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Storytelling

Storytelling
July 05, 2013, 03:52:01 PM
Before the written/recorded word, stories were passed on by word of mouth.  The Iliad, The Odyssey; there is roughly a 300 year gap in between when Iceland was settled and when the sagas were written; obviously in between that time, the stories were passed on verbally.

It is easier to remember a story that is extraordinary than a story that is ordinary.  In order that the stories might be passed on from one generation to the next, the oral versions of these stories were probably embellished. 

Imagine you're lost in the woods, you set up a base camp and you want to go looking for food, but this is unfamiliar territory so as you go exploring, you leave signs along the way so that you might find your way back to base.  Similarly, the old storytellers left extraordinary clues to themselves and to future storytellers, in the form of fantastic embellishment such as trolls, dragons, talking horses or superhuman feats, so that they could navigate the story from beginning to end. 

At least this is my hypothesis!  When you have points A-B-C-D, it is easier to navigate than if you only have points A and B.  Once the stories were finally written down in books, the elements of fantasy had become an integral part of the story and so they stuck.  Memorization works better not when you memorize verbatim but when you memorize the big bold A-B-C-D points, and the in between stuff seems to fill itself in on its own.

The reason that there are fewer and fewer bold storytellers is because people have forgotten that a story is first and foremost an oral tradition.  Rather than storytellers we have "writers."  Writers work first and foremost with the written word.  William S Burroughs for example, is a very bold writer, but basically incoherent as a storyteller. 

Plato was right that books and the written word essentially weaken us and make us less bold.  We become reliant on the word.  The old storytellers were both bold and coherent.
His Majesty at the Swamp / Black Arts Lead to Everlasting Sins / Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism / Oath of Black Blood / Privilege of Evil / Dawn of Possession / In Battle There is No Law / Thousand Swords / To Mega Therion

Re: Storytelling
July 05, 2013, 07:28:44 PM
Another example of this "story as literal journey" is in the Australian aboriginal idea of dreamtime, where apparently certain places are considered to have sacred power, and the land itself serves as a record of mythical history. I suppose that this tradition is stronger in extreme environments - the Australian desert is one, much of Iceland is as well.
Generic misanthropic crowd-pleasing statement, potentially with a subclause betraying a hopeful vision and steps the writer believes would make that vision real.

Re: Storytelling
July 06, 2013, 03:21:43 AM
It is easier to remember a story that is extraordinary than a story that is ordinary.  In order that the stories might be passed on from one generation to the next, the oral versions of these stories were probably embellished. 

An astute oberservation! According to cognitive scientists of religion, this is exactly what accounts for a common element of religion across cultures (worship of supernatural agents).

Check out the 'Minimally Counterintuitive Concepts' heading in: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_science_of_religion#Main_Concepts

Also: "He argues that one such factor is that it has, in most cases, been advantageous for humans to remember "minimally counter-intuitive" concepts which are somewhat different from the daily routine and somewhat violate innate expectations about how the world is constructed. A god that is in many aspects like humans but much more powerful is such a concept while the often much more abstract god discussed at length by theologians is often too counter-intuitive. Experiments support that religious people think about their god in anthropomorphic terms even if this contradicts the more complex theological doctrines of their religion." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_psychology_of_religion#Religion_as_a_by-product

Re: Storytelling
July 06, 2013, 03:26:55 AM
Plato was right that books and the written word essentially weaken us and make us less bold.  We become reliant on the word.  The old storytellers were both bold and coherent.

I don't know if I entirely agree with this.

While yes, there is an inherent thrill to hearing a good storyteller relate a tale, books help us preserve these tales. A person can have the tendency to embellish, or stretch the truth to make the story 'better'. This can be good, but can also detract from the impact of the story. I'm unsure if moving away from written literature would be a good solution.

Would you not say that modern comedians and writers have become our storytellers? Most of their stories suck though, perhaps that's all part of the modern disease.
No.

Having reviewed the thread, baby Jesus is most definitely weeping at this point.

Re: Storytelling
July 06, 2013, 01:40:38 PM
William S Burroughs for example, is a very bold writer, but basically incoherent as a storyteller. 

Plato was right that books and the written word essentially weaken us and make us less bold.  We become reliant on the word.  The old storytellers were both bold and coherent.

I don't agree with the part on Burroughs; his books are designed to be read over the radio. (Granted, a radio station where somehow FCC rules don't apply.)

I think your thesis is radical and contains a lot of truth, but I believe the situation is worse: written truths allow people to stop understanding the reasons for those truths, which allow the truths to be corrupted.

Re: Storytelling
July 06, 2013, 11:25:36 PM
Another example of this "story as literal journey" is in the Australian aboriginal idea of dreamtime, where apparently certain places are considered to have sacred power, and the land itself serves as a record of mythical history. I suppose that this tradition is stronger in extreme environments - the Australian desert is one, much of Iceland is as well.

That's interesting, it makes me think of how the sagas function as a map, because they say that two of the more practical functions of the sagas was to serve as genealogy and also a sort of cartography of Iceland.  Over and over again in the sagas they will say XYZ happened here that's why it is named "XYZ-whatever."  So when they settled Iceland, it was completely uninhabited, and the settlers had the pleasure of naming all the places from scratch.  They got to almost create Iceland out of thin air, like a blank canvas.  Vatnsdal means "river valley," Laxdale - Lax means salmon so there was a lot of salmon there, Grettir the Strong lifted that giant rock over there, so it's called "Grettir's Lift," Grettir threw a spear at a dude but the arrowhead fell off while in the air and so that place is called Arrowhead Marsh, or what have you.  Most of the naming makes sense but sometimes it is very strange.

Thanks for the reply and thanks for the other replies too comrades!
His Majesty at the Swamp / Black Arts Lead to Everlasting Sins / Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism / Oath of Black Blood / Privilege of Evil / Dawn of Possession / In Battle There is No Law / Thousand Swords / To Mega Therion