Monday, January 14, 2013

MONDAY MUSINGS: THE NATURAL ART OF STORYTELLING



I love listening to and reading stories. Storytelling is as old as language. There is a rich history behind storytelling. To tell a story is as natural as breathing for people. Some are better than others, but we all tell them in one form or another.


Throughout history, narratives were used to entertain, teach, and build a community identity. Storytellers were often revered in their community because they were the source of current news, holder of traditions, the historians, teachers, the holder of religious beliefs, and the entertainers.
Early storytelling combined stories, poetry, music, and dance. Communities were strengthened and maintained through stories that connected the present, the past and the future.
We’re used to books, TV, and other electronic forms for history, religion, news, and entertainment choices. It’s hard to imagine a world without them. At the end of the workday we might eat our evening meal while telling our family about our day and then sit and watch a show on TV, listen to music, or read a book.

I imagine it wasn't so different thousands of years ago. Eating either in a community or family setting talking about the day. It was a time to express their worries, fears, beliefs, and explain the world they faced and usually through narratives. Just as today kids want to hear stories of what the world was like when their parents were young, so it was then. People wanted the tales of the traditions, battles, heroism, and the funny things that made the audience giggle or laugh. These tales draw people together in strength and unity.

Songs are a form of storytelling and were used to make work go by faster. The use of work songs is a very old practice. Some of the songs were songs of praise for the gods to make the crops grow, the hunt successful, to bring in the fish to the nets. Others were rhythmic chants to keep minds focused in unity of purpose and hands steady in planting or harvesting, perhaps cutting or making materials for building. Tough and repetitive jobs are easier with such chants. We still see vestiges of this practice in various cultures. Even the U.S. military use chants to perform marches and other repetitive tasks. At any given time, if you visit a military training installation, you’ll hear chants echoing around you. If you listen carefully you can tell the difference between the battalions by sound of their chants. It’s not hard to see how different people of old had their own style and rhythm.

Telling stories is natural for us. We use narratives when relaying something to friends or family in letters or notes, or telling our kids tales from our wild childhood. Hunters and fishermen tell some great tales. There are those who excel at telling stories. They have down the embellishments, tone, and method of telling a good story. Those few, just as with the ancients, are the entertainers. The bards of today.

There is a rich history of storytellers in various cultures and some still exist today. 

But that’s a tale for another time.

15 comments:

Yvonne Lewis said...

As I couldn't sleep I came to see what comments I could make, This was great to read and really enjoyed it.

Have a good week.

Yvonne.

Anne Gallagher said...

My brother is a fabulous story teller. He used to keep us entertained for hours with his hilarious stories about him and his friends. I, on the other hand, can write stories. Which is good for me. Telling them, not so much. I'm very long winded.

John Philipp said...

Sia, an increasing number of research psychologists and "brain guys" believe that stories are the way our minds piece together and makes sense of all the stimuli we intake every day.

Story is one of our brain's devices, like stereotyping and generalizing, that allows us to walk out in the open air for extended periods of time before returning to the , let's be polite, The House of Brain Correction.

Perhaps those Native Americans around the firepit were just trying to stay sane. :)

~Sia McKye~ said...

John, I've seen that thought before and dreams run right along with that. What are dreams but snippets of the days activities in story form.

In the book,Consciousness Reconsidered, Owen Flanagan says, "Evidence strongly suggests that humans in all cultures come to cast their own identity in some sort of narrative form...We are inveterate storytellers."

~Sia McKye~ said...

Anne, we told stories to each other all the time.

My dad was a great oral storyteller. He came by it honestly as we had quite a few in the family line.

I get long winded too because I want to pull in all the details. I know how to cut them and I do, but I have to keep a watch on, what my dad called, the story kernel.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Thanks Yvonne. I'll be talking about other storytellers in another article. It is a fascinating subject. :-)

Margo Kelly said...

Story telling. Love it! :) And I love all of the pictures you posted!!

nutschell said...

I love this post. Reminded me of my high school history lessons where I first learned about the troubadours who sang of news reports and stories in the middle ages.

Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

James Rafferty said...

Sia, whether in words or in the form of a song, we like to tell stories to make sense of the world around us. It's a craft that will live on, though the means by which we get the stories may vary as time goes on and delivery technologies evolve.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

So the real difference is now we turn on the TV and let others do the storytelling for us.

~Sia McKye~ said...

@alex, LOL! Pretty much, except when we share how our day went with our spouse. There might be a tad bit of storytelling in that.

~Sia McKye~ said...

@ Margo! It was finding them.

@Nut-I'll be talking about Griots and Troubadors in another post.

:-)

Jo said...

I loved the pictures too. Your post reminded me of the many books I have read where the story teller was such an important member of the community. As you say, we are all story tellers in one way or another.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sia .. story telling is as old as life itself ... each generation must have educated themselves on life via the stories ... the word of mouth, the songs etc ...

Letters too - tell us so much of others and older lives - I was listening to an abridged radio programme on objects in Jane Austen's life including letters by a cousin of hers ... back in the late 1700s -

Fascinating ... as well as our blogs now ...

Cheers Sia ... have a good week - Hilary

Tonja said...

I love telling stories to my little guy at bedtime. I think there's something calming about it.