Story Versions

Story Versions

Story Versions

Being able to deliver different versions of a story to different audiences…

This is an important and valuable ability – both in terms of “stretching your repertoire,” and of respecting and responding to your audiences!

As an example: There is a beautiful story from Israel I like to tell, that lends itself to some nice tweaking – creating different versions – for different audiences. Here’s a short-ish written version of it for this blog, followed by a description of a few of the adaptations I make…

There were two brothers who were farmers.

They shared and worked and farmed the land together that their father had left them. One of the brothers was unmarried and lived alone in a small house on one side of their fields. The other brother was married, he and his wife had a large family of 6 children, and they lived in a larger house on the other side of their fields.

Every day the brothers would work side by side in the fields, and every harvest they would divide the grain they harvested evenly between them, half and half. It had always been so.

One night, the brother who lived alone found himself thinking that it was unfair that they should divide the grain evenly

grain sacks– because he had only himself to feed and his brother had his large family to feed. “He should receive more of the grain than I.” So that night when the stars began to come out, he took a sack of grain from his own barn, and crept across the star-lit fields and secretly put it into his brother’s barn.

That same night…

…the brother who was married sat looking into the faces of his beloved family and found himself thinking that it was unfair that he and his brother should divide the grain evenly, because every day he himself was surrounded by his large loving family, and had so many children who could help care for him when he grew too old to work – while his brother lived all alone, and had no children to care for him in his old age.

“He should take more than half of the harvest so that he could store some for the future, or sell it and have the money for his old age.” So a bit later that night when the moon was rising, he took a sack of grain from his own barn, and crept across the star-lit fields and put it into his brother’s barn.

Both brothers slept well and satisfied that night…and each of them was shocked and puzzled the next morning, when counting the sacks of grain (as they did every morning), to discover that one sack was not missing, as it should have been, but there was the same number of sacks of grain as the day before!

This went on for several nights until…

brothers…one night they each started taking that night’s grain over to his brother’s at the same time – and met in the middle of the middle field!  And each saw immediately what the answer to the puzzling mystery was. They set down their sacks, and embraced each other.

A Few of the Variations for Different Versions:

  • For an audience of young children: Lots of repetition and expression acting out (such as tip-toing across the fields the with sacks of grain, finger to lips in a “shushing” gesture, mentioning each time how the dogs wouldn’t even bark because they knew the other brothers, and guiding them to stretch their hands up and wiggle their fingers for the “twinkling stars” and point their fingers for the rising moon each time).
  • For an audience of primarily adults: I dial way back on the acting-out, pretty much leave out the “join with me” gesturing, and deliver it in a particularly warm tone of voice, with an air of puzzlement and/or raised-eyebrow humor for the exchange-of- grain-sacks part.
  • Ending for a church audience: “God in heaven looked down and said, ‘This will forever be a holy place, for here I have witnessed great love.’” (And also: “And some say that it was upon that spot many, many years later the Temple was built.”)
  • Ending for a secular audience: “The two brothers knew that they would always, always be there for each other; that they would always take care of each other.”

What other changes might you make, to create different versions for different audiences?

Thanks for reading – Pam

One version of this story can be found in Stories for Telling by William R. White (“The Two Brothers”).

(Images courtesy of franky242, chrisroll, and Rosemary Ratcliff /