As you know, over the last month or so we've been exploring different ways of telling stories. We've looked at tall tales, personal stories, hero stories and scary stories. This last installment will explore fairy tales and myths.
I know that clumping fairy tale and myths together may seem like sacrilege. These ancient forms of story serve different purposes and volumes have been written about their meaning. Bear in mind, from a telling perspective, you need to do some similar work to tell these stories, so I thought it would be easier to talk about them in the same post.
Myths and fairy tales capture the whole range of human experience. They help us understand our lives and how our individual experiences are more alike than different. They give us a roadmap to use as we travel our lives. They are the stories that ripple through our cultures and our lives, giving us a common language with which to understand the world.
- Just because it's a fairy tale doesn't mean it's a simple story. Many of the these stories are dark, frightening, or at a minimum explore some of the more challenging times of life (childlessness, parental abandonment, learning who you are, adolescence, etc) so spend some time with the story and decide how you want to tell it. Do you want to focus on the happy endings? Are you more interested in the voice of a minor character?
- Understand where the story comes from. Myths come with a cultural context, so you should have some understanding of where the story comes from and what it means in context. Some myths are still considered sacred stories, so think carefully about where you stand on telling a story that has sacred meaning to other people. Always tell living myths respectfully.
- Explore why the story appeals to you. Myths and fairy tales are rife with symbols, so it's worth spending some time understanding why a particular story appeals to you, what the symbols mean to you. This can be the work of years, so please tell the story, but just don't be surprised if it has unexpected meaning for you.
- If you change the story do so carefully, without stripping the heart out of the story. The Disney version of The Little Mermaid overlooks her death at the end, entirely changing the meaning of the story; if you choose to change a story make sure you understand why you're doing it and how the meaning will be altered. Be especially careful about changing myths, since these may be living sacred stories. If you modernize the story make sure you honor the original text in whatever way makes the most sense to you.
- Select the right story for the audience. This is a tenet no matter what kind of story you're telling. Be wary of using accents unless you're very good at them, and if you choose to tell stories from a particular culture to that culture and you're not of that culture make sure you treat the stories with utmost respect and be prepared to get some feedback.
And remember, I'll be teaching the Art of Storytelling at the Brookline Center for Adult Education this autumn. You can sign up here.
Next week we'll take a little breather with a link round-up, then we'll spend some time looking at the ethics of storytelling. Keep telling!
(c) 2010 Laura S. Packer