Prior to written history, stories were passed on orally from generation to generation.
Myths did, and still do, explain how things came to be, who we are, and what we believe.
Legends honour our heroes, actual or mythical.
Folktales, the ancient oral tradition, pass on the history and beliefs of a people.
Fairy tales are stories about imaginary beings doing good or evil deeds. Fairy tales have been used down the ages by adults to entertain and educate; to this extent they have come to dominate peoples' idea of what storytelling is about.
For good reasons, we are rediscovering this oral tradition and, in this age of movies, television, the printed word, and continually changing technology, storytellers stand ready to uphold this tradition, eager to relate happenings from the past and present, real or imaginary, to breathe life into the old tales and take listeners on mind journeys into the wonderment of their imaginations where true literacy begins.
Today's storytellers are more than just entertainers. They are people who are attracted to stories, like mice to cheese, sharing their stories in a manner that will keep you spellbound.
Stories, whether drawn from tradition or personal accounts, are for everyone, young and old. Storytelling is a potentially powerful tool, which breaks down barriers and contributes to better understanding among people.
If you listen, really listen, you can hear the different meanings
often embedded in a story.
Catch the Magic!
|World Storytelling Day in Oshawa
Imaginations ran wild at the Northview Oshawa Library on March 20, as the Durham Folklore Society celebrated World Storytelling Day with a variety of entertainers.
Around the world, many people of various cultures and backgrounds celebrate this inspirational day.
The goal of World Storytelling Day is simple. Those who created it thought it would be beneficial for both children and adults to open their minds and listen to old and new stories, myths, legends and poetry.
Heather Whaley is the Public Relations contact for the Durham Folklore Society.
“Storytelling is keeping the oral tradition alive,” said Whaley. “We practise an art form, where we don’t read stories from books, we tell them.”
The Durham Folklore Society consists of people from around Durham Region who have an interest in the storytelling tradition. The group meets every third Thursday of each month at the Northview Community Centre and members share stories and ideas with one another.
Many members are currently part of the Storytellers of Canada, an organization dedicated to sharing stories with other areas of the country.
As well, there is an international storyteller’s communication board that can be accessed by any member from anywhere in the world. Stories are shared among tellers, and with permission, are told by those who wish to animate them.
Dianne Chandler is the chair of the Durham Folklore Society. She said it is important for people to be aware of storytelling and how helpful it can be.
“[Storytelling] is a very special form of direct communication,” said Chandler. “It touches people’s hearts and minds…it’s food for the mind and the soul.”
For the first time, Oshawa hosted World Storytelling Day at the Northview Public Library.
Marc Lapointe, head of the Northview branch, said he was proud to have the honour to hold this international event here in Oshawa.
“We’re trying to promote storytelling,” said Lapointe. “I’ve been trying to get the Durham Folklore Society here for a while now. I know they have excellent storytellers.”
The children’s event started at 4 p.m. in the mid-sized auditorium and lasted until about 5 p.m. With a country music opening, the crowd of about 15 kids and 20 adults listened attentively to each telling. The theme of the evening was the wanderer.
Flash-heeled runners were tapping and wide eyes were gazing towards the front of the room, where Dianne Chandler, Enid DeCoe, Doris Cherkas, Pamela Jackson and Heather Whaley each told animated tales from the past.
Cherkas, the treasurer of the Durham Folklore Society, told a Ukrainian story that she grew up hearing from her mother.
She also provided the children with a bit of cultural information about her background.
Whaley sang a song she wrote to go along with a story called Tiger’s Tail.
Each story contained a valuable moral message that the children could understand and relate to. Cookies and juice boxes were served and gasps of excitement were not lost among the young crowd.
At the end of the children’s session, members of the folklore society gave each child and parent a magic story stone. This, they said, was to be held and wished upon when the child felt the need to hear a story.
After the children’s session, an adult storytelling took place in the same area. People nine years of age and older began arriving at about 6:45 and sat down to the welcoming sounds of a country fiddle and guitar.
Cherkas, Whaley, George Blake and James Broad performed in the first of two sets.
Blake played the bongo while telling an African tale of a stowaway spider in an old ship. He sang an accompanying song to match this tale and the audience applauded his efforts.
Broad shared a story about a Japanese warrior. As a mystic poet, a storyteller, a philosopher and a swordsman, Broad had to decide which area of expertise he would portray for this particular event.
“I have to pick a persona,” he said. “Storytelling is the persona I’ve picked tonight.”
The audience consisted of about 40 people. The library provided them with coffee, tea and desserts during the 10-minute intermission.
Janet Slocombe, a retired high school teacher, was part of the audience.
She is a strong believer that storytelling is a helpful tool of relaxation and enjoyment. Slocombe has been to previous events held by the folklore society and said she admires people who can stand in front of crowds and remember an entire story.
“It’s part of you,” she said about the society members’ ability to share their tales. “It’s not just memory work…you’re reliving the story.”
Slocombe said it is an art form that not enough people know about. She is an avid storytelling fan.
“I just find that [storytelling] just takes you away,” said Slocombe. “… You can really relax and let your mind wander.”
The second set consisted of fiddle and guitar players, Ray Brisson and Fred Devolin, Graham Ducker, Yasmin Siddiqui and Chandler.
Each told a story with an ethical base and brought smiles and applause from the attentive audience.
To end the evening, Whaley, Brisson and Devolin performed their rendition of This Land is Your Land.
The Durham Folklore Society members welcome anyone interested in keeping the oral storytelling tradition alive, as they hope to spread the word and share their creativity.