A Peek Inside Tales for Canterbury: “Juggling Silver” by Juliet Marillier
It’s time for another “peek inside” Tales for Canterbury, this time with a look at Juliet Marillier’s Juggling Silver, a beautiful short story that mixes a sense of folk magic with historical reality in another selection from the “Hope” segment of the anthology. One of the many elements in this short story that I really loved was the sesne of connection between age and youth, as well as the human connection to place and the ability of objects to reinforce that bond.
by Juliet Marillier
Grandmother kept her silver plates in a row on a high shelf. They sat there looking down at us like three round eyes. Every day she took them off the shelf and polished them with a soft, red cloth, and then she put them carefully back. If we climbed up, we could see our faces in them. Ulli climbed up a lot.
“Ulli, Ulli, what are we going to do with you?” Grandmother would say. “Eight years old and never out of trouble! Eight years old and still babbling baby talk! Get down off there before you break something!”
The plates were very old and very valuable. They had belonged to Grandmother’s great-great-grandmother. On the rims of them were silver berries and leaves, owls and wolves, whales and dolphins. Grandmother called them the tree plate, the eye plate and the sea plate. Sometimes she let me hold them.
“Careful, Sami! That’s treasure you have in your hands!” She never let Ulli hold them.
Ulli was different.The other boys and girls his age ran around and played with a ball. They hunted for shells and went swimming in the rock pools. They helped their mothers to salt fish and gave their fathers a hand with tarring boats or untangling nets. I could talk to them and they’d understand me. Not Ulli. My little brother wasn’t safe on the beach by himself. He’d just walk into the water and keep on going. I’d waded in and fished him out hundreds of times. Ulli didn’t understand what people told him. And he couldn’t talk, not the way other folk talked. All he would say was a sort of rhyme, over and over, in words that didn’t make any sense: tipi api sipi oh, tipi api sipi oh. He’d sit on the bottom step outside Grandmother’s hut and play with a little pile of round, black stones, throwing them up in the air and catching them one, two, three, and all the time he’d be saying it, tipi api sipi. There was no point yelling, “Stop it!” Words meant nothing to my brother. Grandmother said Ulli would never be able to cast a net or paddle a canoe, not even when he grew up. All he would ever do was talk nonsense and juggle stones and get into trouble. It was just as well he had me to watch over him. Taking care of Ulli was my job.
To find out the rest of Sami and Ulli’s story, check out Tales for Canterbury, an anthology of short fiction put together by Cassie Hart and Anna Caro as a fundraiser for the Red Cross Christchurch Earthquake Appeal. The anthology includes a range of short stories donated by both national and international authors and may be purchased from Random Static here.