The Storyteller Characters
The main characters in “The Storyteller” are the bachelor, the children, the aunt, and Bertha.
- The bachelor is the titular storyteller. His fanciful tale entertains and impresses the children immensely.
- The children are the bachelor’s fellow train passengers. Their lively curiosity irritates their aunt but is channeled creatively by the bachelor’s story.
- The aunt is accompanying the children. With her serious and moralizing demeanor, she is unable to control or amuse them.
- Bertha is the protagonist of the bachelor’s tale. She is amply praised as a good girl, but her pride proves to be her weakness.
Last Updated on September 6, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1031
The bachelor is the eponymous storyteller, a man who happens to share a train carriage with a group of children and their aunt. The bachelor is largely annoyed by the behavior of the children and their aunt. He frowns and scowls, as the questions and weak, unsatisfactory answers fly around him. The bachelor is clever and humorous, which is first evident when he wryly reflects that anyone betting that the younger girl could not recite her favorite line of poetry two thousand times in a row would certainly lose his wager.
The bachelor translates his annoyance into speech after the aunt tells her story. He has appreciated it no more than the children have, and he does not hesitate to comment that the aunt is not a successful storyteller. In fact, the bachelor does not agree with her claim that it is difficult to tell a story to children, and he says so. This man is outspoken and frank.
The bachelor seems to appreciate a good challenge. He does not waver for an instant when he is invited to tell his own story. In fact, he might have been waiting for this very opportunity, for the bachelor reveals himself to be an outstanding storyteller, skilled at improvising and stimulating the childrens’ imaginations. The bachelor narrates a fascinating, innovative tale, which he seems to make up as he goes along with the help of his eager listeners. He takes the children’s questions seriously, respecting their natural curiosity and allowing them to help shape the story. Indeed, this bachelor storyteller seems to understand the children and their interests much better than their aunt does.
Cyril and his two unnamed sisters are normal, curious children who get bored easily on the train trip with their aunt. At a loss for anything else to do, Cyril pounds the cushions to watch the dust rise. One of his sisters recites the same line of poetry over and over, perhaps appreciating the sound of the words but annoying everyone else in the process. All three youngsters are disappointed by their aunt’s “stupid” story, because they are intelligent enough to notice its plot holes and lack of creativity. They express their disapproval without inhibition.
When the bachelor engages the children in his story, they display their creativity. Their questions add detail to the story, and they become engrossed in the plot and images of the tale. They fully appreciate the bachelor’s narrative, calling it the most beautiful story they have ever heard. Indeed, they recognize inventiveness and originality when they hear it, and, as the bachelor notes, they are likely to demand it in the future.
Saki characterizes the children’s aunt as the antithesis of imagination and creativity. She lacks the ability to keep the children occupied on their train trip, the quickness of mind to answer their questions, or the patience to lead them in discovering answers for themselves. When Cyril asks her a legitimate question, for instance, about the sheep being driven into another field, the aunt gives only a cursory response about “more grass.” This is neither accurate nor satisfactory, because Cyril can see that there is plenty of grass in the current field. Instead of engaging with her nephew, taking his questions seriously, and helping him think more carefully about the situation, the aunt merely offers another thoughtless answer about the grass being better. The aunt is clearly not up to the task of conversing with a curious child.
She is further incapable of telling a good story, one that will both teach and entertain. Her tale...
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lacks any interest in terms of plot, character, and detail, and the children are quick to condemn it as stupid. Even the bachelor notes the aunt’s lack of storytelling success. At this, the aunt bristles and declares that such an undertaking is difficult. Here the aunt reveals her own self-righteousness. She believes that she knows exactly what kinds of stories children can “understand and appreciate,” even though her opinion is proven wrong.
The aunt is also quick to judge both the bachelor and his story. When the bachelor shows annoyance at the children’s behavior and the aunt’s lack of control over them, she decides that he must be a “hard, unsympathetic man” who simply does not understand the difficulties of her situation. After the bachelor relates his successful tale, the aunt judges it “most improper” for children and scolds him for undermining “the effect of years of careful teaching.” The audience is left to wonder what careful, moral teaching she has actually provided for her nephew and nieces, for she has exhibited no such instruction during the entire train trip.
Bertha is the protagonist of the bachelor’s tale. He describes Bertha as the best of little girls, as judged by the adults in her world. She follows all their rules, is perfect in her schoolwork, eats unappetizing foods without complaint, keeps her clothing perfectly clean, and is always on time. In other words, she is the kind of child that other children love to hate. She is so good that she has even won medals for it, as well as a trip to the Prince’s park.
Yet Bertha is not entirely good, because she is also proud. She feels a sense of superiority as a result of her accolades. She wears her medals pinned to the front of her dress where everyone will see them and notice what a good girl she is. Bertha even likes to hear them clink as she walks to remind herself of the esteem others have for her. She also prides herself in the fact that no other child in her town has medals like that. Nor has any other child received the honor of walking in the Prince's park, Bertha reflects.
Bertha’s pride and vanity lead to her downfall. The wolf catches sight of her because of her perfectly white pinafore, and he discovers her hiding place because he hears the clinking of her medals. If Bertha had not been quite so concerned about being seen and praised by others, she might have lived.