Why storytelling is important

Stories help us to make sense of our lives. Creating narrative helps us to order and remember our experience, and to honor it. And besides, it’s creative, exciting, and lots and lots and lots of fun!

But TELLING stories – that is about connection. When I’m telling stories, I feel in balance, as if I’m standing at the center of several different crossroads. There is, first of all the connection between storyteller and story, which I think of as a vertical connection, a connection to dreamtime or spirit, which goes from waaaay up to waaaay down in the ground. The story comes from that “other” place, but putting it into words grounds it. You could also call that a connection to creativity, or generation. Bringing something live into being….

Then there is a connection between teller and audience, which I think of as a horizontal connection, which has at the other end a connection to the lineage of the story… As if all the people who lived or told or passed on that story stand behind me in a line which passes through me and out in to the audience……

Then there’s another connection between the image and the word (anybody else feel like storytelling is a kind of translation from images into words?) And the connection between sound and silence……and not least of all, the connection that happens between the audience and the storyteller when all of their attention is focused in the same place, and they can forget about everything but the story….

It’s not static – although I could probably draw a diagram of the way I envisage it. All the lines are alive with movement in both directions, and they create a kind of matrix (which I picture as a sort of globe of interlinking lines, all in movement) which acts as a vessel? container? space? for the story to happen.

Even if you don’t like my images, you probably know the feeling when you’re “in” it and then when you step “out” of it at the end. I am always touched when the reaction to a story is a deep silence from the audience. That’s when I know that all the connections were really working, and it takes everybody a few minutes to come out of that space – the silence honors it.

I would suggest that we are living in a world where we are very disconnected – from ourselves, from each other, from all our relations who share this planet, from the earth, and from spirit. (I’m speaking in general terms – of the culture at large – not of any individual – there are exceptions) ANY activity which fosters connection where there is so much division is worth cherishing.

More stories! More music! More singing! These are places where all of us, from every race and nation, share a common humanity and a common joy.

Okay, maybe that’s a little too messianic, but you probably get the idea …

© Kimberley King, and reproduced here with her kind permission.

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For those who are teachers: Telling stories in the classroom: basing language teaching on storytelling