There’s Nothing Like A Good Story

Katie Young
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Wednesday - February 13, 2008

I have a friend who is an excellent storyteller. He’s the kind of person you just want to hang out with because every get-together is like your very own one-man theatre show.

I think what makes Sean such an excellent storyteller is the passion with which each story is delivered. This is not a sedentary activity. No, sir. Sean is up, out of his seat, projecting loudly and making movements to mimic the action of the characters in his tale.

My favorite stories of his are the ones that include some great adventure, typically the outings that include his two hunting dogs. He’s got those characters down to an art - matching the rhythm of their prowling paws with the intonation of his speech.

It’s all I can do to keep from laughing myself into a fit when Sean recaps one of his fantastic quests in his island-boy pidgin English.

It’s not often that you find such an extraordinary storyteller.

I once fancied myself an up-and-coming storyteller. In the sixth grade we were charged with delivering a Greek myth in front of our classmates. The finalists would go on to compete in a storytelling competition in front of the entire elementary school.

It took a lot of work to prepare my tale, get up on that stage and deliver my story in an exciting manner. It was a moment I’ll never forget, but sadly I’ve done little with my oral storytelling since.

Storytelling is an art that has been with us since the beginning of time. Some experts argue that storytelling is what defines our humanity. According to “The Call of the Story” online website, for thousands of years as people struggled to survive, they passed on through stories the wisdom and knowledge they accumulated.

“In early times, storytelling was used to explain significant and often confusing events such as storms, tidal waves, lightning and fire. Special types of stories about heroes and gods were sued to bind individuals to common belief systems. Moral tales conveyed the first codes or laws that ensured the harmony, cooperation and ultimately the success of early human populations.”

The site says the oldest stories told were myths, legends and folk tales. “Every culture had its own set of tales, passing them on from generation to generation by word of mouth.”

The ancient Hawaiians used storytelling to pass on the history of their people because there was no written language until outside people arrived in the islands. According to the website, the Hawaiian people produced one of the first oral historical literatures in the world.

Of course, there are many forms of telling stories, including painting, architecture, dance, song and the written word, such as what I do in this column. But the oral word is perhaps the oldest form of passing on knowledge.

Storytelling, likely, is one of the most compelling forms of communication that binds us together as a society.

And while there is much to be learned from our community’s storytellers, let us not forget what we can also garner from the stories our grandparents, parents, friends and peers share with us as well.

It is important to keep storytelling alive. You might recap your weekend to someone with little thought to your words, believing that you are simply passing the time by sharing needless bits of information. But maybe your story will have an effect. It might be passed along to someone else. And it could, if you’re lucky, have an impact on how that person experiences the world.

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