Story Blocks

Here is a classic toy that serves as an excellent medium for fables. All six sides of these blocks make a story. In the simplest sets, there are twelve cubes, and they form six different rectangular pictures in four rows of three blocks. More complicated sets increase the number of blocks, develop patterns that are more complex than a simple rectangle, and use blocks that are rectangles rather than squares. The result, seen in three dimensions, can be a construction like this: storyblocks2.jpg (7894 bytes) Enjoy them all! 1980? Chinese story-blocks #1, including FS, "The Deer with Beautiful Antlers," CP, DS, TH, FC. One extra set.

I first found this set in a small-town toy store somewhere in Minnesota while toy shopping with Linda Clader. Now, years later, I am still impressed with the quality of workmanship and the ingenuity of the designs, which never form a simple rectangle.

Click on the box to see one of the best puzzles inside the box. Notice its unusual shape! 1980? Chinese story-blocks #2, including WC, "The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing," FG, "The Raven and the Swan," "The Cat and the Fox," "The War Horse and the Ass." One extra set.

I found this second set, to my great surprise, in the toy department of a Singapore department store. It cost $3.35! The designs are more symmetrical--and a little less wild--than those in Set #1. The craftsmanship is again fine.

Click on the box to see FG close up. 1980? Chinese Picture Cubes "Aesop's Fables." T 303. Made in China. $9.50 from Sally Cook, Renfrew, Ontario, Canada, through Ebay, Jan., '00.

This smaller set has nine blocks in a square paper box, with separate pictures for four of the six images. This is definitely a "cute" rendition of the fable of the "The Stag and His Antlers." The six images are numbered. In 1, the young deer gazes at the side of a pool at his image in the water and especially at his small horns. In 2, a bird in a tree is telling him something and may be pointing. In 3, the deer is visibly weeping as it looks back at one of its hind legs while it seems to stand in a puddle. Hmmm… In 4 it looks up to see a lion (whose face looks more like that of a walrus!) perched in the mountains. In 5 its little horns get caught--somewhat unbelievably--in the trees. In 6 it looks down smiling on its shadow. Might the order be 6, 1, 3, 2, 4, 5? Or for a happy ending, put 6 at the end. Throughout, there are pastel flowers, meadows, and mountains. The images are well matched from block to block. Several images show considerable wear.

chinese3x3woodblocks.jpg (12621 bytes)</td><//td> 1982? Chinese story-blocks of Mercury and the Woodman. Salamanca, July, '86.

All six pictures are three cubes by four cubes. The six scenes are coordinated: get one and you have the key to getting them all.

1985? Chinese story-blocks of "Race of Tortoise & Rabbit." Chinatown, Yokohama, July, '96.

All six pictures are three cubes by four cubes. The six scenes are coordinated: get one and you have the key to getting them all. The six pictures are on the paper cover. In this search, the surprises never cease to amaze me. Shoji and I found this on a random dip into Chinatown!

1998? Jean de La Fontaine: 6 Fables de toujours. 20 cubes en bois. Fabriqué en France. St. Germain-en-Montagne, France. Jeujura. 155 Francs at Le Bon Marché, Paris, August, '99.

Six cartoon pictures in 5x4 form in a sturdy wooden box. The packing advertises "100% Fabrication en France" against a red, white, and blue background. A "livret" gives all six pictures. The pictures on each cube are in a sequence; rotate all one turn and revolve all one turn, and you have a complete image. Twenty is a high number of blocks for a puzzle of this sort. Sudden arrangements for a quick trip home for a funeral gave me an extra afternoon in Paris. What a nice surprise to find this set as I bummed around!