STORIES (LIGHT STORIES)
(If you want to retell any of the stories listed below, be sure
to obtain permission from the copyright holder if the material
is not in the public domain)
I'd like to use the shared memory of our storytelling tribe +
your wisdom for stories that deal with / have Candles as an important
part Feature in the story I already know few but I'd like to have
more especially when Chanukah is near.
2) Note that most, but not all, were posted in 1998 when someone
else asked for candle - and at that time soap - stories. Stories,
summaries or ideas are below.
1) So here's a version of No news
- and We don't allow candles in our house
is near the end. Donna Ingham sent it a couple of years ago: Here's
the rough skit to ad lib from (also in Favorite
Stories from the National Storytelling Festival):
A: Hi, I've been out of town for months, has there been any news?
A: No news at all! You mean nothing has happened since I left?
B: Well, your dog died.
A: My dog died! How'd that happen?
B: Well, I think it was from eating the burnt horseflesh.
A: Horseflesh! What was he doing eating burnt horseflesh?
B: Well, you see, your barn burned down, killed all the cows and
horses, the dog went in there and ate the burnt horseflesh and
then he died.
A: Wait a minute! You say my barn burned down? How did that happen?
B: Well, I think it was the sparks from the house. You see the
sparks went from the house to the barn, burned down the barn,
killed all ... your dog ate it, and he died.
A: What? My house burned down too? How did my house catch on fire.
B: Uh, I think it was the candles. Yeah, that's right it was the
candles. See, the curtains blew into the candles, caught on fire,
burned the house down, sparks jumped from the house to the barn...
then the dog ate the horseflesh, and he died.
A: Wait, wait wait! I don't even allow candles in my house! What
were the candles doing there in the first place?
B: Oh, well, they were there for the funeral. See they had them
around the coffin, and...
A: A funeral! Who died?
B: Oh, it was your mother-in-law. See, they had her laid out,
had candles around the coffin,...
A: My mother in law died? How did my mother-in-law die?
B: I think it was a heart attack. Yes, that's right. It was a
A: She was a strong, healthy woman! What happened that gave her
a heart attack?
B: Well, I think it was when your husband (wife) ran off with
the choir director (preacher). See, she had a heart attack and
died, they put candles around the coffin, the curtains caught
on fire...and your dog ate it and died. But other than that, there
ain't been no news.
2) The story is called Cottage of Candles
from Gabriel's Palace (Jewish Mystical Tales)
by Howard Schwartz.
3) From Meryl Arbing
Cheating Death Story: The Devil, the farmer
and the candle
(There are versions of this story where it is Three Sons, and
it is the third son who "saves" his father life by making
the agreement, blowing out the candle and locking it up in a metal
box. I call it my "Lawyer" joke, and tell it as a "surprise"
story where it is the lawyer who is the wise, third son.) Meryl's
version has the wife as hero:
Once upon a time there was a farmer who, each week, took his beans
to market. In order to reach the village, he was obliged to cross
a bridge. But, this bridge was in terrible shape because for fifty
years nobody had done any repairs on it at all. Each time the
farmer crossed the bridge it would creak and groan and boards
would tumble off and fall into the water. One day, returning from
market, the poor man found himself hanging precariously by one
wheel over the fast-flowing current. The farmer didn't know what
to do. Evidentially, it was up to him to fix the bridge. But our
farmer was no bricklayer and he was too poor to hire someone who
was. What to do? One day, there were several knocks upon his door.
It was a grand gentleman, a stranger, well dressed. He was dressed
completely in black: black hat, black coat, black gloves, black
"Good day my good man, I was passing your way and, just by
chance, I noticed your bridge. It is quite dangerous. Would you
like me to fix it for you?"
"You are very kind, sir", answered the farmer, "but
I have no money with which to repay you!"
"Oh that's nothing" replied the stranger, "I'll
do it for free!"
"No, no" said the farmer, "To fix that bridge is
a big job. To allow you to repair it for free would be dishonest
on my part."
"I understand" said the man, "well, perhaps in
lieu of payment, you might be able to render me a service in kind.
What do you say?"
"What kind of service?" asked the farmer.
"I haven't decided." said the man, "but, rest assured
that it will be something that you can do, that I promise. When
the bridge is finished, I'll come back and we'll settle up. Deal?"
"OK, it's a deal!" said the farmer and they shook hands
The next day, the man showed up at the bridge a little before
noon. He had a wagon with strong wooden beams and stone. He strengthened
the supports and replaced the planking and shored up the walls.
But all the while he worked, he never removed either his hat or
his gloves. The farmer noticed this and he thought it was a bit
strange but he said nothing. At noon the farmer's wife came in
from the garden where she had been working for the whole morning.
Of the deal between her husband and the stranger, she knew nothing.
But while she was making the afternoon meal, she happened to look
out of the window and saw the man dressed all in black.
"Husband", she said, "who is that man?"
"That is the man who is fixing the bridge." replied
"I can see that but where are we going to get the money to
"That's the best part", explained her husband, "We
don't have to pay. He is doing it for free!"
"Free? That's impossible!"
With that, the wife looked more closely at the stranger and particularly
his clothes. She turned to her husband. "Let me get this
straight, you don't have to pay?"
"No, that's what he said!"
"You don't have to give him any anything?"
"You don't have to perform a service of some sort?"
"Well," said the farmer, "when the bridge is done
he will come back and ask me to do something."
"And you agreed to that?"
"Sure, we shook on it!"
"Oh no", cried the wife, "Don't you know who that
stranger is? He is the Devil himself and he is going to ask you
to go back with him to Hell!"
"No! No!" exclaimed the farmer, "What are we going
"Calm down", she said, "I'll take care of this."
Before very long, the stranger knocked at the door.
"Good day, madam," he said, "the bridge repairs
are finished and I have a service to ask of your husband."
"Yes sir, that is fine but what service would that be?"
"He must come with me to my kingdom beneath the earth."
Even though the farmer's wife was expecting that answer, she made
out that she didn't.
"Oh no, sir, not that! Not that!! Please don't take my husband!
We have no children and I will be left all alone. Could you give
us some time to say goodbye?" She took a short stub of a
candle and placed it on the table and lit it.
"I beg of you, allow me to say goodbye to my husband until
this candle has completely burned down."
"Of course, yes, that is a reasonable request" replied
"Deal?" asked the wife.
"Yes, yes, a deal!" and they shook hands on it!
"Make your goodbyes, good wife."
At that answer, the wife grabbed the candle and threw it as hard
as she could out of the window. It flew towards the river and
the flame was extinguished and, in a moment, it was caught in
the swift current and disappeared under the bridge.
"Wet candles take a long time to burn down, my fine sir,"
said the wife "So I suggest you don't bother to wait!"
Oh, the stranger was furious!! But what could he do? He had made
a deal and now he was stuck with it! In anger, he stamped his
foot upon the ground and disappeared in a puff of smoke and that
was the end of that!
The farmer peeked out of the back room where he had been hiding.
"Where is he?"
"Oh, I persuaded him to leave." replied his wife.
And the moral of the story is: a woman is always more clever than
even the Devil himself!
4)From the Jewish Humor List: Here is a Hanukkah song that should
have been written years ago! Sing it to the tune of "Rudolph
the red-nosed Reindeer".
Harry, the Hanukkah Candle
Harry, the Hanukkah candle (candle),
had a very shiny light, and if you ever saw it (saw it),
you would even say it's bright (like a shabbas candle!).
All of the other candles (candles),
used to laugh and call him names (like Goliath!).
They never let poor Harry, join in any Hanukkah games (like dreidel!).
Then one foggy Hanukkah night, Moses came to say (in his yamulke!),
Harry with your fire so bright, won't you be my shammash tonight?
Then all the other candles (candles), shouted out real loud with
glee (OY VEY!),
Harry, the Hanukkah candle, you'll go down in history! (LIKE ABRAHAM!!)
5) The Just Man:
The farmer goes out to look for a just man; God is rejected for
giving to the rich and taking from the poor, St Peter for giving
precedence to the rich who can buy masses for their souls, but
being hard on poor farmers for taking a drop too much cider on
a Saturday night, but Death, dressed in black like an undertaker,
he accepts. Death comes to the christening feast, and drops in
over the years to check up on his godson and share a glass of
cider with the farmer (I can picture the gite in Brittany I stayed
once); they become good friends and Death does the father a favour
by showing him how to become a wealthy physician. After many years,
Death invites him to visit his home, so he can return the hospitality;
the farmer turns pale of course, but Death assures him that this
is not the final call, and reminds him that he won't take any
man before his time. So they set off, across hills and rivers
and forests, and come to Death's castle in the end, a black and
gloomy place but the supper's a good meal in a cosy parlour. Afterwards,
Death shows his guest the Great Hall (which I picture as that
in Winchester, where King Arthur's Round Table hangs on the wall),
filled with candles - 'that tall, slender one is a new born baby,
that bright, well-burning one is a man in his prime, that one
guttering out is a man who has just died'. 'And which is my candle?'
- 'That one there' - 'But it's almost out' - 'Yes, you have just
three more days to live'. So he pleads with his friend, 'Can you
not help me? What if you took a bit from that candle next to it,
the one with such a big strong flame?' 'I cannot do that, even
for you. If I did that I would no longer be just, and that was
why you chose me as your friend. Besides, that other
candle is your son's life; do you want me to shorten his life
for your sake?' 'No,' the man agrees, 'that would not be just'.
And he goes home, sets his affairs in order, and dies three days
6)The last part of Godfather Death
has candles in a cavern, each representing the life of a person
on earth. A compelling story for all ages (over about 9), it is
also easy to find in a Grimm collection. The version in J. Frank
Death, collected in
Texas, and there is a wonderful version similar to his by Doug
Lipman in David Holt & Bill Mooney's Ready-To-Tell
Tales from America's Favorite Storytellers.
7)There is a funny story about the Snooks Family's attempts at
blowing out their candle before going to sleep. It's in the book
Juba This and Juba That by Virginia
Tashjian, Boston, Little, Brown .
8) Children's riddle:
Little Nancy Etticoat
Wore a white petticoat.
And the longer she stands
The shorter she grows.
9)The story is The Power of Light
in the book of the same name by Issac Bashevis Singer --
8 Stories for Hanukkah. Farrar, Straus and Giroux publishers,
second printing 1991
ISBN 0-374-45984-3, $6.95 paperback.
And it's about people IBS met in a suburb of Tel Aviv.
10) The Crooked Mouth Family was
the first that came to mind for audiences of all ages. For Adults,
Cottage of Candles found in several
books by Howard Schwartz. Howards' newest children's collection
does the Jewish holidays and there is a good Chanukah story, Mattathias's
Menorah. If you have 70 and one tales
for the Jewish holidays, there is a terrific story about
how a candle in the window flickering saved a man's life so every
year he gives the jewish community where he lives in europe a
special chanukah party. Another story in that book is Chaike's
Chanukah Candle, a legend, maybe even true about during
the 1948 war during Chanukah a candle saved lives.
Another idea is to take The Stubborn Turnip
story and turn it into a Chanukah menorah that a family receives
as a gift but it's stuck in the box and it's a big menorah, and
first the father tries to pull it out, and he pulls and he pulls,
then he asks mother to help him, then brother, then sister then
cat and dog, you get the idea. Figure out in israel what would
be a small pet that would be around to help pull it out of the
box, it's a community effort at this point. I like to use audience
participation. try doing The Noisy House
but for Chanukah, a noisy Chanukah house and invite the neighbor
kids with their cats and dogs, then boom boxes with the teen age
son bringing all his friends, then maybe the wife brings her singing
grroup or choir over to practice a chanukah song. you could have
lots of fun with this one.my favorite is eric kimmel's magic dreidle's
and they do light the menorah and sing songs in this version of
11) Another story which has been posted here several times is
The Candle in the Barn. Here are
my notes, including a couple of comments from the list and the
skeleton I use. It is a very effective story.
The Candle in the Barn
I have a story I love telling to children. It has the format of
the three children and the inheritance. Father decides to set
the test of who can fill the large barn in two days with a given
sum of money. One buys straw, another bracken but the youngest
seems to arrive with nothing. On the morning of the test one corner
of the barn is filled with straw, another is filled with bracken.
The youngest son stands in the middle. Father questions each......
The youngest asks for the doors to be closed, lights a candle
and fills the barn with light... I heard a version of this told
by Pomme Clayton on BBC radio on Christmas Eve. In her version,
the youngest child, a daughter, lights a candle, and as it is
burning, sings a song. Her father tells her that she has filled
the room three times over. She has filled it with light, and light
is knowledge. She has filled it with song and song is joy. And
knowledge and joy together make wisdom.
King - three children - task to see who should inherit. Each given
a purse of gold, one who can do most with the money will be fittest
to reign. A year and a day they must return and show what they
have done - in the great hall, see who can fill it the fullest!
This task to see who is fittest to inherit is written out on parchment,
put on wall. The three leave the castle. During the year they
are away, king sickens, fit to die. Lonely, regrets that he sent
them away, but too late. Often walks into the great hall, looks
at the parchment. Year is up, they return, first prince - straw
- tells father that he reckoned this would fulfil the terms of
the task. Second prince brings weeds and bracken - even bigger
pile. Smiles as father just looks sadly on. Third, princess, seems
to have brought nothing. Brothers smile "She who brings nothing,
gets nothing!" Instead she calls for the hall doors to be
closed, the windows to be shuttered. In the sudden darkness she
lights a candle, and as it is burning, sings a song. Her father
tells her that she has filled the room three times over. She has
filled it with light, and light is knowledge. She has filled it
with song and song is joy. "And knowledge and joy together
make wisdom; and I have learnt much wisdom today." And with
that he kissed her - and with that kiss we end our story.
12) This is my favourite! It's one by Doug Lipman published in
the National Storytelling Magazine
several years ago. (I hope he won't mind me passing it on)
The Shammes Candle
by Doug Lipman in National Storytelling
Magazine, November, 1995, pp.24-26.
IN THE HANUKKAH DRAWER, the little Hanukkah candle waited. The
candle had been waiting impatiently since Hanukkah began. But
on the seventh night of Hanukkah, the family had received a present
that had dashed the candles hopes: a Hanukkah that didnt
use candles. This Hanukkah Menorah had eight small oil lamps,
all on a brass stand. By the eighth night, the Hanukkah candle
knew its time to shine would never come. Just then, the Hanukkah
drawer opened. The candle felt its hopes rising again, in spite
of the new Hanukkah. But the children who had opened the Hanukkah
drawer were not looking for a candle.
On Hanukkah, we like to play;
A spinning dreidel we want to play.
[A dreidel is a toy similar to a top.]
As the children excitedly grabbed one another, the Hanukkah candle
Its no use being a candle. I should be a dreidel.
Then the candle made a wish in a very special way:
Oh, Hanukkah light,
Oh, Hanukkah light,
Please turn me into a dreidel tonight.
The youngest child in the family was the last one to look in the
The others said, Dont bother, theyre all gone.
But the Hanukkah candle had changed.
The youngest cried out, Hey, theres a dreidel for
me, after all!
All the children took their dreidels onto the floor and began
to spin them.
Lets play the game, one said.
Another shouted, Mines come up gimmel,
and Im gonna win!
One by one, the children started to win shiny Hanukkah coins.
On Hanukkah, before its end,
We want some coins that we can spend.
All at once, they stood up, leaving their dreidels strewn on the
They said, Lets go out and spend our Hanukkah coins
The youngest childs Hanukkah dreidel said, Oh, no!
I made the wrong wish!
So it made another special wish:
Oh, Hanukkah light,
Oh, Hanukkah light,
Please turn me into a coin tonight.2.
The youngest child in the family said, Look here, on the
floor! Theres a coin for me , after all.
The children put the coins in their pockets and ran to the front
hall to put on their coats.
Lets go out and spend our Hanukkah coins, right now!
Sniff! Something smelled delicious. Someone was cooking something
The children shouted:
On Hanukkah, we like to eat,
Potato latkes are out treat.
The childen stuffed their coins into ther pockets and ran into
They spotted a big plate, piled high with potato pancakes.
The Hanukkah coin in the youngest childs pocket thought,
Oh no! I made the wrong wish again! The coin said:
Oh, Hanukkah light,
Oh, Hanukkah light,
Please turn me into a latke tonight!
On the top of the latke plate, there was a new, crispy potato
The children reached out to grab the latkes.
The mother said, Wait! You cant eat yet. First we
have to light the Hanukkah lamps. Come over here!
Reluctantly, the children left the pancakes on the plate and followed
their mother to a table by the dining room window.
When the children were sitting dow in front of the Hanukkah, the
mother smiled at told them the legend once again:
Two thousand years ago, a king named Antiochus told the
Jews they couldnt do things that Jews had always done. Antiochus
seized the Holy Temple, put an idol in it, and put out the eternal
The Jews stood up for themselves. Led by Judas Maccabee,
they won back the Temple. But when they went to light the eternal
light, they couldnt find any of the special oil for it.
It would take eight days to make new oil.
Just when they were about to give up hope, they found a
little oil --- maybe enough to burn for one day. When they lit
it, it burned for all eight days. It was a miracle!
We light these Hanukkah lamps now to show the world that we remember
the miracle --- the miracle that let us be who we are.
The mother said the Hanukkah blessing, lit a match, and tried
to light the first of the small oil lamps on their new Hanukkah
Oh, its hard to get the match down inside the lamp
to the wick. Now the match has burned out, she said.
She lit another match. She nearly dropped it. Ow! It burned
my finger. Putting the matches down, she said, I need
a candle to light this with. I need a servant candle - a shammes
The mother opened the Hanukkah drawer. Looking puzzled, she said,
Thats strange. I thought I saved one candle just for
this. The potato pancake on the top of the pile - the one
that had been a Hanukkah coin, which had been a Hanukkah dreidel,
which had been a Hanukkah candle - said,
Oh, no! All my wishes were the wrong wish. It made
one last wish:
Oh, Hanukkah light,
Oh, Hanukkah light,
Please turn me back to myself tonight!
The youngest in tha family said, Ive found a candle!
Whats it doing on top of the potato pancakes?
That night the little Hanukkah candle was lit. It spread its light
to eight Hanukkah lamps, and they in turn, shone into the winter
The Shammes candle takes its light,
And starts its spreading through the night.
If we can be just who we are,
The light we spread will travel far.
The light we spread will travel far.NOTES:
About The Shammes Candle
Years ago, while teaching a workshop on Making Up Stories
for the Holidays,
I (Doug Lipman) instructed the participants to choose a holiday,
then describe what that holiday meant to them personally. Later
they borrowed the plot of an appropriate formula tale and retold
it using symbols from their chosen holiday. One of the attendees,
Rabbi Don Rossoff, had said, I want to make a story for
Hanukkah. I see Hanukkah as a celebration of being Jewish in a
non-Jewish world. Months later I remembered his words and
decided to create my own story based on the Rabbis conceptualization.
The formula tales plot I used belonged to The Stonecutter.
Because the kindling light is a central image of Hanukkah, I chose
a Hanukkah candle as my central character. When I tell this story
to preschoolers or family audiences, I have them chant the lines
that begin, Oh Hanukkah light ..., adding simple movements
that alternate between slapping the knees and clapping hands.
I sing the other verses, encouraging listeners to join on repeated
lines. (I sing the first line of each couplet three times, using
my One Little Candle melody - see bibliography.) I
precede the story with this verse sung to the same melody:
Oh Hanukkah light, the darkest night,
That is the time we spread the light.
One Little Candle: Participation Stories
and Songs for Hanukkah by Doug Lipman (Enchanters Press,
PO Box 441195, W.Somerville, Mass.02144). Audiocassette: original
songs and stories with songs.
Other Hanukkah Resources to Explore:
Collections of Hanukkah Stories
The Hanukkah Anthology by Philip
Goodman (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1976). Contains
a documentary history of Hanukkah, as well as recipes, activities,
songs and dances.
Eight Tales for Eight Nights: Stories of
Chanukah by Peninnah Schram and Steven M. Rosman (Jason
Zlatch the Goat and Other Stories
by Isaac Bashevis Singer (Harper and Row, 1964). Although this
collection is not labelled as Hanukkah tales, almost every story
relates to Hanukkah.
Hanukkah Stories in Jewish Holiday Collections
Time for My Soul: A Treasury of Jewish Stories
for Our Holy Days by Annette Labovitz and Eugene Labovitz
(Jason Aronson, 1987). Contains thoughts for Hanukkah and five
A Treasury of Chasidic Tales on the Festivals,
Volume 1, by S.Y. Zevin (Mesorah Publications, 1981). Contains
10 brief stories, written from an observant viewpoint.
The Meaning, History, and Observance of
Light of Chanukah in Chasidic Thought
by Moshe Brown (Z. Berman, 1979). Written from an observant, Hasidic
Chanukah: Its History, Observance, and Significance
by Hersh Golwurm, Meir Zlotowitz, and Nosson Scherman (Mesorah
Publications, 1981). Written from an observant viewpoint.
Books with sections on the meaning, history and observance of
The Jewish Festivals: History and Observance
by Hayyim Schauss (Schocken Books,
1938). Contains four brief chapters about Hanukkah, from its origins
to its observance in early centuries, in the Middle Ages, and
in recent centuries in Eastern Europe.
The Jewish Holidays: A Guide and Commentary
by Michael Strassfield (Harper and Row, 1985). Embraces several
viewpoints, from observant to Jewish renewal.
So he took out his dreidle and looked at it and the letters
nun, gimel, hai, shin (Nes gadol hayah sham, "A great miracle
happened there"). G-d had performed a miracle and helped
the Hasmoneans against the Greeks. G-d will surely also help him,
Moishele, to come out of his present trouble. from A Great
Miracle Happened Here - Jewish Children International - Tzivos
"There was a time, about a hundred and fifty years before
Christ was born, when the Middle East was ruled by Asyrians. The
Asyrians were aligned with the Greeks, who were pagans - they
worshipped idols. The Jewish people were the only people in the
world at that time who believed in one God. They were forbidden
to teach the Bible, and were forced to bow down to carved idols
that were placed inside the holy temple. A brave Jewish family
called the Maccabees rose up and united the Jewish people against
the Asyrians. The Maccabees were out-numbered, out-weaponed, and
out-classed in war. The Jewish people should have been annihilated,
but we won because of our courage, and the miracles God made when
He saw our courage. Chanukah is really a celebration of religious
freedom. ... "See that one little menorah? Without it, there
would be no Christmas House. People would be worshipping the Sun
God, the Rain God, or Zeus, Aphrodite, and Mercury." from
One Little Menorah by Zalman Velvel
The four letters which appear on the four corners of a dreidel
alude to the miracle of
Hanukkah. Taken one after the other they spell out (from right
to left): Nes (miracle), Gadol (great), Haya (happened), Sham
(there = Israel) Fairly innocent so far, you'll agree. Now comes
the more racy part, the point where the Maccabees' rededicated
Temple and Caesar's Palace spin together, turning the historic
commemoration into an opportunity to generate some cash.! Decide
on an entry amount. Each player spins.
Playing the Dreidel Game:
The children play dreidel, a game of luck. The dreidel has four
sides, each bearing a Hebrew letter - nun, gimel, hey, and shin
- the initials of Ness Gadol Haya Sham meaning a
great miracle took place there. In fact, the origin of this
game of luck goes back to ancient India. The Hebrew letters engraved
on the four sides of the dreidel later came to stand for the conditions
of the game in German-Yiddish (a dialect spoken by the majority
of Jews in Europe and Russia):
These sounds very much like Filling Up the
House. However in that version the candles burn out and
the son loses. The young girl buys a flute and fills up the house
with music, laughter and love. This adaptation by Taffy Thomas
is found in More Ready To Tell Tales
by Holt and Mooney. I just told it last week. One of my favorite
stories. During last years Storytelling Club one of my fourth
grade students chose this story to tell. She modernized it a bit,
making the father the mother who wasn't dying, just tired of the
three children arguing over who was "the best and the smartest."
In the part of the story where the mother sends the children out
with one dollar to buy what they can to fill up the house my young
teller had them go to The Dollar Store. (for those of you out
of the US the dollar stores have all types of trinkets for a dollar).
That line in her story always brought a laugh. I can never tell
the story again without thinking of that student and how she made
the story her own.
web page updated 11/17/03)