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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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Changing Meaning

Traditional stories are often loaded with potent imagery; it’s again not hard to see how this might be so with the Cinderella story.

The most interesting and enduring tales cross cultures, move easily between widely different mind-sets not just because people happened to have them in their rucksacks and dumped them off by accident, but because they mean and always have meant something that transcends culture and time.

Whether or not they carry traces of this or that ancient civilization, way of thinking or whatever, they can say important, useful and resonant things about what it is to be human here and now, offer solutions, strategies, new chances at the same time as feeding the imagination and sense of fantasy. They have to be a rich seam to mine for anyone interested in human development.

But back to The Fisherman & the Genie and my second ‘theme’. Actually it’s not very much of story, especially summarised briefly in the way I’ve done above. Set down in this ‘bare bones’ form, it could well seem slight, amusing maybe but lacking the kind of depth you might expect from a ‘real’ story. It’s very easy to apply the wrong kind of standard.

We are used to an ‘urtext’ model of literature: there is one original and ideal model for the story somewhere, recorded in words or whatever. Performances may attempt to interpret that model, but don’t change it essentially.

But this kind of thinking doesn’t or shouldn’t apply to the oral tale, because it’s really a bird in flight, not a stuffed one. In other words, part of the meaning and sense of the story is situational. It’s what the teller and her/his listeners add to it that makes it live. The sense my early morning visitor and I made of The Fisherman & the Genie was something in a way unique to that occasion and time.

Next, The Storyteller's Art

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Roger Elliott
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