The Storyteller

by Saki

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In Saki's "The Storyteller," what is the "Bertha" story the bachelor tells?

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In Saki's tale, the bachelor manages to entertain his youthful fellow passengers with an "improper" story during an especially uneventful train ride.

He tells a story about a perfectly behaved little girl named Bertha. Accordingly, Bertha is so impeccable that she is given three medals for being "extraordinarily good": one for obedience, one for punctuality, and one for good behavior. When the Prince of the country hears about Bertha's goodness, he decides to reward her with a walk in his private park once a week. No other children have ever won this privilege, so Bertha has received a tremendous honor.

The bachelor maintains that there are no sheep in the Prince's park, but there are plenty of pigs running around. Additionally, to Bertha's disappointment, there are no flowers in the park. The Prince has decided to have pigs rather than flowers in his park. The park is a magical place; there are ponds with colorful fish in them, trees with beautiful, talking parrots, as well as hummingbirds that can sing all the popular tunes of the day.

While Bertha is enjoying the park and marveling at her own goodness, a wolf enters in search of a pig to devour for his dinner. The wolf manages to spot Bertha immediately, and he makes for the terrified little girl. Bertha manages to evade him for a time by hiding in a thick myrtle bush. The scent of the myrtle is so strong that the wolf has a difficult time sniffing out his human prey. In the end, the wolf decides to leave, but just before he does, he hears Bertha's three medals clanging against each other.

Now that the wolf knows Bertha's exact location, he drags her out into the open and devours her to the last morsel. All that's left of Bertha are her "shoes, bits of clothing, and the three medals for goodness." When the bachelor finishes Bertha's story, he is inundated with praise from the children. All of them think that he's told a tremendously exciting story that ends beautifully. In short, Bertha's story is extremely popular with the children. Unlike the children's aunt, the bachelor is successful in his storytelling because he understands the psychology behind childish predilections and attitudes.

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