A Maltese fairy tale,
drawn from ancient folklore and legend reworked to modern themes,
told in the oral tradition,
in a tent.
Set in prehistoric Malta, a time before the great flood when the land was one and people used boats that travelled on land in cart ruts to get around, this is a story about a giantess named Sansuna and a people who temporarily forgot how precious nature is. Sansuna is a quiet but very strong giantess who lives peacefully among the Maltese, eating broad beans and honey. Life is good in this lush land until a mischievous boy named Toninu taunts the giantess a little too far. He is frequently seen pestering her but on the day in which he throws the last carob pod in the land at her, the consequences for him and his people are dire. She flies into a rage and drops the large stone she is carrying onto a sacred site. Immediately a tree emitting thousands of flies bursts through the ground and a golden ox stands alongside it. Sansuna weeps, curses and spits and terrified, Toninu’s people retreat underground for many years. It is only his younger sister’s intuition and bravery that eventually saves the Maltese and their land. Katarin embarks on a quest in which she encounters all sorts of creatures including the notorious ‘brejbes’ (jinn), ‘Sittazbrilja’ (the seventh sibyl) and the well-loved Filfla lizard. By communicating with these creatures and learning more about the land along the way, Katarin demonstrates the hidden potential of young girls and the importance of honouring old connections between people, creatures and the earth.
Sansuna and the Carob Tree is built on indigenous folklore and incorporates elements of Malta’s endemic landscape. It is an important story to tell because it echoes tales from our cultural heritage that are being lost in the fast-moving world of popular culture. Targeting family audiences, the story reminds us, or introduces us, to characters from Maltese folklore including the giantess who myth has us believe built the various Neolithic temples on the islands, the mythical status of the carob tree – one of the oldest trees to be found in the Mediterranean with fruit that gives strength and equals the value of gold, the notorious jinns that roam Maltese towns and villages causing havoc, Sittazbrilja whose wisdom was the foundation of the Roman Empire and whose powers to restore perennial youth are coveted by all, as well as the golden ox, the tree of flies, and aspects of the local natural environment that children today hardly interact with, including indigenous trees such as the olive and fig trees, the vine and flowers such as wild daisies, camomile and sulla (silla). The story also includes a number of expressions, rhymes and games that were traditionally part of everyday childhood.
In addition to restoring lost aspects of Maltese folklore and celebrating our natural environment, Sansuna and the Carob Tree draws our attention to contemporary issues and causes, provoking us to rethink our relationship to one another and the land we inhabit. The narrating voice is that of the carob tree, a voice that sticks in our head because of the poignant struggles that the tree faces to survive. The ending also highlights environmental concerns highlighting how Toninu, in plucking the last carob pod from the lands, fails to realise the consequence of his actions and to appreciate that when we pilfer nature we must pay a price. Sansuna, who has been a guardian of this earth for so many millennia, knows this and in her clumsy way tries to warn the humans but they only realise too late instead taking her presence and her work for granted. It is the women in this community who step forward to act effectively – Katarin’s courage and Sittazbrilja’s wisdom restore a balance and order that the smaller humans, alongside the big giantess, then work hard to maintain.
The story and performance was produced in both Maltese and English and premiered during Ziguzajg International Festival for Children and Young Adults 2018.
This workshop is available for private bookings. Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lignin Stories’s Sansuna u s-Siġra tal-Ħarrub is a well-researched and highly engaging storytelling project. Combining excellent narrative skills, together with an engrossing yet simple setup, the performance manages to keep children captivated by the unveiling story, and its compelling protagonists. The show is also a great way to inform audiences of Malta’s rich heritage and diversity of its flora and fauna. The immersive soundscape further makes for a unique and cherishable experience. – Daniel Azzopardi, Festival Director, Fondazzjoni Kreattività – ŻiguŻajg Festival
The Story of Sansuna is a well-woven fable with all the traditional elements necessary for a good story : mystery, outer-worldly giants, folklore, and the tug between good and evil. It is well targeted at the 7+ age group, as with its number of characters and storyline, it needs focus and attention. I particularly liked the setting – set in a tent, with plenty of fairy lights, I felt the children’s sense of anticipation – they were being invited into a special space for a different experience. It required the children to rely on their auditory skills. The story also cleverly opened paths for interaction between audience and storyteller. I also enjoyed the educational slant – Before being asked to enter the tent, we trod on Carob fruit and earth, thereby incorporating a multi-sensory dimension. Not many kids today have encountered the Carob Tree and its fruit, so perhaps even the parents present could be inspired to point things out about our fragile environment. Sansuna employs an old-world, oral storytelling technique – something which has disappeared, and which relies on the strength of both story and narrator. To me as an audience member, it was interesting to watch the kids being engaged, listening up-close, seated together in a circle, their world, as well as mine, suspended for a while. – Charlotte Stafrace, Actress & Theatre Educator