Saki: The Story-Teller

Yodchat Bupasiri
Special Article of Weekly Matichon Newspaper Edition
Dated 21-27 October 2011

translated by Fuangfa Chartgumhang

Alba Marina Rivera a Barcelona based children picturebook illustrator selected a short story named “The Story-Teller” (El Contador de Cuentos). The story was done by a popular writer named “Saki” , Rivera made it into a beautiful and interesting children picturebook. “Saki” is the penname of Hector Hugh Manro, A Scotish and English writer and journalist, there are two collections of short stories, The Chronicle of Clovis (1911) and Beast and Super Beasts (1914), The short story of The Story-Teller is included in the latter one. The two novels are “The Unbearable Bassington” (1912) and “When William Came” (1919), some parts are available to Thai readers by the translation at Rachaya Ruangsri, Praew Publisher first edition of October 2002.

There are 48 pages and the size of 31×16.5 centimeter which is different from typical children picturebooks, as if the designer of the book’s cover intend to make the shape of this book similar to the passenger train, when slided each page out it seem as if the train is moving, provided the original charms of children illustration books.

The story begins in an oppressive and troubling afternoon for all four train passengers; the aunt who was trying to calm her two nieces and a nephew who couldn’t seem to be kept still any moment, and it has given a stranger who sat opposite from them nearly give up on what was happening right in front of him.

The illustration was beautiful, Rivera chose photocopy transfer technique. She used the twin page to illustrate the troubled scene of the carriage, the three kids who jumped around and shouted as if there were just the tree of them exist.

“Come and look out of the window ,”the aunt suggested to Cyril, her nephew who was making the place dusty by hitting hard on the cushion of the train’s seat.
It worked, Cyril moved reluctantly to the window. “Why are these sheep being driven out of that field?” he asked.

“I expect they are being driven to another field where there is more grass,” said the aunt unconvincingly.
“But there is lots of grass in that field” retorted the boy,
“Perhaps the grass in the other field is better,” the aunt began to get fatuous.
“Why is it better?” Cyril asked.
“Oh, look at those cow!” exclaimed the aunt without success.
“Why is the grass in the other field better?” persisted  Cyril.

Saki wrote the scene hilariously and Rivera illustrated the aunt characteristic perfectly. The young aunt who wasn’t that old but seemed to be living in the old traditional way, struggled to handle the hopeless situation unsuccessfully. Things were gotten worse when the smaller girl created a diversion by beginning to recite “On The road to Mandalay,” she knew only the first line and kept on repeating the line over and over again.
(“By the old Miulmein Pagoda , looking eastward to the sea.”) Actually it’s  this song derived from  the poem “Mandalay” by Rudyard Kipling. Olay Speak American song writer wrote it and was sung by Peter Dawson.
“Come over here and listen to the story” said the aunt, this supposed to be her final approach and started to tell a boring story to the children. It was a  story of an extremely good girl who was survived from being killed by a mad cow. All people who came to rescue her praised for her dignity.
“Wouldn’t the people come to rescue her if she isn’t a good girl.” The older niece asked.
“Well, yes,” admitted the aunt, “But I don’t think they would ran so fast to help her if they had not like her so much.”
“It’s  the most stupid story I’ve ever heard,“ said the older of the small girls.

At that moment, the stranger was running out of patience and told the aunt right out loud that she wasn’t that good as a story-teller. Rivera intentionally draw the picture of the moment to represent an opposed view of the aunt and the stranger by putting them on the opposite side. The three children were right in the middle of the picture, the girl who sang repeatedly stood right in the middle picked her nose carelessly. The aunt had a painful defensive look in her eyes.

“Perhaps you would like to tell them a story,” she retorted. The story that came after this part was an outstanding work of the illustrator.

“Once upon a time,” began the stranger, there was a girl called Bertha, who was extra ordinarily good.” Rivera put Bertha at the lower left corner of the twin pages, only half of her face shown and she had pink ribbon on her head, the page on the right, however, Rivera drew the aunt and the three children who were paying attention to the story told. The aunt had a big pink ribbon on her head just similar to Bertha’s.

The interpretation of the story was clearly presented in the next twin page, the page on the left we could see the whole body of Bertha, she was wearing a pink dress with white apron hugging her doll with the happiest smile on her face, on the right side page was a close up drawing of all children’s face, it showed boredom, they started to feel that all story-teller were all the same “boring!” The aunt put her smiley face to the doll of her niece, Bertha’s face and gestures were so similar to the aunt. It was suggested from Rivera to all readers that the two of them were the reflection of each other. Little Bertha was such an extra-ordinary good girl, as a matter of fact the stranger said she was “horribly good.” She was always being told what to do, and she did them with royalty. Her clothes were always clean and in a very traditional style. Rivera drew the picture of Bertha of doing good deeds while birds, butterflies and squirrels were surrounded her which reminded us of “Snowwhite” who was always surrounded by all animals.

Bertha was so horribly good that she received the three medals of goodness. There was a medal of obedience, another medal for punctuality and a third  medal for good behavior. They were large and made of metal, they clicked against one another as she walked. Rivera drew a winning smile on Bertha’s face as she was receiving the third medal, the smile meant to address to all readers. (Hey! Look at me I’m good!)

All town people praised Bertha’s goodness, and in contrast Rivera drew the picture of this part as if the people in the town were gossiping and whispering about something evil, one lady whisper in secret manner to a group of people which high ranking offer and the reverend were included. This convey the idea that the goodness of Bertha was on the suspicion base or it’s the goodness of evil and entitled to be envious.

The Prince of the country heard about Bertha’s goodness so he provided her a reward by allowing Bertha a walk in his garden which was located outside of the town. This garden was so beautiful and there were no other children permitted to go inside.
Right here , Saki wrote sarcastically about Bertha, she was allowed by the  prince to walk and to see beautiful flowers. It was so sad that there were no flowers, not even one in the garden. The domestic pigs who were the Prince pets ate all the flowers. She was so sad because she had promised the aunt with tears in her eyes that she wouldn’t pick any flowers of the Prince. But there were no flowers, she felt so stupid because what was the use of promising to do good things when there was no motivation or temptation on the bad side.
Even though there were no flowers, the Prince’s garden was so gorgeous, Rivera chose the use of Photography Transfer technique created different shapes of trees. She used her own imagination in drawing some parts, she cleverly set the rhythm of artwork in accordance with the emotion. Little Bertha had absorb the beauty of the garden and also her grand opportunity to enter into the Prince garden. Rivera positioned Bertha right in the middle of the garden. The obviously seen things from the picture were her three medals of goodness which she always pinned them on her dress.

On the next twin page the picture shown Bertha’s stared at her own reflection from the pond, she poked her finger in the water at the part of the three medals and smiled an ugly smiled. With our own conclusion in accordance with suggestive idea of Rivera, we definitely realized that Bertha was a self-centered child, she was so absorbed with her own reflection in the water without knowing that the wolf was entering into the garden at that moment.

She ran for her life when she saw the wolf later, and thought to herself that she shouldn’t have been allowed into this garden ,the most obvious thing that give notice of Bertha to the wolf was her white pinafore which was so clean and make it obviously seen from afar. Oh! The goodness of Bertha was turning into a negative aspect!

There was no one who helped Bertha, in the story of the aunt, the good girl got help from people who praised her goodness. But for the Bertha, goodness didn’t seem to help her a bit, it brought about scary things to her. For the first time in her life her thought switched to the opposite belief, if she weren’t so extraordinarily good she would be safed in the town of that moment.

Even though, hiding herself in myrtle bushes providing a temporarily relief of fear because the scent of the myrtle was so strong that the wolf could not sniff out where Bertha was hiding, so he thought he might as well go off and catch the pigs instead. She was so afraid because the wolf was sniffing so close to her. Rivera filled the wolf picture in the twin page, big bad wolf with fiercely eyes and long canine tooth, Bertha was trembling and as she trembled the medal for obedience clinked against the medal for good conduct and punctuality. The wolf was just moving away when he heard the sound of the medals clinking and stopped to listen; it was such a bad joke.

“Were any of the little pigs killed?” one of the children asked.
“No, they all escaped.” The stranger answered.
“The story began badly,” said the smaller of the two girls, “but it had a beautiful ending.”
“It’s the most beautiful story that I’ve ever heard,” said the bigger one of the two girls with immense decision.

A dissentient opinion came from the aunt.
“A most improper story to tell the young children!  You have undermined the  effect of years of careful teaching”
“But I kept them quite for ten minutes , which was more than you were able to do.”
That was the last words from the stranger before he got off the train.

This is the first Children Illustrator book of Alba Marina Rivera(, who graduated from “Escola ” in Bacelona, Spain. Printed in Spanish by Ekare Publishing House and received New Horizon award from Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2009 in Italy. And also received the Best Book for Children and Teenager award in the year 2009, Venezuela. The publisher indicated that this book was suitable for nine years old children and above.

The process of Photography Transfer is to pressed the model on to the original pictures (ordinary photographs or color photocopy or black and white) by putting the upside down position on the  desired surfaces of clothes, paper or wood, the process of pressing hard is required on the material desired, or you may use the heating process at
You also can read a short story of Saki in English at


2 thoughts on “Saki: The Story-Teller

  1. Clovis พูดว่า:

    I just redid my stories of Saki web-site so your link to “THE STORY-TELLER” is no longer valid. It is now


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