“This story is your university and the tuition is free”

“Stories are our elemental stuff of our time here”

Richard Wagamese

“Tell me a story,” Richard Wagamese, Storyteller and Oral Story Telling Advocate, Harvey S. Southam Lecture Uvic, 02/16/11

Wagamese in a well placed, well-made grey hat stepped unto the stage and into a spontaneous oral story of The Spider and the Mystery.

This is my re-telling of his words: At the beginning of time the Animal people though intuitive and wise lived in darkness. One day a mysterious glimmer appeared on the horizon. It scared the Animal people for they did not have words for the glimmer. The squirrel quickly offered to investigate; he was gone for several weeks, when he returned his tail was charred and he ran about in a silly nilly way. This frightened the Animal people more. Owl offered to look into the mystery; he was gone for several months. When he came back all he did was blink blink blink his eyes. This worried the Animal people more. Spider spoke, “I’ll go check it out.” First she tied a silky filament to a cedar tree, put her basket on her back and set out to journey to the mystery. She was gone for years and years. The Animal people bothered by the mystery forgot about her, but one day they noticed the mystery coming closer. They backed up, the mystery came nearer, hotter, nearer, hotter, hotter, nearer. The air felt heavier than before. Then the Animal people recognized Spider and her basket burdened by a shimmering weighty load of mystery.


Oh dear oh she cried, its hot!

You so small, how did you carry that hot mass?

Every time it got too hot I cried a tear and put it in my basket.

Is it heavy?

No, it’s Light.

And that is how the Light came to the Animal people.

(And also why Spider’s web is beaded with tears)

Spider’s tears

Wagamese told us this Ojibwa story with breath and spirit. He told us we could share it and that in the retelling the story will grow stronger and stronger. He hinted that storytelling is like that Spider; tie a filament around something strong (like your friends and family, your tribe or home), then go experience the mystery, follow the filament back and share your voice and your story.

my listening to the story notes


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