Once upon a time there was a tiny island. A tiny island called Walta. A tiny island in the middle of Middle Earth forever covered by a dense fog from which no story could ever escape.
And on this island lived a Queen who lived to tell stories. Her stories were fantastical and sombre and frightening and funny. People gathered from far and wide (well not so far and not so wide because Walta was a tiny island – but they travelled for many hours and days because they had no transport system on Walta), they gathered to hear the Queen’s stories. And she enthralled them. She made them laugh until their sides ached and she made them cry until they had tears streaming down their faces.
She told them tales of rich men in their castles and the wonderful lands that they visited. She told them tales of princes and princesses bedecked with jewels in their ivory towers. She told them stories about far off countries and about the ogres who lived there under children’s beds. “Tell us more, tell us more” the Waltons cried. They couldn’t get enough of her stories.
And the wonderful thing was, that the more stories the Queen told, the more the Waltons grew happier and healthier. The flowers bloomed more colourfully and the trees grew bigger fruit and the dense fog started to lift bit by bit, until the Waltons could finally see the blue sky.
Some days the Queen woke up in a bad mood and told nasty stories that hurt and upset the Waltons, and the flowers would lose their colours slightly and the sky would begin to fade away. But by the afternoon the Queen would be back to telling her stories of wonder and awe, and the Waltons would sigh happy sighs of relief, and smile again.
However, not everyone loved the Queen’s stories. Some Waltons were angry at the nasty stories. Some Waltons were frightened. They were frightened that her stories may cause the other Waltons to revolt or have ideas above their stations. They were frightened because as the fog lifted and they saw the sky – the didn’t know what this big blue thing was and thought it was a threat. And so, because they were afraid, they decided they needed to stop her.
And late one night they quietly crept into the Queen’s tent and they stole her away. She struggled and struggled but they wrapped her up in a big colourful length of cloth, and they ran far far away and hid her in a cave where no one could find her. And then they blocked the entrance to make doubly sure that she wouldn’t escape.
The next morning, the Waltons were distraught. Where’s our Queen of Stories they cried. We want our stories. We NEED our stories. And they searched high and low and here and there – but their Queen was nowhere to be found.
And the Waltons were despondent, desperate and dejected. The colours started to fade from the blooming flowers, the fruit on the trees started to wilt, and worst of all, the fog started creeping back and covering the land.
The situation looked bleak. We will never be happy again, the Waltons cried.
But suddenly the Waltons all held hands and banded together and in unison cried “We know what to do! We know the Queen’s stories off by heart. We’ll keep telling each other all her stories about far off lands and princes and princesses and adventures and courage and ogres under the bed”. And so they did. Every day they’d gather round and tell the Queen’s stories and make each other laugh and cry until tears streamed down their cheeks.
And bit by bit wonderful colours started creeping back onto the blooming flowers, bit by bit the fruit started to ripen and grow and bit by bit the blue sky started pushing its way through the thick dense fog.
And the nasty people who had locked up the Queen were chased out of Walta and were never seen again.
The poor Queen however was never found, and is today still locked in that cave telling her stories to the empty void, her voice echoing around the chamber.
But, far in the distance, filtering through the cave walls, she can hear the Waltons tell her wonderful stories to each other. She can hear them laugh till their sides split and weep till their faces are wet with tears.
And this makes the Queen very happy.
You see, boys and girls, in life we are all going to find people who will want us to stop telling our stories. Or we will meet people who will want to control our stories.
We should not tolerate this.
Without our stories we have no identity.
We must not allow others to stop us telling our stories.
We must not allow others to prevent us from telling the stories that we want, in the manner that we want.
We must not allow others to take away the words that allow us to tell our stories.
And if they try, then we must use all legal means available to stop them doing so.
Telling our story ensures that we are on our preferred side of history.
Telling our story ensures that we are in control of our own narrative.
And we MUST tell our stories. Because if we don’t, then someone else will be telling our stories FOR us.
(This was part of my Keynote speech yesterday 20.10.17 at Toastmasters’ Public Speaking Competition)