Making fairy tales and stories with Rodari’s Cards

In the seminars I give to prospective storytellers and writers, I tend to say at our first meeting – perhaps with some exaggeration – that what the Bible is to Christians, the Koran to Muslims or Capital to Marxists is to storytellers Gianni Rodari’s “The Grammar of Fantasy”.

I use this comparison, considering that it is impossible to be involved in fairy tales and not read this crucial book. It’s not just the theoretical basis it offers, the dozens of games and educational activities.

It’s above all the style in which he writes all this. The way he addresses his readers…

I don’t know how many times I’ve read the chapter in the book where he writes about how the famous deck of cards he created with two painters that included 20 basic storybook functions was first tried out with children at Reggio Emilia.

Then I saw that children easily manage to make a story by following the pictures of the cards, because each word in the series is presented charged with mythical meanings and lends itself to an endless game of variations. I recall an original interpretation of ‘prohibition’: a father leaves his house, forbidding his children from throwing flowerpots from a balcony at the heads of passers-by … And among the ‘difficult trials’ was the obligation to go to the cemetery at midnight: the culmination of terror and courage at a certain age.

The pedagogical value of fairy tales created by children

Stories made by children, but also by parents or educators, often with their contribution, are considered extremely important and beneficial. If we could sum up, we would say:

-The child learns to express his thoughts better, to share what they dream, to “exorcise” what they fear

-They become better listeners. They learn to listen but not to passively accept what they are told. 

-They practice imagination and creativity.

-These stories can also have a beneficial impact on his psychology. A story adapted to each child helps them to identify with the heroes and through this identification they can even calm their worries, but also find a key to dealing with the obstacles that arise.

-Linguistic expression is improved both by what the child says himself and by what they hear being created by the other children in the group or by the adults.  

-Improvement is also observed in the ability to concentrate.

“So it seems to me that the ‘functions’ of fairy tales, in a way, help the child to know himself. And they are at our disposal, ready-made, valid, easy to use: it would seem to me a waste to reject them…”, says Rodari himself.


Kostas Stoforos



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