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Baloo's Bugle

July 2005 Cub Scout Roundtable Issue

Volume 11, Issue 12
August 2005 Theme

Theme: Campfire Tales & Traditionsl
Webelos: Naturalist & Forester
  Tiger Cub



Bill Smith, the Roundtable Guy

A campfire is a great way to close the summer and begin the fall. How about telling a few tall tales, songfest, folklore, and Native American lore?

A circle of expectant faces offers another opening for a touch of magic, and for the exercise of minds and imaginations when bodies are reasonably tired. A good story not only satisfies this need but provides the opportunity to put over lots of ideas and ideals which are otherwise difficult to convey.   The Cub Scout Leader’s Handbook. (UK)

Lift the latch, turn the knob, and walk in, friends of boys, to the Land of the Story-teller. Here is a land which all friends of boys should learn to know and love. In the following paragraphs we offer you a ‘map” of the Land of the Story-teller, which will help to guide you and keep you on the trail

  1. A.  Things to determine when selecting the story.
    1. What is the average age of the group?
    2. Where will the story-telling take place and at what hour?
    3. How long may the story last?
    4. Has the group any marked characteristics?
    5. If it has, suit the story to these characteristics.
    6. Have they recently listened to other stories?
      If so, what kind?
    7. How many are expected to be present?
    8. Is there any objective in view beyond entertainment?
    9. Will an open fire be available?
  2. Things to be avoided.
    1. Trash of any kind
    2. Love stories
    3. Divorce, scandal, etc.
    4. Disrespect in any form
    5. Fear
    6. Gruesomeness
    7. Femininity
    8. 8Profanity
  3. Steps in preparation of the story.
  4. -- Read the story over for general plot, getting clearly in mind the general scheme and atmosphere.
    -- Read the story over again, noting the following items:
    1. Characters
    2. Places
    3. Climax
    4. Special items that appeal to you
    5. Make notes in your storybook
    -- Tell the story to yourself. (Not merely a process of memorizing.
    -- Lay aside everything else, forget everything else, go before the group and LIVE THE STORY AS YOU TELL IT.  DO NOT READ IT
  5. Hints on Story Telling
    1. The story teller must be completely at ease.
    2. Use gestures frequently if you are able to.
    3. The listeners must be at ease.
    4. Arouse interest by an interesting beginning.
    5. Create the atmosphere of the story.
    6. Interpret the characters as an actor would.
    7. Remember the importance of the voice and its correct usage.
    8. Suit the speed and pitch of the voice to the ac­tion of the story.
    9. Dramatization is always impressive if cleverly used and not overdone.
    10. Make good use of suspense.
How Book of Cub Scouting (1955 Edition)

Cub Scouts learn about the "bigger than life" characters in the land of make believe. Fairy tales... folklore... tall tales... or are there any local legends or stories from your area? Add a little local heritage to this theme to bring the "bigger than life" characters to life at your pack meeting. The boys will enjoy a local field trip, research and reliving this piece of local history. How about making up your own? Pack meetings and awards can be built around one or more of these characters -- Pecos Bill in the west, Paul Revere in the east, Paul Bunyan in the north, or even Mother Goose. Let your imagination fly.

Think of an appropriate costume to wear for story telling: an eye patch for a pirate story or a worn denim jacket for a story about the Yukon gold rush. It helps set the mood and provides a jumping off point for the boy’s imagination.

Make your story interactive. At a dramatic point, ask your audience “What do you think happened then?”  Or, “Who can help our hero now?” Audience participation stories like the ones in Group Meeting Sparklers involve the whole pack.

There are some sample classic campfire stories under a Stories section that has been added to Audience Participations for this month.  CD

Some Books and Authors that Cub Scout Leaders might find useful:

  • Art of the Story-Teller, Marie L. Shedlock. Available on EBooks at: www.gutenberg.org
  • Rootabaga Stories, Carl Sandburg. Good for Tigers.
  • Cowboys, Cowboys, Cowboys, and other triple anthologies on Dogs, Pirates, Space, Indians and Fun edited by Phyllis Fenner.
  • The Children of Odin, and other books on Greek and Norse Mythology by Padric Colum

Some Internet Sites:

Campfire Stories for Boy Scouts http://www.boyscouttrail.com/boy-scouts/Boy-scout-stories.asp

The Inquiry Net http://www.inquiry.net/outdoor/campfire/helps/story_tell.htm

Native American Lore http://www.ilhawaii.net/~stony/loreindx.html

Tim Sheppard’s Storytelling Resources for Storytellers http://www.timsheppard.co.uk/story/index.html

Stories and Skits for Cub Scout Meetings. http://wtsmith.com/rt/stories.html

Be sure to check out the website list in the back of Baloo for more story and storytelling links! CD

A note from Commissioner Dave

I really like “Campfire Stories – Things That Go Bump in the Night,” by William Forgey, M.D.  ICS Books Inc, Merrillville, IN.  Available from www.scoutingbooks.com.  The book promises that the stories are set up so that no one will be knocking on your tent at 2 AM too scared to sleep.  It, also, provides an outline of each story to help you in learning it and many good storytelling hints, such as, “Don’t get hung up on details. … If you forget a name, start calling the character by what he is the prospector, the older brother, …”  My favorite story is the “The Valley of the Blue Mist.” 

And - don’t forget – last month’s issue had tips on Leading Songs – another vital element of your Campfire.  CD


Here’s some more information on Storytelling from Baltimore Area Council’s Pow Wow book –


Baltimore Area Council

Have you ever been so carried away by a story that you did not want it to end? Do you remember your mother or father reading stories aloud to you and your siblings? Do you remember the feelings that listening to stories evoked in you. Have you ever been more excited, more frightened, or more enthralled by television or movies than you were by a story that was read or told to you ? The fact of the matter is that today’s storytellers enter our lives and our children’s lives through television or the movies more frequently and for longer periods of time than from any other source. Reading and listening to stories simply are not done as a natural part of most Cub Scout’s day. Reading is assigned by teachers.  Reading is not frequently seen as an activity that adults engage in voluntarily. We too are prone to settle down in front of the electronic storytellers. The oral tradition is not well tended in our culture. But is there any doubt in your mind that stories read or remembered are as important or as powerful as the best that Hollywood and our Networks can produce? Have your children ever asked you to tell them about “The good old days?” Every event in our lives that we relate to others is essentially a story. We tell and use stories all the time. The questions are: “Why, where, when and how do we introduce our Cub Scouts to the storyteller’s art?


To understand these questions, we begin by asking why storytelling should be part of your Cub Scout Program. Why should we tell stories to boys? First, stories are fun. Through stories we can learn about people, animals, places and events. Some stories are true and some are not. We can learn about fact and fiction and their distinctions. Stories can make us laugh, or cry. They can make us gasp and even scream. Stories fire our imaginations. Stories help us create our own pictures and through stories we can teach important lessons without being “an adult.” Stories tell us how to behave. They tell us what is good. They tell us about the way the world works. Even some of the greatest religious lessons in the various faiths of the world are taught as stories or parables.


Stories serve us in various ways as leaders. They can help us develop our program by introducing monthly themes, explaining games or focusing on new skills in craft work. Stories can keep a group together when you sit down to rest on a hike. Stories can teach lessons and change the pace of activities. A leader can always find a place for a story at a Den meeting, a Pack meeting, at a campfire or just about anywhere. The problem that most leaders have is that they are not prepared with story material when the moment suddenly appears. This means that most of us must simply plan to use stories and then spend some time finding them and preparing them *


Most of us have seen and heard a storyteller that is so good that they do not use notes, scripts or books. They have memorized their stories. We think that we have to be like them. We do not have to memorize stories to use them effectively. What makes a story effective is having the right story for the right moment, and then being able to convey the story in a way that draws the audience into the story. A well-rehearsed reading is every bit as effective as a memorized story.

As storytellers, our job is to have selected our story and prepared it. Preparation is simply the process of becoming familiar with a story. Stories have various characters and the characters have voices. But we do not have to be talented actors to create the voices of characters. All we need to do is find the emotional tone of the voice and the message it conveys. We find these by reading the story several times. Practice should be out loud. After all, we are going to tell the stories to others out loud. So, that is the way we should rehearse them. Everyone feels a little self-conscious reading to an empty room, but it’s O.K. If you have a dog or a cat, they may actually come in to listen to you read.

As you read aloud, listen to the story for pauses, for changes in pace, etc. As the story gets exciting, read faster and as it quiets down, quiet your own voice. You will find the “voice” of the story after you are familiar with it. Experienced tellers find that the more familiar a story is, the more they can develop the characters, the setting and the action and the less important it is to make the story exactly the same each time. A word for word reading is not as important as an idea for idea reading.

If you will be telling several stories in one sitting, use your longest story first. Follow the long story with something short or funny and different in tone and direction than your first story. Your audience needs to have a sense that you are moving along. With young Cub Scouts about all one can expect is 20-25 minutes of attentiveness. Always over plan your presentation so that if your audience asks you for one more, you have one more to tell, but listen to the people in your audience who applaud when you stop.


The easiest place to find stories is your library. The local children’s’ librarian is the storytellers best resource. What you need to decide before visiting the library is what kind of stories you are looking for. The librarian in the children’s’ room or the junior high area is likely to be your best resource. However, remember to use the card catalogue or whatever system your library uses for listing titles, authors and subjects. Look up “stories” in the subject catalogue.

Also look up folklore, myths mysteries, fables, legends and tales. If you are looking for a particular theme, look that theme up in the card catalogue as well. You never know until you look. Remember to consider poetry. Narrative Poems such as “Paul Revere’s Ride,” “Casey at the Bat”, or the” Cremation of Sam McGee” are wonderful stories.

Another wonderful source of stories is literature for boys. Reading chapters from the Hardy Boys or other adventure and mystery series can be an interesting part of your meetings. The Harry Potter books will be sure to captivate them, even if they have already heard or read them themselves. If the story is good, the boys will be disappointed when you put the book down and tell them it is time to do something else.

Remember that every people and every culture have their own stories. Your sources are not limited to just American stories. There are enchanting legends from the Aboriginals of Australia, the Pacific island cultures, China, Japan, India, the various cultures of Africa, and various religions have special stories associated with them. Stories can take you anywhere at any time.

One important element that works well in drawing Cub Scouts into a story is repetition and audience participation. When the audience has a part to play in your story, they are drawn into the characters and events more readily. Most of us are familiar with Group Meeting Sparklers. This volume is full of material that requires audience response and participation. The “Sparklers” lesson is a good one.

Just a quick caution about scary stories. Adults and older children like scary stories. But younger boys and girls have very vivid imaginations. Do you think the artist of the newspaper cartoon Calvin and Hobbes understands the imagination of a Cub Scout aged boy? How many of our laughs at Calvin and his imagination are based on things that Calvin finds scary, that we can all identify with? Scary stories have a time and place, especially at a campfire with older boys, but perhaps not in the Wolf and Bear Years and maybe not in the first year of the Webelos Program. Be very careful with scary stories and know your audience especially well. With younger children, never close with a scary story. Always close with a happy and up-beat one.

Finally, be on the lookout for storytelling festivals. Often through the National Endowment for the Arts and other organizations States have developed storytelling festivals. Local Storytelling groups may meet regularly in your town or in towns or cities near you. Local newspapers may list information about storytelling events near you.


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