The ancient art of storytelling

StorytellingThe ancient oral art form of Storytelling

Storytelling is the telling of historical local, family events, mythical and folk lore, often embellishing or improvising. Stories have been told and shared in every culture and in every land, as a means of a historical record, education, and to promote ethic values. The crucial elements of stories and storytelling include a plot with characters, with a positive and fitting conclusion.

Traditionally, oral stories were committed to memory and then passed from generation to generation. However, in the most recent past, written and televised media has largely surpassed this method, communicating cultural and local histories, folk lore and family linage can now be recorded and stored electronically in digital form.

The earliest forms of storytelling for many of the ancient cultures were primarily oral, combined with gestures and expressions. Ephemeral media such as sand, leaves, and the carved trunks of living trees would also have been used to record stories in pictures predating the written word. Many ancient cultures painted symbols from stories on cave walls as a means of helping the storyteller remember the story.

Stories have been carved, scratched, painted, printed, or inked onto wood or bamboo, ivory and other bones, pottery, clay tablets, stone, palm-leaf books, skins (parchment), bark cloth, paper, silk, canvas and other textiles, recorded on film and stored electronically in digital form. Complex forms of tattooing may also represent stories, with information about genealogy, affiliation and social status

Yes, evolution has changed the tools available to storytellers. With the advent of writing, the use of actual digit symbols to represent language, and the use of modern technology, stories can now be recorded, transcribed and shared over wide regions of the world.

It is with the involvement of our U3A members around the world that there could just be the possibility of promoting this ancient, magical oral and traditional art. A themed World Story Day was celebrated with great success, around the world, on the 20th March since 2000. Each year, many of the individual storytelling events that take place around the globe are linked by a common theme. The theme is identified and agreed upon by storytellers from around the world.

© Stella Porter, U3A National Storytelling Network Coordinator 2011

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