The Art of Story Telling

When I was a kid, Dad would tell me a story each morning as we waited for the school bus. This tale was often a series, that would not be started up again till next morn. That was how I came to look forward to those bleak dawn mornings (or at least partly did).

Now, as a grownup, I am a storyteller myself: I tell tales to friends when they’re interested, to kids when they’re around, and to my fiance when he’s not feeling well.

In the Society for Creative Anachronism, to which I belong, I am the head of the Bardic Guild for my area. My Medieval Persona is of the Celtic vein – and those people, I’ve learned, love their tales. Each Chief in Ireland, for instance, had his own Chief Bard, or Ollam, who had so much power he was just about equal to that chief! This was because he was trained from youth to know poetry, and to be able to recite the Laws of the Land, and most importantly to satirize. If he didn’t like what that chief was doing, he could ridicule him with a satirical piece – and this the chiefs all feared(“Ireland: An Illustrated History” by Henry Weisser, p. xvii).

The pen is mightier than the sword, indeed!

Across the world, there have been many different kinds of storytellers and many methods of storytelling. The Geisha of Japan for instance know how to tell a tale by dance or conversation (http://www.japaneselifestyle.com.au/culture/geisha.html). The other main kind of storytelling there, called Kamishibai, is from Buddhist Temples. This form is done with pictures painted on large storyboards, while the storyteller tells the tale next to them (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamishibai).

There’s an art to storytelling, they say, but really it doesn’t take a huge amount of skill. You don’t have to be like the old Irish Ollams or the Troubadours of France and England. All you need is the willingness to tell someone about your adventure with Uncle Bernie on that wild ski trip, and you’re off. Or if you’re of a more creative turn of mind, you can make the tales up.

Storytelling is an art that shouldn’t die, because it’s fun. Reading to your kids or each other is great; now take it to another level. When you read to someone, don’t you give them the voice of the Big Bad Wolf and poor, sad little Cinderella? Tell that story now; give it your own flavor. Act out Cinderella’s sadness, her joy when she finds the new dress and the pumpkin coach. Storytelling is an active thing; you’re showing your audience the story while you’re telling it (http://www.planetesme.com/storytelling.html).

There are various articles to help you, if you want to participate in this art and don’t know how. You just want to present a tale that’s been written or one you’ve made up, there are ways to do it. The first thing you must remember is to just relax. Whether it’s your kid or a group of friends, relax. Think of them as just your friends, and you’ve a story to tell (http://www.storynet.org/).

A friend of mine taught me a way to do this last, that makes Scrabble even more fun, and is a way of storytelling with others: when you put down the first word, that decides the start of a tale. So you start with the word “cat”, for instance, and from there you end up with a tale about a cat – Our last scrabble story was about a fairy who turned itself into a piece of gum, and by the time he’d turned back, he had to have a peg leg from all the chewing.

Storytelling is an ancient art: before paper, everyone used to do it. So why not continue the tradition?