Deeper into the narrative

By Limor Shiponi

We opened the session with a “pulse check”, meaning – I wanted to know about ideas arriving during the week, reflections or anything else that might be relevant to the process.

Reading and listening opened up a new set of pictures for me. They are different than what I had in mind before. I can see the situation and while observing it, many new questions come up: what was the purpose of this lament? how could David combine sadness with future planning? I’m curious about the hidden parts.

G is going deeper into the context or even deeper – into the mind that engineered the text.

I had a question I wanted to ask you – who decides? who leads? who influences the actual words spoken?

I promised him he’ll find the answer shortly, we’ll just have to look at his homework first. If you remember, I asked G to, “find as many words and expressions that will make a listener think ‘feminine’ without using the word ‘feminine’ “. Here is what he brought:

gentle-pleasantness, warmth and softness took over the bed, soft touch, the smell of a warm house, soft pampering, the power of softness, gentle care, burning fire, if beauty come out we’ll all smile, cradling softly, music fills the house with light, clothed in scarlet.

We started a quick process of sorting the expressions. He compared two and selected one, until he was left with what best represented ‘feminine’ the way he senses it


which he uttered as one word that does not exist in Hebrew, but that was the word. Making up words that can better express an intention is great as long as we know the listener will “get it”. “Now,” I said, “would that be the word representing ‘feminine’ when telling to an audience of men only?” G laught, “most probably not”. “What about children under 12?” “Not there either. They can’t ‘get it’ through this word, it will have to be another”. “So going back to your question –  who decides? who leads? who influences the actual words spoken?”

The answer – the unique combination of teller-listener-story per telling. The storyteller has the skill to switch words within a story according to the needs of a specific audience. He doesn’t change it the way he ‘feels’, he changes it the way he recognizes the audience will ‘feel’ it better. This skill is core to storytelling.

Working with ‘David’s lament’, G does not have much of a choice. He will have to tell the text as-is and use other expression channels to bring in meaning an audience can convey – any audience. Therefore, he will have to ‘own’ the text before he can tell it, fully understand why those specific words were selected upon others.

‘Owning’ a text that exists in fixed context and wording

We dived into the lament, word by word, taking it apart, revealing the meaning or possible meanings of words and expressions in their original context. We looked at various interpreters, questioned, debated, looked for examples. Step by step, the process brought G closer to the text. While deconstructing we figured Saul and Jonathan we not lucid enough for him. They were two different characters but he couldn’t differentiate David’s feelings towards them, although he knew David’s opinion and standing. Feeling wasn’t there yet.

“Can you think about a great commander – someone almost legendary – you’ve met or heard about during your military service?” G though for a minute and named the person. His eyes were looking upwards, like in “looking up to” someone you appreciate. “Good. Now, can you think about a brother in arms you dearly love or loved, whether dead or alive?” G’s eyes moistened, “yes,” and he mentioned a name in a soft voice, “I get the difference now” he added.

This small deviation channelled G into a different emotional state. He noticed the word ‘how’ repeated and it had the power to challenge. Spoked from the depths of sorrow it had the power to challenge God. “This ‘how’… how is it spoken? it should have been quite a mighty ‘how’ and the ‘hows’ aren’t the same”. “Yes,” G was touching on an important point here, “look at what they are leading:

How are the mighty fallen!
How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!
How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!

there is an accumulation”.

Great insight. This will have to do with intention and voice among other things so we tried a voice exercise for G to realize what kind of work will be needed here. I’m eliminating the exercise now, and will bring it in for the readers when we go back there later on.

One thing is still bothering me. Did Saul and Jonathan die together? Did they fight together? Saul used the sword, Jonathan the bow, it’s not possible they faught side by side. From what the Amalekite boy said, Saul was alone. It’s strange for a commander to be alone and Saul was not only a commander, he was the king. Did he run away from the field? did his son die first? did he see him die?

“Why did these question appear?” I asked. “Well, I don’t think they have to do with the lament, but still, I have these questions”. What G’s questions represent is the fact he still has ‘holes’ in the narrative. Something is bothering the storyteller and even if he can’t see a connection to the text he wishes to tell, it will bother him until he finds out. We read earlier chapters in the previous book of Samuel, hoping to find a description of the battle. G found much more: a description that settled the picture for him and a whole line of events from which he picked a detail he found very important – David performing an inspiring act of leadership: “as his part is who goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be who tarrieth by the supplies: they shall divide alike.”


Copy the lament to blank paper (by hand, no lines).

Write it again, this time with phrasing – break a line every time you think a new event is presented – a new idea, intention, picture, whatever. You will have to defend your decisions in a debate so take the time needed to make such decisions. Regard nothing as ‘fixed’.

Look closely at the words and see if you can find repetitions like you found ‘how’, cross-relations, accumulations, deviations or anything else that grabs your eye, even if you aren’t sure about it.

Next: Full text analysis and performance decisions

Gilboa ridge, Israel. Credit – Aviad GFDL

5 thoughts on “Deeper into the narrative”

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  2. Pingback: David’s lament over Saul and Jonathan | full text analysis and performance decisions | Limor's Storytelling Agora

  3. This deep interrogation is beautiful to witness. Good to notice how one small question can lead to revelation, gives me much to think on with my own work.

    Thanks Limor, and to G for exposing this vulnerable path of the teller. It gives guidelines and parameters for how to proceed with deeper work.

    1. Hi Clare, I’m happy G chose a long period of training – which allows for this deep interrogation. It’s really amazing what one small question can help reveal if you have the time to let it echo.

  4. Pingback: David’s lament over Saul and Jonathan | full text analysis and performance decisions : Limor's Storytelling Agora

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