs to the lute family and has 10 strings in five rows,  although some variations do occur. Charango was invented in the 18th century, an interesting fact is that the folklore is also said to have been made up at around that time.

The legend of Armadillo’s song is the story of an armadillo that could not do the one thing he had always wanted to do all his life. He openly envied his friends who could sing or even make a musical noise, he held the big green frogs with awe and thought of them as amazing creatures, especially when he heard them sing from the streams and ponds after the rainfall, although he could not hear a word they uttered in their songs. The crickets impressed him with how well they chirped when they moved into his house and so did the canaries that were caged by a certain man, the birds chirped and flittered in a more beautiful way than the frogs and the crickets. However, as much as the armadillo appreciated the others, he was really envious of their ability to sing and his inability to do so; this only made life less bearable to him. When he shared his dream of singing to the frogs one day, they laughed at him and told him he would never be able to do that since armadillos cannot sing. When he shared the dreams with the crickets they were also amused and dissuaded him from holding such thoughts and ambitions, as it would only frustrate him. When the armadillo followed the man who carried the caged canaries and shared his dreams with the birds, they laughed at him and told him that there was no way he would sing in a thousand years.

One day he accidentally roamed into the house of a wizard and seeing that he was there decided to ask for a favor. At first, the man told him that there was nothing he could do about his request to sing because armadillos could not sing, but his pleas fell to deaf ears. The armadillo insisted that there had to be away, the wizard finally provided a suggestion, but considering its consequences he advised the armadillo not to do it. The armadillo, still stubborn as ever, was not convinced even after many hours of persuasion. The wizard had no other choice. He killed the armadillo, took his shell and made a beautiful music instrument which he took to the city musician, a fine one who used it to produce the most amazing tunes ever.

When the musician played some music by the riverside, the frogs could not believe that the armadillo had his wish fulfilled, despite the fact that the price for it was life. When he played the instrument at night, the crickets stopped chirping and listened in awe commenting on the beautiful music the armadillo managed to play in the end. The musician was a friend of another musician, the owner of the Canaries; whenever they got together to play, the Canaries themselves could not believe their ears, the impossible had happened, the armadillo who could not sing at all now could produce the most beautiful sound ever heard. Even the Canaries themselves were outshined by the ability that the armadillo displayed.

And so it was, the armadillo had had his wish fulfilled; he could produce beautiful music and garner respect from others, but just like many of the best musicians in the world he had sacrificed his life for art.

It is difficult, almost impossible to trace the history of the armadillo’s song since it was born in the oral ages, it is also impossible to give one account of the story and label it as the original one since it has been narrated a lot and each time there have been modifications made to it.. They can only do so in their literary forms, this one of the advantages of retelling the stories and putting them down in writing. The oral delivery of stories is barely surviving at these times and it is very difficult if not impossible to find the elderly seating with the young ones around campfires at night, telling stories and legends about why certain things are the way they are. Yet it is important for the young ones. If the armadillo’s song was not put down in writing, a lot of people would not know the legend that goes along with the existence of the Charango. The evidence of literary works also indicates that the stories have been there for centuries and decades.

The telling of stories from mouth to mouth creates a variation of sorts between the diverse storytellers. This promotes the divergence between the multiple cultures in the world. For instance, if the Charango exists in the cultures other than Latin America, then the Armadillo’s song story that goes with will not really be the same. This is important as it promotes the diversity between cultures but also the unity in the similarities highlighted by the legends. Schlosser's retell fulfills this goal as the story he tells can be universally understood by anybody who is literate.

The retellings of legends also ensure that the targeted age groups and social groups are satisfied with the legend. The way that a folklore story targeting children is told is not the way that another one targeting the youth would be told. Written legends are made for the specific age groups to meet their needs and desired effects. Telling the legends to children are used to fulfill their curiosity or to keep them busy, and thus, calls for the exaggeration of sorts. Telling the youth a story in an exaggerated manner and seeking to fulfill his curiosity will only prove ineffective. This thus means that retelling a story should put into consideration the targeted audience. The armadillo's retold story is obviously targeted to children, this shows perfection on Schlosser's part.

When rewriting the tales for children as your main target, the use of pictures and images is also important; this is because it helps the child with the intelligence to predict the sequence of the story. It also ensures they understand the story better. Using this on the youth, however, will be a total fail. Youth are more intelligent and have a developed brain, which is able to get the sequence of the developing story and also understand it well without necessarily using any helpers like images.

When a retell is targeting children, there are plenty of advantages that come with writing it down. Written retells are important for developing prediction skills in children and their ability to tell oral stories. For example, if the children listen to the armadillo’s song story and thereafter hear another one with the same storyline, they are likely to know what is going to happen next in the story every time they get to a certain point in it. Rereading the story is important for the child, as it develops their oft important ability to engage others in an oral simulation of the story.

Retelling the legends also gives a much appreciated different perspective of the tale. Every writer has their own perspective and feel, and no matter how similar a topic is, different people write about the way they go about it. This is important for adapting to the needs of the targeted age group. An exaggerated account of the armadillo’s song will be good for the children while a ‘cool’ tone will work with the teenagers. This might be hard to get from the original tales themselves and only a good writer with the required skill and tone can rewrite the tale successfully and effectively.

Another purpose of rewriting is to optimize the settings from those of the past to more modern ones. The majority of the folklore present today was written at least three centuries ago. If the stories are told the way they were back in the day, today’s audience would have difficulties relating to them. For example, a story like the Armadillo’s song can have an already extinct animal as one of its characters. If the story is told with the already extinct animals as part of the characters, then today’s audience may not relate to it as effectively, as they would if the animal was a familiar one. Also, the story might use an outdated ritual or ceremony, if the subject part is not eliminated and replaced with a more modern or familiar one then it may not receive the desired effect on everybody in the audience.

A lot of retells has been done by other writers but not as many stand out like Schlosser's and this is because apart from the above improvement he made on the story, he also made the story relevant to children. Not only did he satisfy the curiosity of children but also ensured that they were entertained and at the same time unconsciously developed some of the children's prediction and sequence skills. The story begins with the armadillo going to the frogs after he heard them singing and telling them about his desires to sing and they laugh him off, this happens three other times with the crickets, canneries, and wizard. After the frogs laugh him off it is predictable that he will go to others and will receive the same treatment. This ability to predict the sequence is not only entertaining but also important for a child's development.

Guidelines for making a rewrite                                                                                 

It is possible for anybody to make a rewrite of some great legend and myth to fit a certain purpose. For example, a teacher may want to explain to her first-grade children about the banjo using the armadillo’s song story. It will not make sense at all if she tells them the armadillo’s story in its raw form, however, if she edits it a little and adds her own characters, twist certain events and add certain emotions and purposes to it, it will be more meaningful and more effective. However, the task is neither that simple nor very difficult. An observation of the following guidelines will improve the presentation skills and consequently the quality of the story and its effectiveness.

  • From whose perspective is the story being told? In the original armadillo’s story, the story is being told from a third person’s point of view. A first person’s point of view would also be effective, but due to the armadillo dying towards the end it would not make much sense, especially if your audience is that of teenagers or youth. However, to young children like first graders, it might prove effective. What if the story was written from the frog’s point of view? Would it be effective at all? How much of the story would be left out and how necessary would it be if included? It is important to consider the perspective.
  • It is also important to consider the possibility of an alternative route of the story. For, what if in the armadillo’s song the armadillo did not die but traded his shell for a pleasantly good voice? What if you tell the kids that the armadillo was not killed but instead made a pact that when he died the shell he left behind was used for making the Charango? What effect would that twist of the event present to the kids? Would it ensure your purpose is met and more so effectively? What if you omitted the part where he talks to the frogs, crickets, and canneries and instead put it that he felt jealous? Would that be more believable by the youth and teens? Would it lead to the effective delivery of the message in mind?
  • What if the bad guys were really the good guys? What if they did what they did as friends and not enemies? For instance what if the frogs, crickets, and canneries said whatever they said because they knew that the armadillo obsessing too much on whether he could sing or not would eventually be of negative consequences. What if the wizard told him it was not in his will to kill him for the use as a musical instrument? Of what repercussions would that be to the story and the whole intent of telling the story by the storyteller? Would the goal be met more effectively than on the original story itself?

There are many possibilities of writing a story and presenting it for people to see it in an entirely different light.

Evidently, it is important to rewrite old narratives, legends, and myths as they are important for the development and educational entertainment to our young ones, teenagers and youth. Although old is gold, it is important for us to retell stories as this will improve the effectiveness of a story to a young child and bring out the desired results in him or her. And even though the writing of totally new stories is encouraged, the old ones have been tested and proven to be important in improving the development skills that a child requires for their social life.