Storytelling Hall of Inspiration, Part One

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Storytelling Hall of Inspiration

This page is dedicated to those who have been instrumental in the creation and promotion of the art of storytelling throughout the ages. it will remain a work-in-progress, for that art is also a work-in-progress.

Broadly,"storytelling" is the art of crafting and relating narrative. While that can be done as literature, or as auditory or visual media, the concentration here is on the oral tradition; the teller speaking directly to the listener, relating tales that may change over time or as circumstances change as opposed to those stories frozen forever in one form.

However, because we no longer are an oral society, we need some more permanent record or the stories will die with their tellers. And so we honor those who have preserved the riches of the past as well as those who will carry them into the future.

Storytelling in the Ancient and Pre-Modern Worlds

We cannot speak of telling without acknowledging the greats of the past. Few names have come down to us--most tellers were locally known and the tales were more important than the tellers. 

We must at least note Homer, the blind bard of the 7th or 8th century BCE, whose Illiad and Odessey are still told. (yes, there is argument as to the actual existance of the man, but let him stand for all who contributed to the work)

Also, Aesop and his fables (same caveat about his existance, same honoring of all who contributed). These tales date from around the 6th century BCE. Variants can be found for many of the tales throughout the world.

The Jewish and Christian texts of the Bible contain some of the best-loved history, proverbs and legends. Aside from the clegy, there are many tellers who dedicate their professional lives to sharing these tales.

The creators of One Thousand and One Nights also deserve recognition. The collection probably was first written in Arabic in the 8th century and entered the English speaking world in 1706 as Arabian Nights. The Nights contain a wide variety of genres and its influence has spread far beyond the Arabic world. 

Religious and/or secular texts from around the world give us some of the best and most heart-felt tales of the ancient world. Here we would include the Sanskrit Puranas, the Norse Eddas, the epic of Gilgamesh, and the Four (or Five) Great Classical Novels of China among others. There are also groups whose stories remained in the oral tradition for the most part--the myths and legends of Africa and of the American continents, for example.

We also have collections of tales like the Decameron by Boccaccio(@1350) and the Golden Legend (1260), Beowulf (8th-11th century) and the Nibelungenlied (@1200)...and many others.

To all who have attempted to preserve the tales of former times and peoples, we offer our thanks and appreciation.   

Literary Tellers and Collectors, pre-20th century

Modern storytellers are often first and foremost researchers. We look to the tales of the past and rely on those who have collected and passed them down in written form. We also celebrate the creators of tales, for 'writer' and 'teller' roles tend to blend...

Charles Perrault--17th century French author and one of the first to present literary forms of the folktales now called "fairy tales." His Tales of Mother Goose included Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood and Puss in Boots.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm--the Brothers Grimm collected, we-worked and published folktales in 19th century Germany. Many of the fairy tale versions we are most familiar with are in their collections--Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, The Frog Prince and Rapunzel, to name just a few.  

Hans Christian Andersen--(1805-1875)  author of some of the most-beloved fairy tales--Little Mermaid, Ugly Duckling and The Emperor's New Clothes, for example. In his own life, he was recognized formally as a Danish "National Treasure" and considered as a world treasure.

Charles Dickens--(1812-1870) Not only a great novelist, Dickens helped shape view on poverty and social issues. His serialized stories allowed him to use readers' feedback to alter the tales, and his recitations of his own works on stage are sometimes credited with contributing to his death.

Mark Twain--(1835-1910)In his life, Samuel Clemens was known as a great speaker as well as a writer. One of his favorite 'jump' tales is still heard today--"The Golden Arm"

Andrew Lang -- (1844-1912)collector of folklore and myth, he is best know for his many 'colors' of fairytale books--The Blue Fairy Book (1889) was followed by Red, Green, Yellow, Pink, Grey, Crimson, Violet, Brown, Orange, Olive and Lilac.

Joel Chandler Harris --(1848-1908)This journalist attempted to record African-American tales in the dialect of the tellers, preserving the stories as they were in the oral tradition. While aspects of the Uncle Remus tales are problematic, Harris influenced Twain, Kipling, Beatrix Potter and A A Milne, among others and introduced generations fo readers to Brer Rabbit and his companions.

Sholem Aleichem--(1859-1916)often called the "Jewish Mark Twain" (Twain called himself the "American Sholem Aleichem"), Solomon Rabinovich wrote for both children and adults, mostly in Yiddish. His Tevye stories are the basis of the play Fiddler on the Roof.