Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Style: Cumulative Tale

The "cumulative" tale is one of my favorites! The most famous version is the English story of The House That Jack Built.

THIS is the house that Jack built.

This is the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the rat,
That ate the malt,
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the cat,
That kill'd the rat,
That ate the malt,
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the dog,
That worried the cat,
That kill'd the rat,
That ate the malt,
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the cow with the crumpled horn,
That toss'd the dog,
That worried the cat,
That kill'd the rat,
That ate the malt,
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the maiden all forlorn,
That milk'd the cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the dog,
That worried the cat,
That kill'd the rat,
That ate the malt,
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the man all tatter'd and torn,
That kissed the maiden all forlorn,
That milk'd the cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the dog,
That worried the cat,
That kill'd the rat,
That ate the malt,
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the priest all shaven and shorn,
That married the man all tatter'd and torn,
That kiss'd the maiden all forlorn,
That milk'd the cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the dog,
That worried the cat,
That kill'd the rat,
That ate the malt,
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the cock that crow'd in the morn,
That waked the priest all shaven and shorn,
That married the man all tatter'd and torn,
That kiss'd the maiden all forlorn,
That milk'd the cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the dog,
That worried the cat,
That kill'd the rat,
That ate the malt,
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the farmer sowing his corn,
That kept the cock that crow'd in the morn,
That waked the priest all shaven and shorn,
That married the man all tatter'd and torn,
That kissed the maiden all forlorn,
That milk'd the cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the dog,
That worried the cat,
That kill'd the rat,
That ate the malt,
That lay in the house that Jack built.



The cumulative tale is a style of storytelling used around the world as you can see from these examples from the UnTextbook. You might get some ideas about how to write your own cumulative tale:


There's an article at Wikipedia where you can find more examples: Cumulative Tales.


One of the most famous is "Had Gadya" ("One Goat"), which is a song traditionally sung at the Jewish Passover Seder. You can read more about the song at Wikipedia, and from the last verse you can see how it works:

Then came the Holy One, 
and smote the angel of death, 
who slew the slaughterer, 
who killed the ox, 
that drank the water, 
that extinguished the fire, 
that burned the stick, 
that beat the dog, 
that bit the cat, 
that ate the goat.

Here is an amazing animated embroidery by Nina Paley that shows the song:



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