Whose Story Is This?

by Ruth Boardman for Storytelling Week 2020

By Ruth from Logie Steading Bookshop

Today we start our week of stories from various people around Logie Steading in celebration of National Storytelling Week. It's going to be quite an eclectic mix of tales - some personal, some about objects, and some quite abstract!

It seems fitting to kick off with a tale from Ruth at Logie Steading Bookshop. Ruth runs the bookshop with her partner Annie and is a lifelong bookworm. Today's story is a book lover's mystery. How long will it take you to guess who the famous character is in this story?...

 

Whose Story is This?

I exist within the pages of a book. I have been brought to life in the imagination of countless children over many years, though I was originally written for adults. I am old now, old-fashioned even, yet still people buy me and enjoy the themes and symbolism within my story.

I first came to life in 1877. My creator was 57 years old and seriously ill. Her life had been blighted by health issues, beginning with a bad fall at the age of fourteen which left her reliant on crutches for the rest of her life. She had always been fond of reading and writing. Her family were devout Quakers and she assisted her mother in editing religious books for children. As her difficulties became more pronounced, she relied on the world she found within books to fulfil her.

It was after the family moved to London that she first became interested in me. Always a person of intense social conscience, she was moved by the plight of those like me and that concern clearly informed the book in which she eventually gave me my voice.

My life started well. I was nurtured and loved, by my mother and by everyone around me. Life was simple but rich in community spirit. I learned by example to be tolerant and caring. I had friends and was well-respected.

I grew up and the time came for me to leave home. It was hard to say goodbye to my mother and all that was familiar, but I always knew I couldn’t stay forever. I was ready to prove myself in the world. I found work serving a kind family who treated me well. I made two friends, one of whom was rather bad-tempered at first. Once she got to know and trust me though, we became close. Little by little, she told me about her early life and hearing how she had been treated made me understand why she was so defensive and irritable. I settled well and was happy in my work, but I did miss the freedom and liberty of my younger days.

Life was good for a few years. I was treated with kindness and respect and in the way these things work, I gave respect and good service in return. Without wishing to sound egotistical, I performed some good deeds for the family which increased their affection for me still further.

But life, it turned out, can be an unstable entity. A series of unforeseen events meant my secure position was taken away from me. I had no choice but to move on and in doing so, began to experience the tougher aspects of life. My behaviour didn’t change but I soon learned that not everyone treats you with the respect you give them. People can be unpredictable, unjust and unkind. Clearly, they have their reasons. Their own life experiences may have caused the behaviour, but that doesn’t make it any easier to take. Particularly when your own frame of reference is so different.

I struggled on. From time to time, I caught up with my dear friend from the past who was also having a hard time. Sadly, she didn’t survive, and my heart broke on the day I heard she had finally succumbed to the hardships placed upon her. I suppose we all have our preordained lives mapped out for us. Some of us have light and sunshine and love which endure for the whole time we exist. Others are not so fortunate. I consider my self among the lucky ones. Even though life became difficult for a while, my kind and gentle early life gave me the strength to withstand the adversity.

My ending is a happy one. The wheel of fortune turned in my favour and my life returned to in the way it had begun; I was loved and respected once more. I was reunited with an old friend from those early halcyon days. It took a while for us to recognize each other but once we had, the years fell away. I became happy and contented once more. I will always be grateful to that young girl who kept me in her head and her heart for so many years and finally gave me life just before her own was over.

Here is how she concluded my story…

‘My troubles are over, and I am at home; and often before I am quite awake, I fancy I am still in the orchard at Birtwick, standing with my old friends under the apple trees.’

Who am I?