The Impact of Music and Drawing 
on a six-year-old Child’s Imagination "Stronger than Jason" by Chantal Desmoulins at TEDx Limoges, France

TEDx Limoges France

Keynote Presentation

The Fairy Tale…

Do you have any six-year-old children? Or can you remember when you were six?

Let me tell you a story…


Once upon a time… there was a little boy. He was hiding in a cave because his village had been burnt down by evil dragons.

His mother had died in the fire and his father had disappeared.


In his cave, he was surrounded by dragons and human bones. All he had left of his former life was his father’s blanket.


One day, he hears a star calling to him… asking him to come and follow it. So, he leaves his cave - leaves its safety - and follows the star.


On his way, he meets a squirrel and a badger and they join him and follow the star.

When the star moves slowly, they walk slowly and, when it goes fast, they run.


Along the way, he finds his father’s brother hiding behind a house. He, too, will help them with their quest.

Some of the dragons from the cave are following them, but at a distance. The friends all walk together.


Then, one day, they arrive in a magical place. It's a beautiful place where everything shines.

In this place, there is a large tree. And at the very top of this tree, there is a treasure.

The child knows he has to reach this treasure.

But, the task is quite difficult; the treasure is up so high.

Of course, he could ask his friend the squirrel, who can easily climb trees, for help. But, he thinks, "That wouldn’t be right, it would be cheating. I have to reach the treasure myself."


There is another obstacle… a very high tree grows right beside the treasure tree - a kind of keeper who watches over the treasure.


The little boy knows the star will help him, but he doesn’t know how.


Then, suddenly, in the guardian tree he notices a branch growing higher and higher. It gets dangerously close to the sun and everything’s burning!


Then the snow falls and cleans everything. It’s party time!

The little boy has reached his treasure!

He has not found his dad, yet, but he now knows that he will succeed in his quest.


Before they leave, they look around at the desolate landscape.

A green drop falls from the tree and the child knows that everything will grow back.


As they are leaving, the boy sees one of the dragons and says, "Will you help us with our quest? Come and walk with us!"

And the dragon says yes. They leave together, guided by the Star, which is becoming brighter and brighter and it finally leads them to the little boy's father.


At the end of the story, the King of the Dragons itself watches the little boy, his father and his uncle reunite.

Chantal Desmoulins comments

Now, the story I just told you is a story by a six-year-old boy named Teddy.

Teddy worked with me for twelve weeks, for an hour each week.

During our sessions, he simply drew while listening to music with a strong evocative power. As he drew, he talked about what he was drawing.


Look at his drawings: they show the journey of a hero! It is astonishing to see the continuity of his story, because Teddy, himself, did not see his drawings or his story from one session to the next for three months.


We have all the ingredients of the tale.  First the initial test, with the fire that burns everything. Then, the child who suddenly finds himself alone, in a cave, without his father or mother.


Then come the allies who give him the strength and encouragement to begin his quest.


The main ally is the Star he will follow throughout his journey. And, which will eventually lead the child to the center of himself.


This ally, the Star, is his Inner Guide, his luminous part...

You have heard, in the story, how the hero strives to "listen" to the Star?


I love the turns of phrase children use: "When the Star walks gently…"

The little boy is listening to a part of himself, the one who knows.


But there are also adversaries: dragons. Notice that the child was not afraid of them, despite their fearsome appearance.

On the contrary, he seeks to integrate them in the course of the story.

And by doing so, the dragons become allies who also help him in his quest.


So, again, another turn of phrase that I love… as he was working on his dragon, Teddy looked at me and said: "Dragons are the stuff of legends.”


He goes back to his drawing and raises his head: "But legends are kind of true, too."


After the dragons - an important moment in the story - comes the ultimate test that allows the hero to qualify as such.

Look at drawing number seven. This drawing reminds us of the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece.

The Golden Fleece was also on top of a large tree and was guarded by a dragon.


But Jason did not kill the dragon in one heroic combat; he puts it to sleep with a potion prepared by Medea.

Yes, Jason gets the Golden Fleece. But he does it dishonestly, through cunning.


Now, Teddy made clear that he did not want his hero to use the squirrel.

He had to reach the treasure himself as a measure of his success.


The child, in doing so, addresses the difficult elements, his shadow. He is not afraid to express his conflicts, his tensions, his will power… until the snow comes and washes everything clean.


In this hero's journey… well, Teddy succeeds in his quest.

And the three male figures are reunited, the father, the uncle, the child.


So, I'm sure you're wondering, why are there only male characters in this story?

And you say to yourself, "Oh! He killed his mother!" Of course, we mean at a symbolic level.


The child needed to reconnect with a male figure that was absent in his life.

Indeed, Teddy's parents had divorced two years before and the custody agreement made it so that he saw very little of his father. And then, Teddy could not find words to express that he was missing his father.


It was, therefore, an important step for him to have succeeded in laying this path... to reclaim his father for his own psychic growth.


Another important point about Teddy: he shows us how important it is to help children discover their inner world.

This is not some silly thing, it's important! Because the inner universe conceals qualities, hidden resources… treasures that need help to be uncovered as we confront reality.


Drawing is a magic medium when it comes to addressing conflicts.

Thus, the parents, through the drawings, were able to talk about and find solutions and strategies to help Teddy in his growth.


That way, as Teddy goes through his learning phase, he will not be identified by his symptoms. Indeed, his mother consulted me because in addition to having problems at school, Teddy was angry, stressed and had trouble making friends.


And, above all, in each stressful situation he kept repeating:  "You ask too much of me, it's too hard!"

So, his mother was looking for solutions to appease her child.


This brings us back to the need to notice the way we take care of our children.

And it’s important that, as adults, we help our children to make sense of their lives.


As for Teddy, who made this journey and was released ... After the program, he was able to interact with others and make friends. He cried less. He even wanted to play a team sport!


So now, he won’t be seen as a symptom – even though he needed to go through a rehabilitation phase.

The symptom won’t be a destructive Dragon that threatens the child’s equilibrium;

it will simply be an element, a point of weakness for which there is a solution.


To grow, to build self-esteem, the child needs peace.

 Is the child at peace when, from their earliest age, teachers and parents seem obsessed with detecting any possible weaknesses ... looking for symptoms that, so it is said, will be an stumbling block not only to the child’s education but to their entire lives?

Is the child at peace when home and school become places of stress?

I think they are right - these little boys, these little girls - to revolt, to rebel.


Imagine the oppressive tension, when the child is viewed as "a problem" at home and at school.

We have a responsibility - as adults, parents, educators - to help our children grow.

If we look at our children as a problem, they will identify themselves as such and will live their lives as though they are a problem.


If, on the contrary, they are regarded as apprentices in training - with a potential that has yet to be revealed…

And, if we have confidence in their inner resources, they will have confidence in themselves… with the desire to grow, to build… and to open up to the world around them.


So, with Christmas approaching – a holiday that is so rich in symbols itself - I propose that you ask yourself the meaning you give to your lives.


I suggest that you reflect and create an area of peace to give to your children… not the desire to have but simply to be.


I wish that you all, together as a family, talk about the spirit of Christmas…

to share and to outline all the reasons for the wonders in your lives.


Because, as Teddy said, "It’s the stuff of legends, but legends are kind of true, too."



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