Touring In: Ontario

Craft: storyteller

Ideal Audience Size: 15-75

Maximum Audience Size: 100

Grades: Kindergarten-Grade 12

Special Equipment: Table, stool, flip chart, glass of water, sound system if in a large room.

Website: www.karengummo.squarespace.com

Winner of the Red Riding Hood Award from Douglass Harkness School

Presentation Information

Kindergarten-Grade 3: BUMP AND GIGGLE

Kindergarten to Grade 3 students are often the most enthusiastic and gifted storytellers. They love to listen to stories with repetitive refrains and songs embedded in them.  They also love to laugh! For this group I will offer a series of stories that call for audience participation. We will sing, chant, versify and move!

The candle is lit and we can begin!

Every presentation begins with the story basket and with story man and his mother who help find the very best stories.

I will choose from these and other tales:

  • The Great Enormous Pumpkin: An African folktale of solar and lunar beginnings given to me by Jamie Oliviero (10 minutes)
  • The Night Troll: An Icelandic tale of a brave young girl who triumphs over great fear.  (8 minutes)
  • Stop Coyote: Karen’s invented tale of a city bound coyote who finds trouble.  (10 minutes)
  • The Prairie Princess: Karen’s own story of a young princess who loses her treasure. She goes on a bold journey to retrieve it. (20 minutes)
  • Mr. Fox’s Sack: Ever the trickster, Mr. Fox thinks he has caught his dinner but he has a surprise in store. (15 minutes)
  • Whispering Woods: Whose home is it anyway? Some young adventurers learn to look at the forest in a new way. Karen’s own tale (6 minutes)
  • Grandmother’s Candles: This is a tale told with the magic string of a thief who gets caught!  (5 minutes)

I will offer classic folktales and my own creations according to the whims of the audience. Selected listeners will draw an object from the story basket and a story will be launched!

We will close with a song called In Every Little Bud by my friend Lisa Hurst Archer.

This will be followed by a discussion to probe the depths of true storytelling.


Here is a sample presentation that I could give to Grades 4 to 6 students. This one focuses on folklore, family saga and stories told with the Magical String.

To open, I play an improvised tune on my willow flute. I will bring this out again to make space between stories.

Next, I sing a song that I created with a group of Grade 6 friends:

Listen to my stories,

Listen well.

If there’s some buried truth there,

Who can tell?

Listen to my memories, listen to my dreams.

There is always more to life than it seems.

I will light a candle if permitted (real candle or battery operated).

I have a story basket filled with treasures. I found a black feather in my story basket…

That reminds me to tell my version of The Curious Girl (12 minutes), a tale from the Brother’s Grimm, retold by Kay Stone in her book Burning Brightly; New Light on Old Tales and adapted again by Karen Gummo.

Next perhaps there was a puzzle piece found in the basket…

In response, I would tell Neighbours to the Rescue, a family tale from my Aunt Doris and Uncle Norman of the day just before Christmas in1950 when their house burned to the ground. (12 minutes)

Now perhaps a magic string would be pulled from the basket. I tell the story first without words and ask the listeners to look for images made by the shapes created by manipulating the string. They silently interpret the string figure patterns and then respond at the end.  I will tell as many of these string stories as time permits.

MacIntosh and the Mosquito: A story told with string that I created to go with the mosquito string figure (5 minutes)

The Old Man in the Mirror: A story told with string that I created to go with the quadruple diamond bridge string figure (8 minutes)

The Hunter and the Cariboo: A story told with string that I created to go with the Inuit string figure called the Sea Gull or the Kayak (8 minutes).

I close with a song that I wrote.

A Story is a treasured thing

A gift for you and me.

Our trials, troubles, cares and dreams

Are there for all to see.

We give our thanks for gifts exchanged

For now we are renewed,

And journey on into our lives

With stories as our food, with stories as our food…

We follow with a discussion time. We may venture into the concept of deep truth. I anticipate many surprising comments and questions. The family tales and folktales provide much fodder for discussion.  It is important for the listener to find themselves in these stories and they do.

Sometimes children come up and show the group a new string figure.  They go home already dreaming of a new story to go with it.


What’s my story? What is yours? What kind of trouble have we been in?

Karen celebrates her remarkable Icelandic and Danish Canadian family stories and has discovered and developed gripping tales of the bold characters who brought light and life to her home community.  These stories of triumph over trouble or stormy weather strike a common chord with her listeners.

She performs these tales at historic sites, libraries, at bookstores, pubs and schools.  She will present some favourites and then offer the chance for the students to try out and present some of their own 2 minute personal stories.

She will choose from the following:

  • Love in the Turnip Patch – Love grows deeper when a young couple venture far from their Danish homeland and find trouble.
  • Journeys into the Wilderness – Tales of Great Grandfather Ofeigur, Icelandic shepherd on the Prairie.  Summer snowstorms can be fatal.
  • Isabella Hardisty Lougheed the Voyageur- travelling through the wilderness as a six year old.
  • Fish Skin Shoes – How I nearly walked on water.
  • Hats off to Aunt Rooney – An ingenious hat maker ends up on the Miscellany Page of Life Magazine!

Grades 7-12: TALES OF LOVERS AND OTHER DEMONS (Nordic Family Saga)

I begin with wise words from Havamal – the sayings of Odin.

We need nothing more in this world than love.  But it is illusive and mysterious.  Even the fierce Celtic and Nordic people delved deeply into the business of love.

A selection of following love stories will be interspersed with songs and verse presented in Icelandic and English:

The Mead of Poetry: A tale of Alfather Odin’s heroic quest to bring back to Asgard, domain of the Gods, a magic mead that brings poetry to the lips of lovers (15 minutes).

The Corpse Watchers: A Celtic Tale:  One young woman’s show of steadfast courage and generosity brings her a love that she had not expected (12 minutes).

The Saga of Ivar: A young Icelandic bard and musician in the court of the King of Norway loses his beloved. The wise King finds a way to bring healing (8 minutes).

Hats off to Aunt Rooney! My family tale of sisterly love and ingenuity, fame and fortune (6 minutes).

Box Social Bust on the Burnt Lake Trail: Sveinn almost wins the beautiful Struna’s artfully packed lunch. When he runs out of cash, he has to find another way to sweep her off her feet (Family Tale, 10 minutes).

Power of the Sorceress: In the interests of saving the honour of her foster son, the sorceress Thurid casts spells and incantations to bring the strongest man in Iceland to his knees (an excerpt from a high point of tension in Grettir’s Saga (25 minutes).

We will follow up with questions of identity and risk-taking. If the group is particularly engaged and wanting to share, we will include a 15 minute Story Slam or Liar’s Contest where students are invited to take the stage and share their own stories.

Hail to the Speaker

Hail to the one who listens.

May the one who hears these words, prosper because of them.

Hail to the one who listens.


The oldest of six children, storyteller and visual artist Karen Gummo has been dreaming in story for all of her 20,000+ days and nights. Since 1986 she has been performing favourite tales for eager audiences. Her Danish and Icelandic heritage provide her with countless sagas of the Vikings and of the humble folk of Scandinavia. Family members have been generous too in sharing tales of their adventures and so Karen continues to honour and to hone those remarkable stories.

Wisdom and wonder tales from around the world capture her imagination and reveal to her again and again how much we humans have in common no matter how different we may appear to be.

Karen has been mentored by other storytellers through her membership in TALES (The Alberta League Encouraging Storytelling) and Storytellers of Canada.

In 2012, twelve storytellers from across Canada worked under Karen’s direction to perform the day-long Icelandic Saga of Grettir the Strong in the Icelandic community of Markerville, Alberta.  Now Karen offers excerpts of this epic Saga to eager listeners.

Karen also tells stories by making magic with string.  She uses dance and song in many languages to supplement her tales along with a simple willow flute.  Her visual journalling techniques help her to hold favourite stories in her head and heart.  She loves to connect with listeners and to enable all to discover their gifts as storytellers.

Karen has carried out school residencies in Calgary for more than 20 years where she nurtures the creative spirit in folks of all ages. She performs in a variety of venues including bookstores, pubs,  hospices, libraries and on the radio. She has toured Newfoundland, travelled across her home province of Alberta through the Young Alberta Book Society, performed at Storytellers  of Canada conferences and has even performed in London England and in Iceland.

List of Works

  • “Nose Hill! The Hill That is Shaped Like a Nose!” Story and some illustrations for Golden Threads: Women Creating Community Anthology, 2010
  • Dr. E.W. Coffin School; Stories of Community (editor and contributor), 2000
  • Natureground community sign project (contributed paintings, drawings and stories), 2008
  • “Where is the Gold?” in Under the Wide Blue Sky: Alberta Stories to Read and Tell  (Red Deer Press, 2005)
  • “How the Huldufolk Came to Be”  in A Collection of TALES (CD), 2000
  • “Cormorant and Eider Duck” in TALES on the Wind (CD), 2009
  • “Neighbours to the Rescue!” in Call Your Neighbours In!  (CD live recording), 2009
  • “A Journey with Orunamamu” in Appleseed Quarterly (Vol.14, No.4, Summer 2005)
  • “Grimsborg” – Icelandic folktale told on CBC Daybreak Alberta (October 2003)
  • “Where is the Gold?” – Family tale told on CBC Daybreak Alberta (October 2005)


  • Winner of the Red Riding Hood Award from Douglass Harkness School

Praise for Karen Gummo

“Karen excelled at this craft – her presentation was inspirational and therapeutic! Her delivery was fascinating and seamless. I was pleased at the minimal use of notes and pens since this is how (it seems to me) that skill in the oral tradition should be passed on.”
— Participant at the Calgary Public Library workshop

“A gifted storyteller, Karen has proven herself to be a dedicated artist, able to connect with young children and educational colleagues to advance learning and inspire a love of story in all.”
— Gloria Z., School Principal, Calgary

“Dear Karen, Nobody knows the fun I’ve seen… My Sparks woke up on Sunday morning after your wonderful storytelling and began acting the wolf story! Thanks for sharing your precious talent.”
— Charlene, 98th Sparks Unit, Calgary

“You certainly know how to create and capture magical moments with the children. They have been so motivated to write in their notebooks.”
— Donna H., Grade 1 Teacher, Dr. E.W. Coffin School, Calgary

“Thank you so much for taking your time to teach my class and especially me about storytelling. I could never have told my story the way I did without your help… And by the way when you told your stories your expression was amazing and I thought that setting the mood was a good idea with the candle.”
— Eleanore F.,  Grade 6 student, Banff Trail Elementary

“Thank you, Karen, for the stories. We liked “The Three Bears” (Brock was our narrator). We liked it when the bear exploded. We liked your song. We liked the kids waking you up (especially the vroom vroom)”
— Spitzee Kindergarten

“Karen captured their imagination, drew them in with repeating songs, and treated them with respect… Junior High students were really engaged with the last story where they were giving ideas… I enjoyed her obvious joy and enthusiasm in sharing wonderful stories with dramatic flair.”
— Cindy K., Librarian, Swan Hills School

“Karen’s passion and expertise towards storytelling is evident as she provides hands-on learning opportunities for students…Many teachers, parents, students and principals have commented on Karen’s ability to connect to her audience in a captivating and natural way.  Her workshops are well organized and well executed.”
— Bonnie B., Arts Learning Coordinator, Calgary Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts