What exactly is storytelling?

Storytelling is different things to different people. Stories are used to impart history, teach important life values & lessons, explain the world around us, or are simply told for fun.

Storytelling is a spoken art form that encourages the audience to participate through their imaginations in creating a story with that teller.

Stories can be personal tales from an individual’s life; folktales, fairy tales, myths & legends that have been handed down for generations or original stories unique to that particular teller. A campfire, supper table, stage, business meeting, classroom or anywhere there is a willing audience can be a setting for sharing tales. Storytelling is for everyone. Families, children, and adults all enjoy a good story.

Often a storyteller is alone on stage when performing, but he or she may use props such as puppets, pictures or costumes. Musical instruments, dance or song can also accent a performance. Most tales are told from memory and not made up on the spot, but don’t be surprised if a teller adlibs as he or she recounts an old favorite. Enter the world of storytelling and let it take you as far as your imagination will allow.

A Story

Once there was, once there was, once there was not. Once a long time ago there was a village and in this village, there were elders who kept the old stories alive. These were the stories of bygone days, acts of great courage and great love, the old myths that told these people who they were, who they had been and who they would be.

In this village, there was a boy and this boy loved the old stories and he loved the old storytellers. Each night they would gather at one of the elders’ cottages and they would tell stories by the light of the great hearths like we do in our nicely decorated classrooms today. They would tell and he would listen till the fires died down and the dying embers would close their red eyes in sleep and pull a black blanket of soot over themselves.

The boy grew with these stories.

One evening, when the years had passed, the young man sat listening, his eyes closed and his vision where the story had taken him. One of the elders spoke.

“You listen each night to our stories and the stories have watched you grow as we have. It’s your turn, after all these years, to tell us a story whether you use an app or not.”

The young man was shocked and he stammered a reply. “I can’t tell a story. I only listen. I wouldn’t know where to begin.”

“That part is easy,” said the old man. “Each story starts the same way. Once there was, once there was, once there was not. Which means that what is true once and twice may not be true a third time. Or maybe it means what is true for two people is seldom true for the third. Begin.”

The young man tried. “Once there was, once there was, once there was not… I can’t tell a story. I can’t even read.”

Neither can I said the old man. People who read lock their stories in books. We keep them alive in our hearts. Start again.”

“But what if I forget the words.”

“A story is like a letter. It comes from the past and we read it and add our words to it and send it to the future. Start again.”

The young man tried to start his story but as he looked around the room and saw those faces he loved so well, creased in wisdom and beauty, his words turned to stones in his mouth and he lowered his eyes to the floor.

The smile on the old man’s face faded, as did all the smiles in the room. The elders looked at the young man with sadness in their eyes.

People who listen to stories but do not tell them are like people who reap the harvest but have never sowed a seed. They are like people who pick the fruit but have never pruned the tree. They are like people who wish but never act. Tell us a story or leave.

When the young man heard these words he started his first story and the smiles returned. Read also this post the importance of storytelling.