"The Story-Teller" is a humorous short story by the British author Hector Hugh Munro who wrote under the pseudonym of Saki. The story first appeared in the Morning Post newspaper. It was later collected in the 1914 anthology Beasts and Super-Beasts.
In the story, a man finds himself stuck in a train compartment with misbehaving children and their aunt. The aunt tries to keep the children occupied by telling them a story. When her moralistic story fails to interest the children, the man decides to intervene and entertain them with a different kind of story.
One of the most popular tales from Beasts and Super-Beasts, "The Story-Teller" is often used in the classroom. The story was adapted as the first of three segments of the 2007 BBC television movie Who Killed Mrs De Ropp?
On a hot afternoon, a bachelor sits quietly in a railway carriage. Three young children and their aunt occupy the same compartment. The aunt appears incapable of controlling the noisy, misbehaving children. With nearly an hour to go till the next stop, the bachelor is visibly becoming impatient. The aunt decides to tell the children a story to keep them occupied for a while. Unfortunately, her story about a good little girl being rescued from a bull by her friends meets with complete disapproval. The children declare it the stupidest story they have ever heard.
Suddenly the bachelor speaks and accuses the aunt of being a poor storyteller. Offended, the aunt invites him to try to tell a story that the children will both understand and appreciate. Taking up the challenge, the bachelor begins to tell the story of "a little girl called Bertha, who was extraordinarily good." The children are disappointed at the unpromising opening, but the bachelor quickly grabs their attention by calling Bertha a "horribly" good girl. He then goes on with the story. The children keep interrupting him to ask questions. The bachelor answers all the questions with such ease that even the aunt is impressed by his skill.
Bertha (the bachelor says) was so good that she won medals for good behavior. She was also invited by the Prince to take a walk in his beautiful park where no other children are allowed. There were little pigs running around the park, colorful fish swimming in ponds, and beautiful parrots and hummingbirds talking and singing in the trees. As Bertha walked around the park enjoying herself, the medals she wore clinked against each other. Then suddenly, an enormous wolf came into the park looking for little pigs to eat. The wolf saw Bertha and began to chase her. Bertha ran and managed to hide in a thick bush. Unfortunately, Bertha was trembling so much that her medals clinked. The wolf heard the sound, found Bertha, and devoured her.
The children love the ending. They say it is the most beautiful story they have ever heard. The aunt is upset at the bachelor for telling the children such an improper story. As he gets off the train, the bachelor is amused by the thought of the poor aunt being pestered by the children demanding more improper stories for the next six months.
- ↑ The other two segments of Who Killed Mrs De Ropp? are based on the short stories "The Lumber Room" and "Sredni Vashtar".