Malaysian writer and illustrator Kenny Mah relives his love affair with Story Teller.
These harsh words [of the title] seem to follow every tale so good it couldn’t possibly finish. But it did, and now these two words seem a sentence, a termination, an ending, which it is, which it has to be. But does it?
Imagine, if you will, a story that begins as one ends. And another, and another. Like Scherazade of the 1001 Arabian Nights, these stories go on forever, almost. And when the last page is turned, when the last reader has put down his script, when the music fades out, one can always turn the pages back to the front, back to earlier issues, slip another cassete tape in, and start all over…
Imagine a child too precocious for his own good, who has tired of cartoons on the telly; he has transformed all these little robots into all the amalgations he can muster; no more alien cats will escape their doomed planet, no more races to prove their leader a true king. It has all ended. Worse, it’s oh so boring.
So what does a child do when he has tired of toys and their syndicated animated television series in the 80s? He returns to his books. Oh but he’s too old for those picture books with big letters and a patronising tone. All the Enid Blytons have already been read, twice, thrice over. What else is there?
One day, he runs to the neighbourhood bookshop and amongst the other partwork magazines that you could collect weekly to have Your. Very. Own. Encyclopedia! and a how-to-build-a-wooden-dinosaur-skeleton, there it was. Story Teller. Specifically, for this once little boy trapped in a small town called Malacca, it was Story Teller 2, part 2.
It had the picture of a funky lookin’ wizard on the cover, a rasta-hippie-Carribean sorta wizard. And he had a crazy li’l apeling for an apprentice – this was the story of The Magic of Funky Monkey. And after that, on the next page, the sad, bittersweet tale of the Snake and the Rose. Then a respite with the hilarious antics of Rumbles in the Jungles with dirty, skanky monsters and winged, armless princesses that get to be kidnapped, naturally. And more, and more…
I was enraptured. (The little boy was me, of course.)
Today, more than twenty years later, I am now an adult. Or what I used to call “grown up”. And as a grown up (as one of “them”), I am supposed to be more knowledgeable, more sophisticated, more mature, but all this sounds to be me like I’m supposed to be more boring. Am I?
I’m not sure. But if I am truly more boring than when I was a little boy, if I am now so boring I even bore myself, then all it would take is a visit back to the fairie lands, to country of stories, to the 1001 tales that the Story Teller tells…