Tell Me a Story
have recently returned from a Storytelling Festival in East Tennessee
where the performance side of storytelling could be observed. Usually,
when I tell anyone that I am going to a storytelling festival, they
say, "What is that?
have become accustomed to getting our entertainment electronically and
the tradition of telling stories would probably be lost if it were not
for places that make a point of preserving oral storytelling
tradition. It is amazing to see a person without any props other than
a microphone and a stool hold thousands of people spellbound.
the tiny town of Jonesborough, Tennessee, the telling of stories has
become an art and "tellers" are celebrities within their own
entertainment circle. The National Storytelling Center is in
Jonesborough and you can visit it and hear stories by resident tellers
anytime, though not in the quantity you hear during a three-day, and
into the night, storytelling extravaganza.
of the storytellers are musicians who are most likely performers first
and then weave the music into the story they tell. Some tellers are
teachers, journalists, or speakers from other fields. But some are
simply "talkers." They have a story about something that
happened to them or someone they know and it is too good to keep to
themselves. Because they are talkers, not writers, they choose the
oral accounting of the event.
of the stories told are true and some not as true. Embellishment is
allowed if it helps the story to be a better one. A rule of thumb
usually is that it is okay to embellish as long as it is obvious that
it is not true. Sometimes, however, it is difficult to tell truth from
fiction. One of the favorite tricks of tellers is to start out with an
honest and forthright story and when people are totally convinced, to
turn the story into such an absurdity that it is obvious that the
listeners have been taken in. Audiences love these "tall tales
and just plain lies."
own family have a storyteller? Often an older member of the family is
the "family historian" and tells stories from their own life
or that of ancestors? These stories can be passed through generations
and eventually become folk legends. My mother was a storyteller. She
never was a public performer and her stories were more of interest to
relatives than to others. I remember many stories that she told about
her childhood, most of which were finally written down, but some of
which went unwritten and have been lost.
difficult to describe large-scale story telling as it is not only the
story, but the shared experience of listening and being part of the
audience that makes it what it is. It is not only the entertainment,
but participating in an event that is somehow bigger, or more
significant than the story. We are all familiar with these phenomena
as fans at sporting events, when sharing in collective worship, or
when attending a concert or play. Something just makes it better when
you are not the only one who appreciates it.
am a writer, so the sharing of my tales is done with the pen or the
keyboard. That does not mean that I do not appreciate other kinds of
sharing. Stories may be sad, funny, or poignant, but are always
entertaining, which is why they are stories, not reports. My stories
usually are humorous. I donít always intend that, but the nature of
a personality comes out in how a person tells their stories. The more
you share your stories the better they become as they are polished
with each telling like the smoothing of a rough stone into a gem.
that is my story about stories. Remember what they say, "Everyone
has a story." Be sure to tell yours.