The Storyteller by Saki: Theme & Analysis

The Storyteller by Saki: Theme & Analysis
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  • 0:04 About the Author
  • 0:43 Brief Plot Summary
  • 1:52 Childhood in Edwardian England
  • 2:29 Pride
  • 2:50 Moral Education
  • 3:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ginna Wilkerson

Virginia has a Master's degree in Curriculum and Development and a Ph.D. in English

~'~'The Storyteller~'~' is a short story by H.H. Munro, whose pen name was Saki. The story tells us something about the nature of childhood during the Edwardian period in England.

About the Author

Saki is the pen name of Hector Hugh Munro, a witty and talented British writer best known for his short stories. He lived and wrote during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods, frequently satirizing upper class British culture and society. Often known as H.H. Munro, he was a versatile writer; his works include plays, two novels, a historical study, and critical essays.

Saki's short stories are quite entertaining, even for the modern reader, partly because he liked to include a surprise at the end. His surprise endings were often considered shocking or inappropriate by Edwardian English standards, but were great fun for the reader.

Brief Plot Summary

''The Storyteller'' takes place on a railway carriage, a common type of transportation during the late 19th century when the story takes place.

In the story, the characters are traveling by railway.
Railway Journey

Three children are traveling under the supervision of their aunt. The children are bored and restless, so the aunt tells a story about a little girl getting rescued because she was so good. This moralistic tone doesn't suit the children. Remember, at this time children were to be well-behaved and quiet, ''seen and not heard.'' So it's no surprise that their aunt is annoyed with their liveliness and curiosity.

Then, a bachelor riding in the same railway car offers to tell another story. In his version, the good little girl is eaten by a wolf in the prince's park. The medals she has won for ''goodness'' actually betray the little girl by clinking together and showing the wolf where she's hiding.

The little girl is eaten by a wolf in the story told by the bachelor.
wolf

All of the good girl's model behavior turns out to be the cause of her gruesome death.

And this is how ''The Storyteller'' concludes. The children are delighted with the alternative ending to the usual moral tale served up to them by adults. The aunt is disgusted, and the bachelor is amused that the aunt will probably be asked, in the future, to come up with improper stories when they're in public.

Childhood in Edwardian England

As mentioned earlier, this was a time when children were not expected to have any opinions. It was widely believed then that children had nothing to offer society until adulthood. What's more, children of the upper class spent most of their time away from the adults in the family, eating, playing, and sleeping in the confinement of the nursery.

Typical upper class Edwardian children
Edwardian Children

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