Storytelling: Telling A Good Yarn

By Derek Workman – 2010

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Since people first began talking to each other thousands of years ago, someone has always asked, “Tell me a story,” – adults as well as children. Storytelling is simply one person telling another about something, and can be about a real event or it can be made up.

The earliest forms of storytelling are thought to have been mainly oral combined with gestures and expressions. Simplistic drawings scratched onto the walls of caves may be forms of early storytelling for many of the ancient cultures, and the Australian Aboriginal people were thought to have painted symbols from their stories on cave walls as a way of helping the storyteller remember the story. Stories would have been committed to memory and passed down through generations, but they weren’t just for fun, they were also used as a way of teaching children about their culture and society, and how one was supposed to live and act within that society.

There are two main types of stories, or ‘oral tales’ as they are also sometimes called. ‘Fairy tales’ (although fairies are very rarely mentioned in them), are those that often begin, ‘once upon a time’, and take place in some never-never land. No-one expects them to be true, and are often full of frightening or magical events. ‘Legends’ are supposed to have actually happened, where golden-haired maidens are rescued by handsome young men, brave warriors defeat fire-breathing dragons (such as the story of St George), and ghosts frighten the life out of people staying the night in a crumbling old mansion. These days UFO-stories come into this category.

As many of the stories we hear or read today are actually hundreds of years old, and have been kept alive by the oral tradition of being re-told again and again, they have had several changes and adaptations, so that what might have been a simple, if unusual event, has now assumed supernatural proportions.

Some of the most famous stories of today actually began as something totally different, often as a criticism of the government or the state of society. The original version of ‘Pinnoccio’ the little wooden puppet whose nose grew if he told a lie, was banned because it was too vicious a story (he was hanged in the end), and ‘Gulliver’ had whole sections of the book torn out because they were very pornographic.

Stories are now used in business training as a way to make people think about how they would deal with specific situations, in therapy, in education, and many other areas. It is easy enough to read a story in a book, but the true art of the storyteller is to re-create the experience in the hearts and minds of their audience, and, sometimes, almost scare them to death!

I am a freelance journalist living in Valencia City, Spain, although my work takes me throughout the country. My work is pretty wide ranging, both in subject and geography, but my heart lies in Spain, which is where most of writing concentrates on. I’ve written two successful guide books to the Valencian region, on Spain’s eastern coast, Inland Trips from the Costa Blanca and Small Hotels and Inns of Eastern Spain, as well as many articles for national and international press. While most of my work features the idiosyncratic side of Spain, I’ve also written extensively on wine, gastronomy and hotels.

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