We are all storytellers!
Like many people, I like a good story well told. One of my favorite memories of childhood was listening to my relatives tell stories about what is was like growing up in 1940s era Los Angeles. Those tales not only allowed me to gather “facts” about my family, but helped me to gain perspective of how I fit into the family tree and into the bigger picture of local history and the community.
Great stories, filled with insight and learning, are passed down, generation to generation. I suppose that is why I am so fond of folk and fairy tales. They are oversized lessons filled with hard-earned truths about life, generally served up as innocent children’s fare. But folk stories weren’t always thought of as such. Take, for instance, the Brothers Grimm, famous folk tale collectors who gathered stories from local villagers in and around the central and northern regions of Germany in the early 1800s. The tales they listened to were fireside fare, filled with fantasy, adventure, heroism and the stark, sometimes dark, realities of their times. They were stories meant to entertain, certainly, but also to impart lessons and to help keep young people in line. Over the years and through numerous editions, those folk tales were made softer and less frightening, especially after it was made clear that their stories were being read to, and were popular with, children.
The fairy stories we are now most comfortable with, such as Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Jack and the Beanstalk, have been made familiar to us through our families, early literacy, and endless retellings in a variety of formats. The themes are timeless and endlessly popular, with every culture seemingly having their own unique and local way to tell a tale, be it Cinderella or Snow White. And with practically every tale, there are no two versions alike. And that is how it should be. Each and every storyteller hears a story, and then retells it, as they see fit. And since we are all storytellers, those classic Grimm tales, like our family stories, belong to us, too.
If you haven’t already, give storytelling a try. We have plenty of great folk stories here at the library to help you get started. Find a tale that makes you laugh, that give you chills, provides insight, or tells lessons about life. Practice telling it and share it aloud with your family. Feel free to change the elements of the story to suit yourself and the needs of your audience. Know that there is no “right” way to tell a tale. Once you embrace the basic elements of a story it really belongs to you and is yours to play with. With that kind of creative license in hand you’ll never have to worry about telling a story the same way twice.
Come by and visit a local branch of the Jackson County Library Services to hear a story well told, or get materials so you can tell a tale yourself. You can use these great resources to help you hone your storytelling skills.
Remember, we are all storytellers!