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History of Storytelling - Part 1

Traditional Tales - Part 2

Story for Schizophrenia - Part 3

Changing Meaning - Part 4

The Storyteller's Art - Part 5

Enchanting Bird 1 - Part 6

Enchanting Bird 2 - Part 7

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Traditional Tales and Modern Stories

So what was so attractive and important about stories?

A simple question with a huge, ramifying answer there’s not space to do justice to here. But basically our world is far more shaped by the stories we tell and repeat than we realize, something that’s as true in our twenty-first century media-dominated world as it was a thousand years ago.

Stories show life as it might be, should be, shouldn’t be, never could be. Basic social values, skills, wisdoms and all show up in stories but so do all sorts of other things on many different levels.

It’s no accident that the founders of religions have been storytellers. Christ had his parables, Mohammed his teaching stories, the Buddha his Jataka Tales.

It’s also entirely natural that the many of the first great books that form the cornerstones of literary cultures across the world have been books of stories brought  together from oral tradition -  the Panchatantra  from India which became Kalila & Dimna in the Arab world, the Alif Layla wa Layla (Arabian Nights), the Decameron, the Fables of Aesop, Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad to name but a few.

English literature more or less begins with Chaucer’s ‘Tales of Canterbury’, essentially a book of stories told on the road. All of which is very interesting and intriguing, but where’s the relevance?

Why bother with old tales from old worlds when we have hundreds and thousands of new ones made to measure for today at the flick of a switch? Isn’t oral storytelling today a bit like a sort of verbal morris dancing  - very quaint and folksy no doubt, but hardly challenging and contemporary? Why give it all a second thought other than as a ‘heritage experience’?

I think it was some time in the mid to late ‘eighties, I don’t recall exactly the year. I’d been ‘at it’ as a storyteller for a few years anyway. A friend turned up at the door at 5.30 a.m. looking wild and strange. Apparently the sky had been coming in through his head all night. It was an early episode in what was later diagnosed as schizophrenia, but it wasn’t my job to tell him that even if I’d had the background and training, which I hadn’t.  All I could do was to sit him down and tell him a story which is why, I suppose, he might have chosen to come by since he liked listening to my tales.

Next, A Story for Schizophrenia

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Roger Elliott
Managing Director