Libraries  |  7 Mar 2019

One of the last Drut’sylas – an oral storyteller in the Jewish tradition – will share a wealth of folklore at Tūranga on 14 March.

Britain’s former Deputy National Storytelling Laureate, Shonaleigh Cumbers, brings her tales to vibrant life, telling stories that have been handed down by grandmothers through the generations.

Traditionally, a Drut'syla would act as the hereditary storyteller-in-residence for her community.

A traditional storyteller will bring folklore to life at Tūranga.

A traditional Jewish storyteller will bring folklore to life at Tūranga.

However, the unique form of storytelling was nearly lost during the Holocaust.

Cumbers works to restore the tradition, with a repertoire of more than 4000 stories that she can adapt to a theme and an audience. She recalls the stories through a complex system of oral memorisation, visualisation and interpretation.

Cumbers believes that the “telling of stories is essential to us as human beings”.

“Human beings make sense of the world around them through narrative, through story,” she says.

“Stories give us solutions, very real solutions.

“Within these old stories, there is wit, there is wisdom. They contain blueprints for how to live on this planet, alongside fellow human beings.

“The cultures that still value their stories, (and) that still listen to their ancestors, are streets ahead on things like climate change, ecology, mindfulness, tranquillity (and) how to live in societies and groups.”

In Christchurch, Cumbers will share the story of The Golem, an ancient tale that inspired the creation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Gollum.

During the reign of Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor from the House of Habsburg in the 1600s, a Golem was created to protect the Jewish community of Prague from persecution.

The Golem had enough life to obey his human creator, but no sense of right or wrong.

Cumbers has been commissioned to perform at the British Library and British Museum and has appeared at numerous literary festivals around the world.

She will share the tale of The Golem for free at the Tūranga TSB Space on Level 1 from 6pm.

It is not a suitable story for children aged under 12.