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The Storyteller by Saki: Summary & Setting

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  • 0:04 Story in a Story
  • 0:30 Summary
  • 1:20 The Bachelor's Tale
  • 2:24 Setting
  • 3:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In this lesson, we'll take a look at 'The Storyteller,' a short story by Saki. Specifically, you'll see a story within a story and find a summary of the tale and the settings within it.

Story in a Story

Can you think of any stories where one of the characters told a story of their own? This ''story within a story'' is a common thing to see in novels or short stories. Stories that use this method are particularly interesting with regards to their setting, or the time and place where the story occurs. If there is a story within the main plot, then there can be multiple settings even if the characters technically don't move. One example of this is ''The Storyteller'' by Saki.

Summary

''The Storyteller'' opens in a railway carriage, also known as a train car. A woman is traveling with three small children: two girls and a boy. She is their aunt. The only other person in their car is an unrelated man, referred to as ''the bachelor.'' The children are very bored, and the aunt is trying unsuccessfully to keep them calm and quiet so that they do not bother the bachelor.

The children continually ask questions the aunt cannot answer to their satisfaction. For example, the boy wants to know why the man in the field is moving his sheep if there is still grass in the original field. One of the girls repeats the first line of a song over and over. The aunt can see that the bachelor is annoyed, and so she tries to occupy the children by telling them a story. She tells them about a girl who is so good that everyone loves her, and they save her from a bull because she is so good and loved.

The Bachelor's Tale

The aunt, however, is not a good storyteller, at least as far as the children are concerned. The bachelor agrees that her story was dumb, and she challenges him to tell a better one. The bachelor's story also stars a very good girl, but he describes her as ''horribly good,'' and the focus of his story is that being good gets the young girl killed.

The girl is so good that she is given three medals and allowed to walk in the prince's garden. In the garden there are many beautiful plants and animals, as well as dozens of pigs. There are, however, absolutely no sheep because of a prophecy that the prince might be killed by a sheep. A wolf enters the garden to try and catch a pig, but he sees the little girl first because her dress is so clean and white. She hides in myrtle bushes, but her medals clink together and give her away, and the wolf eats her.

The children on the train love this story, but the aunt is angry because she feels it sets a bad example. The bachelor agrees and thinks as he gets off the train, ''...for the next six months or so those children will assail her in public with demands for an improper story!'' He seems pleased by the idea.

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