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Note: The following article was included in our July 2016 intercultures e-newsletter. Email the Editor to receive our next bi-monthly edition in your inbox well in advance of website postings. We offer fresh, intercultural information and insights for working better globally.

"Yes," says intercultures Consultant Dr. Hanna Milling, "I do believe...[that] storys can wake up adults because they help to change perspectives; because they waken up our creativity; because they help us not only to know, but also to feel; because they touch our hearts and thus lead us to insights...".

“Yes,” says intercultures Consultant Dr. Hanna Milling, “I do believe…[that] storys can wake up adults because they help to change perspectives; because they waken up our creativity; because they help us not only to know, but also to feel; because they touch our hearts and thus lead us to insights…”.

And now, here’s a story for you about Little Jim, Lukas and Mr. TurTur from the storybook, Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer (Jim Knopf and Lukas the Train Driver), written by the late German, children’s fiction author, Michael Ende, and shared by intercultures Consultant, Dr. Hanna Milling. (As you like, you may scroll to the end of this article for the conclusion of the story.)

Little Jim and Lukas get lost in an immense desert. They are tired and thirsty. As if that wasn’t enough, they suddenly notice an incredibly huge giant on the horizon. The giant is so tall that the mountains on either side of him look like molehills. Little Jim is afraid and wants to run away. But Lukas takes another glimpse at the giant and stops Jim saying, “Wait. He doesn’t seem to be an evil giant. And look, he’s approaching us and waving his hands. Let’s take some steps in his direction, too”. 

So, that’s what they do. And, the amazing happens: The giant gets smaller and smaller as they get closer, and when the giant is finally standing in front of them, he is even a little bit smaller than Lukas. He introduces himself as Mr. TurTur. He’s very, very happy that Little Jim and Lukas haven’t run away. “You must know,” he tells them, “that I am a giant in appearance only”.

“A giant in appearance?,” Lukas and Little Jim ask with wonder. “Yes,” Mr. TurTur says. “And, you human beings are dwarfs in appearance. Look, if one of you stood up right now and walked away, you would become smaller and smaller to my eyes until finally you would look like a little spot at the horizon. If you returned again, you would slowly become larger until we stood in front of one another at our actual sizes. In reality, however, you have to admit that you always remain equally as large or small. It only appears as though you’ve became smaller and then larger again, doesn’t it? For me, it simply works the other way around. The further I am away, the larger I look. And the closer I come to you, the better one recognizes my actual size”…

Just released, the book, Storytelling: Solving Conflicts with Heart and Mind, literally offers 101 more stories to wake your subconscious and open your hearts. These stories—along with the first section of the book that explains the power of storytelling—are intended to be used practically to resolve conflict, achieve intercultural and interpersonal understanding, and—in a wider sense—realize peace. How can a children’s fantasy with characters named Little Jim, Lukas and Mr. TarTar accomplish all this? Ask author Dr. Hanna Milling.

It starts with the heart. intercultures Consultant Dr. Hanna Milling explains that, “in conflicts there are always emotions involved. For it’s resolution, the conflict needs solving at this emotional level.” In order to access an internal space where conflict resolution may begin, people need to be touched at the level of the “deeper subconscious and emotional levels of our brain”—also known as the brain stem and the amygdala, the part of the brain that has a primary role in the processing of memory, decision-making and emotional reactions. “The chance that people in conflict open their heart and allow a real change in attitude and behavior is far higher when we tell a good story,” says Dr. Milling, “than when we just try to talk rationally”. From her extensive and recognized work as a professional mediator, Dr. Milling notes that when “people in conflict open their heart and allow real change in attitude and behavior” their chance for real change is far higher. “In my book,” she says, “I explain this and give a lot of conflict resolution examples that had their turning point thanks to storytelling.” In a poetry of sorts, she draws a metaphor between “a seed that has been put into the heart and which starts to unfold to a flower of deep inner insights“ and the process of conflict resolution.

In her work as a trainer, mediator, teacher and coach, Dr. Hanna Milling tells a lot of stories to open the door to participants’ hearts—and help them sit with the lesson. Reflect for one moment: What speaks to your heart about the story of Jim Knopf and Lukas the Train Driver? Quite often for Dr. Milling, this is the story she tells when people are afraid of managing conflict, or any other situation where fear is involved. The fear some feel about strangers these days, for instance. Or, an influx of refugees. Or, of the possible consequences of saying something when your colleague makes sexist or racist jokes. As humans—and much like Little Jim—we tend to create distance between ourselves and what we feel is threatening in order to make the perceived threat feel smaller and less frightening. “The problem is,” says Dr. Milling, “that conflicts are likely to be ‘giants in appearance’ just as Mr. TurTur. They may appear mountainous and scary the more we try to turn away, hide and avoid looking. “Only if we dare to [take another glimpse, like Lukas,] approach and look at them, are they brought to their real proportions—with which we are actually very well able to deal”. Once within our hearts, the story—and the lesson—tends to remain. “Stories are sustainable,” shares Dr. Milling. “People usually remember the stories told during a training or seminar or mediation even years later.”

This work of the heart is intended to be practical. Storytelling: Solving Conflicts with Heart and Mind links each of its 101 stories with a large register of keywords, so that the reader may use it as a practical reference book. In the register, readers can look up key words such as “team development”, “intercultural understanding” or “conflict escalation”, etc. to find the numbers to the page where relevant stories await. In compliment to the book, all are welcome to attend one of Dr. Hanna Milling’s upcoming storytelling workshops —one from Sat., 15 Oct.- Sun., 16 Oct. at her retreat home in Lilith’s Garden in Chorin, and another on Fri., 11 Nov. at Your Space at Käthe-Niederkirchnerstraße 25, 10407 Berlin. Workshops will be facilitated in German language. Expect more information in the near future on Dr. Milling’s website.

Storytelling: Solving Conflicts with Heart and Mind and an interview with Dr. Hanna Milling about the book will be featured at the end of this month in the Berliner Zeitung, and a book review will be included in the next edition of Spektrum Mediation, a professional mediator’s publication.

Mr. TurTur is terribly lonely, living alone in an endless desert called The End of the World. No one wants to get close to him and everyone runs away because he seems to be a giant when they spot him from far away.

Meanwhile, Little Jim and Lukas return to where they live on a tiny little island called Lummerland. The island is so small that there isn’t even space for a light tower, which is a big problem because many ships hit the island and sink.

Mr. TurTur visits the two one day at Lummerland. No one on the island sees him as a threatening giant because the island is so small that no one can be very farm from one another. But at night, for sailors aboard ships far in the distance, Mr. TurTur—with candle in hand—becomes a living light tower to signal that they must change their course.


[i] The title of this article, “Stories help children fall asleep and wake up adults” is a quote from Argentinian psychoterapist, psychodramatist and writer, Jorge Bucay.

Image credit: (Page Used): „The Valiant Little Tailor“ by Arthur Rackham, used under CC BY 2.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/).