The Storyteller

by Saki

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What's a summary or review of "The Storyteller" by Saki?

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Saki's "The Storyteller," like his story "The Open Window" is a story-within-a story. Trapped in a compartment with three rather unruly children and their unassertive aunt, a bachelor is subjected to the persistent questions of the children that remind him of "the attentions of a housefly."  As he is forced to listen to the aunt's inability to satisfy the curiosity of the children and her attempt to tell them a story, he feels compelled to remark, "You don't seem to be a success as a story-teller."

With his remark, the aunt bristles and challenges him to tell a story himself, then.  And, thus begins the bachelor's story which starts out in a similar fashion about a very good girl.  However, this girl is "horribly" good, and the incongruous adverb attracks the children's attention.  As it turns out, the good girl, who has three medals for her good behavior that click together as she moves, betray her when she hides from a wolf in the park of the Prince where she has been invited for her good behavior. 

"It is the most beautiful story I have ever heard" said Cyril.

And the other children concur, but the aunt is incensed, telling the bachelor it is most improper and has undermined years of careful teaching.  The bachelor retorts that, at least, he kept them quiet for ten minutes.  As he walks down the train's quay, he bemusedly reflects that the aunt will be plagued by the children for more "improper" stories.

While there is a twist to the ending, "The Storyteller" does not have the usual cracking surprise ending that is typical of Saki. Yet, it displays the whimsical humor and presents the less detectable truths of human nature in its exposure of the innate sadism of the children.  A typically short short story, "The Storyteller" illustrates Saki's clever manipulation of a single aspect of human behavior until it shoddiness is exposed.




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