Thursday, August 28, 2014

Why Do I Tell Folk Tales?

Why Folk Tales? 
Based on an interview with Sam Payne of BYU Radio, and the Apple Seed show.

Old folk stories are still around because they are such great stories. If I get a book published, that would be great, but I don’t expect it be around in 100 year’s time. How many books have been printed since 1900 and before, which are no longer in print, nor being read, or have even been forgotten? I want to give the Old Stories which have been around not just for hundreds of years but thousands, in some cases, the light they deserve, the voice that they need.

Arthur Rackham, 1910
Because the Old Tales, the folk and faerie tales, myths and legends have been passed down from generation to generation, during that time cultures change, way of life changes and the stories change with that. But they still have the core value, the core lessons in them, if you want to find the lessons in them. These stories are powerful, and strong, and yet adults and kids are not getting to hear them.  These stories are so deep, we need to get them out to adults as well as to children. Some of these tales have a lot of red meat in them. If you were to tell one or two of these to a group of kindergarteners they would be going home telling their parents: “Mummy, there was this scary man there, and I don’t want to go to school tomorrow.” Not all folk and faerie tales are like that, but there are a good number which are. And there are stories about life, love, growing up, and death. It is a shame that adults think it is stuff for kids, but it’s not all like that. There are many stories which are deep and have much meaning in them. I told my own version of Little Red Riding Hood to a group of 12 year olds who thought, when I mentioned it before I began, it was a little kids story. They saw another side of it, by the time I had told the tale. These tales were not meant for books, they need to be told.

I love the fact that the MOTH is out there and people are sharing their personal stories. I think it is great that people are sharing their stories. We all do it, whether on a stage, or by the water cooler. Some of the stories I have heard on the Moth, I wonder why they are shared and broadcast across the country if not the world, but they are interesting and some are great. It is all about empathy and how we see each other as other human beings, and how we translate our experiences with one another, or don’t!  But these tales, these shared experiences will not be around in 50 years time. The old folk tales need to be heard, too. I do not tell personal stories, not often, because these old tales are so important. We should be giving the Old Tales the air time they deserve, and need, and keep them for another few thousand years.

Yesterday I was told by one listener after my performance that she couldn’t tell stories. “But,” I told her, “You will be telling stories about your trip here, when you get home.” Teachers tell me they are not storytellers, yet the best teachers ARE storytellers. Humans inherently learn through story and experience. List a bunch of facts and they are hard to remember, but couch them in a story and the facts will stay. Some storytellers dress up, and act out stories, but there are many who do not. They may only use hand gestures (which they may or may not be aware of), or facial expressions, but there are some storytellers, who just use their voice, and a certain choice of words. And it always engages. Even the ‘most troublesome kid in the class.' Those are the ones who usually respond the best!

When you use folk tales, there is a layer of separation, and it is this which allows one to identify themselves safely with the stories. They can see issues and difficulties second-hand, if you will, which can act as a buffer, whether the audience is elderly and the story is about death, or the audience is a bunch of middles schoolers who are trying to deal with bullying.

Start with the personal stories, they are easier to remember after all. But then move into the folk and faerie realm of stories, share the myths and legends, and be prepared to see those Old Stories in a completely new light.

Simon Brooks (c) 2014

1 comment:

Tony Toledo said...

Simon, the old folk tales have so much tasty meat on their bones. Serve'em up hot and your listeners will get a belly full of great tales. Which they will remember for years and years (unlike the TV show that I just watched that I can't recall ten minutes after it's over). Your words ring loud and true, sir. Thanks.