Category Archives: storytelling

Waldschattenspiel (Shadows in the Woods) – a board game

Wer wird gewinnen, das Lich oder die Zwerge?

Who will win, the light or the dwarves?

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This beautiful German board game by Kraul, wandered into our lives at Christmas. It’s a simple but magical game best played in complete darkness. The board is a forest – lit by a single luminary tea-light that travels the forest pathways on each roll of a die. The tea-light illuminates wooden 3D trees which cast a shadow on to the board, providing hiding places.

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The shadowy woods

Within the shadows cast by the trees,  tiny Zwerge – dwarves/gnomes – must keep to the shadows. Any who stray from the shadows are frozen in the light until rescued by another dwarf.

The objective of the game is for all the dwarves to gather together in the shadow of one tree, before the light freezes them all.

frozen
A dwarf alone in the woods, frozen by the light, awaiting rescue

Tip: First time play – unpack in daytime

This is handy to know if you’re excited to play this for the first time one night – unpack it in daytime. Before playing, you have the opportunity to transform the wooden dwarf playing pieces into dwarfish characters. There is felt supplied for their crafting their hats.

naked-dwarves

I also took up the additional suggestion to add some beards, and some felted wool from my stash added a beardyness any king from under the mountain would be proud of. I did have a few visions of them catching alight, so tamed my initial extravagant very curly beards to this:

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dwarve-completed

Playing

What I particularly love in a world of plastic Monopoly and Game of Life empire building, is that this feels like a fresh breeze in games, because it hearkens back to old story-telling, to simple themes of light and dark, yet, where the shadows are the safer place. It is a very calming game,  and dwarf players play cooperatively against the light player.  Usually an adult plays the  light as the naked flame is pushed around the board through the forest, while the children work cooperatively as hiding dwarves, but responsible children could be given the role of the light.

It’s such a soothing game that it can played right before bedtime.

Complete darkness works best, and in this shadowy world,  the trees even cast their shadows on the walls too, so if you can preserve a childlike wonder, you too are in the shadowy forest. Part of the realisation for the children is that they can hide their dwarves in sight right in front of you (the light-bearer) in what feels like it should be visible to you – yet if the candle is beyond the tree the adult won’t be able to see them – they are hidden right in front of you, in complete darkness. The light-bearer can’t move from their seat and you rely utterly on the tiny light to catch a glimpse of a hat or beard. It’s actually very difficult to find the dwarves, much to the amusement of the children.

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I see you! Betrayed by a bushy beard!

As the adult playing the game with younger children, because you need to look away while the children hide their dwaves each time, you may need to ask older children to take responsibility for helping the younger childen avoid reaching directly over the candle flame. The game is recommended for 5 years and above.

dice

The only other grown-up person in our family of 4,  found the game painfully boring, and I’m not sure we’ll convince him to play again. Both kids 9 and 5 absolutely love it, and keep asking to play it, as I do, so it wins with 3 out of 4 of us. It’s more than a game, it’s got something enchanting about it.

pyramid

There is an additional game board on the reverse of the board which we haven’t played yet.

I can’t quite explain how much I absolutely love this game , unique in its gentleness and with the feel of a fairy tale. It feels older than it is. It relies on your willingness to take on a role and be part of the world of the shadowy forest, to fall into a story of your own making. In simple terms, imagination beyond the board. The kids have invented names for the dwarves and I love their secret whispering strategies as they negotiate tactics for keeping hidden and guessing where the shadows will fall.

A game that will be remembered and loved beyond childhood, and if you find it hard to track down, you can also try making your own version.

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“When you light a candle, you also cast a shadow.”
Ursula K. Le Guin.

Learning to talk with small gods

Because although I still have a lot to learn, my valley is claiming me through small gods.

whispering voices of sheoak

the different rhythm of the feet of my chickens that tells me they are excited to follow me and makes me laugh out loud

the sound of a blue-banded bee long before it can be seen that tells me if it’s flying with or without pollen-covered legs

the bank of clouds hugging the hillside at dawn

the swing of wind to cool southerlies

the beckoning of the wild island in winter

the first time I notice that the sun signals autumn, something about the afternoon shadows is different

the keening cry of the black cockatoo heralding a rain storm

the burst of green through soil

the unfurling leaf

hearing the blue-tongue lizard trying to walk silently on dried up leaves which betray his presence

the resurrection of moss after the hot summer

the gaze of the magpie that makes me feel small

the longer afternoon light bent through the plum tree

the warm night-scent of native franjipani under a clear night sky

coming home to the valley I live in and seeing it tucked in against the hills, cuddled by trees and feeling its welcome

the trembling of wet leaves in the sun after a rain storm

 a flash of red in the fading strawberry leaves, the slow secret ripe strawberry

a face full of spider web and the apology to the spider

magpies in conference, they meet in a circle,  talk and hush as you draw near


I’d love for others to write about their small gods as a way to begin, but first, listen to Small Gods by Martin Shaw  or find out more at drmartinshaw.com  because writing these down may be a mistake of mine, but I’m still learning how.

 

 

Sometimes a Wild God by Tom Hirons

Sometimes a piece of writing rustles and stirs the dry leaves that fall too quickly on the pathways of our bustling lives.  Like an inexplicable breath of floral-perfumed warm wind, in the harsh bite of a winters day. Rewilding you from inside.

This is how it felt reading Sometimes a Wild God by Tom Hirons. You can read Tom’s poem here on his blog, but before you click…

…know that you will remember when and where you were when you first read this. You will learn that words conjured together even when read in the cold clinical light of a computer screen, can take you to a campfire in the wilderness where you huddle alone, reading words with only the flickering firelight and lamplight of the moon, with only the winking trail of the Milky Way as company.

Rewilding from the inside…. The blood red flower is the beautiful scarlet bloom of Australian native ‘Running Postman’ Kennedia prostrata.

Receiving the book was even more startling. It’s an odd thing to open a modern envelope, delivered by planes and wheels and inside find something that almost makes you think you can hear an ancient chant or drumbeat. A beautiful, tactile and totem-like book that feels like it was written and posted from deep in the wild forest.  Together on the page with the incredible art of Rima Staines which is itself another soul-trembling delight,  in this beautiful small book there is that alchemy of word and art in an ancient dance on paper.

The book is small and beautiful. I feels like something to be carried in a favourite coat pocket, a touchstone for breathing in the woods, feeling the old paths, when the yearning strikes. A thing to read to someone, or share because the length and format is perfect for doing just that.

I purchased a second copy, to be released into the wild. When the time and place is right to leave it there, a stranger will find it, just there on a bench or table or shelf. The note inside will ask for it not to be kept, and for it to be read, purchased if the reader has the means to, and most importantly, for the wild copy to be passed on to awaken someone else.