What is Storytelling?
A statement by the National Storytelling Network defines Storytelling as an ancient art form and
a valuable form of human expression. Because story is essential to so many art forms, however,
the word “storytelling” is often used in many ways.
As a result, the National Storytelling Network would like to explain the term as it is used by the
growing and vibrant community of storytelling practitioners in the United States and Canada.
Our hope is to call attention to storytelling as an art worth promoting, and to help those outside
the storytelling community to distinguish storytelling from other, related forms of human
Here is what most of us mean by “storytelling”:
Storytelling is the interactive art of using words and actions to reveal the elements and images of
a story while encouraging the listener’s imagination.
1. Storytelling is interactive.
Storytelling involves a two-way interaction between a storyteller and one or more listeners. The
responses of the listeners influence the telling of the story. In fact, storytelling emerges from the
interaction and cooperative, coordinated efforts of teller and audience.
In particular, storytelling does not create an imaginary barrier between the speaker and the
listeners. This is part of what distinguishes storytelling from the forms of theatre that use an
imaginary “fourth wall.”
Different cultures and situations create different expectations for the exact roles of storyteller and
listener—who speaks how often and when, for example—and therefore create different forms of
The interactive nature of storytelling partially accounts for its immediacy and impact. At its best,
storytelling can directly and tightly connect the teller and audience.
2. Storytelling uses words.
Storytelling uses language, whether it be a spoken language or a manual language such as
American Sign Language. The use of language distinguishes storytelling from most forms of
dance and mime.
3. Storytelling uses actions such as vocalization, physical movement and/or gesture. These
actions are the parts of spoken or manual language other than words. Their use distinguishes
storytelling from writing and text-based computer interactions. Not all nonverbal language
behaviors need to be present in storytelling. Some storytellers use body movement extensively,
for example, whereas others use little or none.
4. Storytelling presents a story.
Storytelling always involves the presentation of a story—a narrative. Many other art forms also
present story, but storytelling presents it with the other four components. Every culture has its
own definition of story. What is recognized as a story in one situation may not be accepted as
one in another. Some situations call for spontaneity and playful digression, for example; others
call for near-exact repetition of a revered text. Art forms such as poetry recitation and stand-up
comedy sometimes present stories and sometimes don’t. Since they generally involve the other
four components, they can be regarded as forms of storytelling whenever they also present
5. Storytelling encourages the active imagination of the listeners.
In storytelling, the listener imagines the story. In most traditional theatre or in a typical dramatic
film, on the other hand, the listener enjoys the illusion that the listener is actually witnessing the
character or events described in the story.
The storytelling listener’s role is to actively create the vivid, multi-sensory images, actions,
characters, and events—the reality—of the story in his or her mind, based on the performance by
the teller and on the listener’s own past experiences, beliefs, and understandings. The completed
story happens in the mind of the listener, a unique and personalized individual. The listener
becomes, therefore, a co-creator of the story as experienced.
Storytelling can be combined with other art forms. The fruit born by the vital, contemporary
storytelling movement includes the development of ways to combine storytelling with drama,
music, dance, comedy, puppetry, and numerous other forms of expression. Yet, even as it blends
imperceptibly into other arts, the essence of storytelling remains recognizable as the intersection
of the five components included in the above definition.
Storytelling happens in many situations, from kitchen-table conversation to religious ritual, from
telling in the course of other work to performances for thousands of paying listeners. Some
storytelling situations demand informality; others are highly formal. Some demand certain
themes, attitudes, and artistic approaches. As noted above, the expectations about listener
interaction and the nature of the story itself vary widely.
There are many cultures on earth, each with rich traditions, customs and opportunities for
storytelling. All these forms of storytelling are valuable. All are equal citizens in the diverse
world of storytelling.
History Of Storytelling
Today, stories are an intrinsic part of our societies and culture. Movies, books, music, news
media, religions, architecture and painting, you name it, and the influence of storytelling is to be
seen in all aspects of our life. Defining our values, desires, dreams and, as well as our prejudices
and hatreds, don’t you want to know how it all began? Well, the history of Storytelling is the
prime focus of this article. Traditionally, the oral stories have been handed over from generation
to generation. Read on to know everything about the origins of storytelling.
The storytelling history is quite ancient, lost in the mist of time. Nobody knows when the first
story was actually told. Did it happen in the gloomy recess of a cave around a flickering fire told
by a primitive hunter? Well, we may never know. But it is believed that origin of storytelling
may have come across as an excuse for failure. Perhaps stories were used long time ago to calm
the fears or doubts of a family. As families grouped with other families and formed clans, the
storyteller, who was good at telling heroic events or other important events of the tribe began to
reach position of respect and power. People found them interesting and began to listen to them.
The priest, the judge and the ruler were perhaps the earliest to use this art effectively in the
history of storytelling. Storytelling days were considered important.
Before man learned to write, he had to rely on his memory to learn anything. For this he had to b
a good listener. A good story teller was always respected. He could easily find an audience,
eager to devour every exciting bit of information in their stories. These stories were also shared
with others in far away lands, when people traveled. The stories traveled with them. And when
they returned home, they brought with them exciting new tales of exotic places and people.
The oldest surviving tale in the storytelling history is the epic, Gilgamesh, relating to the deeds
of a famous Sumerian king. The earliest known record in the origin of storytelling can be found
in the Egypt, when the sons of Cheops entertained their father with stories.
The history of storytelling reveals that the stories came in all variety. Myths, legends of all kinds,
fairy tales, trickster stories, fables, ghost tales, hero stories, and epic adventures, these stories
were told, retold. Passing down from generations, these stories reflect the wisdom and
knowledge of early people. There are stories often used to explain important but often confusing
events and disasters in nature at those early times. For example - fire, storms, thunder, floods,
tidal waves, lightening etc; It was common for people to believe in the stories of gods, which
bound them to a common heritage and beliefs.
In fact, it is believed by most historians and psychologists that storytelling is one of the many
things that define and bind our humanity. Humans are perhaps the only animals that create and
Oral Traditions In Storytelling
In the 1930s, Lord Albert Bates studied oral storytelling from field transcripts of Yugoslav oral
bards and the texts of classics such as the Odyssey and Beowulf. It was found by him that a big
part of the stories consisted of text which had been made up during the oral process of telling the
story. In this article, we will focus on the oral traditions in Storytelling.
Lord Bates recognized two types of vocabulary used in oral storytelling. The first was called
'formulas' by him , for example: "the wine-dark sea," or the "rosy-fingered dawn,". He found
that across many oral storytelling traditions, around 90% of an oral epic is gathered from lines
repeated word for word. The phrases accumulated from a lifetime of oral storytelling traditions
made the basis of these stories.
The other type of story vocabulary found by him was the theme, which is a series of story actions
that makeup a tale. The teller of oral stories proceeds from event-to-event using themes. One of
the universal themes is repetition, of which there is plenty of evidence in Western folklore -the
'rule of three'. Some common well known examples are three attempts are made or three brothers
set out etc;
As part of oral traditions in Storytelling, a theme can be big enough to be a plot element.
Although the theme may not belong to a particular story, but it may be present with slight
deviations in many different stories. Themes may represent universal truths or they may be
ritual-based on religious truths.
Experts sometimes separate oral stories into two main groups: Märchen and Sagen, which are
German terms. There are no exact English equivalents. Märchen, consisted of loosely translated
“fairy tales" taking place in a kind of different "once-upon-a-time" world, pointing to nowhere-
in-particular. They clearly indicate that they are not to be understood as true. People with rather
flat characters, clearly defined incidents are the hallmarks of traditions in oral storytelling.
Sagen, on the other hand, are supposed to have actually happened. These "legends", occurring at
a particular time and place very often, draw much of their influence from this fact. Even with the
intrusion of supernatural, it does so in an emotionally loaded manner. Ghost and lovers' leap
stories, UFO-stories and stories of supernatural beings fall under these oral storytelling
A good and well-presented story is successful in reaching its objective and remembered long
after over others. Reaching its listeners, holding the interest and crossing all age barriers is the
impact of an effective storytelling. Knowing and applying the art of storytelling will not only
strengthen your stories, but also develop the desired interest in the audience.
In this article, you will get tips on improving your storytelling skills. Read on.
The first step to develop the art of Storytelling is to find good stories. You will come across
many kinds of stories, but it is suggested to start with simple tales with simple elements. The best
source to find stories could be the libraries, where you can browse for all kind of stories whether
fairy tales, trickster stories, folk tales, myths, legends, scary stories and hero tales etc from many
countries and cultures. One should always start with simple stories, and later progress to the
complex ones as your experience grows. Do not forget to give credit to sources.
But how to know if the story you have chosen is a good one? Here area few pointers for the right
storytelling art. A good story has single theme which is well defined with a good plot. With a
dramatic appeal, it is faithful to source. It should bear good characterization and be appropriate
for the listeners.
Adapting to the audiences is very important for effective storytelling, for the audience has a very
important role to play. A good storytelling involves deep interaction between teller and hearer.
But with the attention spans getting shorter and more demanding, Storytelling has become more
difficult. People are not good at visualizing things and imagine independently. So your
storytelling skills should be strong and immaculate to lock the attention of the audience
The true Storytelling art aims at keeping the storyline brief and simple and taking the story as
close as you can to your audience. Stimulate their senses so that they are able to use their
imagination to feel, smell, touch and listen, visualizing vivid pictures. When telling story to an
audience of mixed ages, you should aim the story at the younger ones.
It is the contact between the storyteller and story listeners that make a story come to life.
To improve on your storytelling skills, one should prepare beforehand. After settling down on a
story, spend a considerable period of time on it. Read the story several times, with concentration.
Pay attention on its background and cultural meanings. Explore its appeal, the mood you want to
create and the word pictures you would want your listeners to see, and the mood you wish to
create. The characters and setting should become as real to you as people and places you know.
Visualize it completely with sounds, tastes, scents, and colors.
The art of Storytelling reflects the use of the story to paint word pictures, using the sound,
rhythm and repetition of words. One should learn the story as a whole, always knowing the first
and last lines by heart!. The beginning of the story should set the stage, introducing the
characters and. It should be kept in mind to not to alter the essential story line while simplifying
or adapting a story. One should not lose the original flavor and essence of the story. Even when
narrating an old and well known story, one can use their imagination to make the story come
across as fresh and alive, using your imagination.
Some Famous Storytellers
Every country and culture across the world has had their favorite, famous storytellers. By telling
their stories, they have only enhanced the richness in our lives, thus building compassion and
understanding amongst people. Here are some of the well-known storytellers of the times gone
Scheherazade was one of the many slaves of the Sultan Schahriah who they say that if he was
displeased with anybody, he had his head removed. Scheherazade, in order to please the king and
keep him interested, told him a story a night for 1001 nights to save her life. She entertained the
Sultan with Persian, Arabian and Indian folk tales, handed down through generations. She was
clever enough to stop at the most exciting part of the story and thus keep the Sultan interested
and waiting until the next day to hear the rest of the story. The Sultan, was impressed with her
abilities and granted Scheherazade her life. Her stories were passed down through centuries,
were written down and are still read and told today. Remember Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,
Sinbad and Aladdin and his magic lamp?
Grimm's Fairy Tales are full of wicked stepmothers, witches, demons, goblins and assorted
monsters. Reflecting the hard and cruel life the people in Central Europe in 18th century, some
of these stories collected mainly from Germany were so horrifying that religious leaders and
educators forced the Grimm Brothers to modify the tales, removing the forbidden topics. Today
most of the Grimm Brothers tales have been further altered to remove any violence and gore.
Some all time favorites are "Cinderella," "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Snow White".
Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen of Denmark was said to have been an ugly child. As he had no friends,
he was forced to play alone. His fantasy world and imagination was fueled by books, which
revolved about famous men who had risen out of poverty to fortune and fame. After his father’s
death, Hans moved to Copenhagen at the age of 14. While he traveled around the country, he
acted in plays, and told stories to children. He still had not made it big even after turning 30.
When he penned down the tales that he had told the children, this ugly ducking became a swan
of the literary world at that time. Some of his famous stories are "The Emperor's New Clothes,"
"The Ugly Duckling," and "The Princess and the Pea", which still delight children of all ages
Charles Perrault's lived in France in the 17th century. He wrote children's fairy tales based on
well-liked folk tales and was one of the first French authors who wrote mainly for children.
Stories such as "Sleeping Beauty," "Tom Thumb," and "Puss in Boots" are world famous.
Joel Chandler Harris
Joel Chandler Harris' Uncle Remus Tales from southern United States is still told today for their
pure entertainment value. Though the tales have created substantial controversy about racism,
they will always remain popular with masses.
The above is only a small example of famous storytellers in history
About World Storytelling Day
The purpose behind World Storytelling Day is to celebrate of the art of storytelling globally. The
prime focus of this page is to offer information on World Storytelling Day. Read on.
Every year, World Storytelling Day is observed on the spring equinox in the northern
hemisphere and on the first day of autumn equinox in the southern. On this day, people from all
over the world, come together to tell and listen to stories in many different languages, covering
as many places as possible, during the same day and night. Members
not only learn from each other, but also create international contacts.
What is significant about World Storytelling Day is that it is the first global festival of
storytelling of its kind. It helps to build links between storytellers working far away from each
other. It has also been successful in attracting public and media attention to storytelling as an art
Getting on with details on World Storytelling Day, its roots originate from Sweden, in 1991-2.
During that time, an event was arranged in Sweden called "Alla berättares dag" on March 20.
Although the Swedish national storytelling network didn’t remain active some time after, but the
day remained alive. In 1997, storytellers in Perth, Western Australia organized a five-week long
Celebration of Story. During the same time, in South American countries and Mexico and other,
the National Day of Storytellers was already celebrated on March 20.
Around 2001, the Scandinavian storytelling web-network, Ratatosk got started. The event
eventually spread from Sweden to Norway, Denmark, Finland and Estonia in 2003.
The idea soon caught on and spread to Canada and other countries. Today, the event has become
known as World Storytelling Day internationally.
In 2005, the World Storytelling Day had an impressive finale on Sunday March the 20th. With
25 countries on 5 continents participating, the program grew further. In 2007, a storytelling
concert was held for the first time in Newfoundland, Canada. In 2008, the Netherlands
participated in World Storytelling Day with a huge event called 'Vertellers in de Aanval' . Three
thousand kids were happily surprised by the unexpected appearance of storytellers in their
The brief information on World Storytelling Day in this article would have surely shed light on
the rising global popularity of the event.
Popular Themes In World Storytelling Day
Storytelling has been around for as long as since very ancient times. People have always shown
interest in listening to stories told by others. There is proof of these early stories in the form of
cave paintings throughout the world. With the development of oral language, the stories as well
as the art of storytelling too developed. Today, every year, the World Storytelling Day is
observed to celebrate the spirit and joy of storytelling handed down the generations. On this page
we will briefly look at the different themes in World Storytelling Day.
Recent years have seen a number of useful projects using storytelling. Each year, many of the
individual storytelling events that occur around the globe are linked and associated by common
World Storytelling Day themes. Each year, the theme is acknowledged and agreed upon by
storytellers from all across the world.
Some of the popular themes in World Storytelling Day in the recent years are as follows:
2004 - Birds
2005 - Bridges
2006 - The Moon
2007 - The Wanderer
2008 - Dreams
2009 - Neighbours
2010 - Light and Shadow
2011 – Water
World Storytelling day, 2010 celebrates the fascinating and ancient art of oral storytelling. This
year's theme is "Light and shadow". The expression itself invokes images of listeners gathered
round a campfire, listening to tales first told many centuries spell-bounded. They will watch their
shadows dancing with the flames.
People all over the world will gather and are encouraged to tell and listen to stories in different
languages and at as many places as possible.
First organized in Sweden in the early nineties, World Storytelling Day has since grown to be
celebrated internationally. Today many events of storytelling take place in different countries.
The World Storytelling Day theme for the next year -2011 is “Water”. It remains to be seen how
the enthusiasts and participants of the World Storytelling Day 2011 will take full advantage of
the theme as well as the event.
Introduction To Storytelling
Storytelling is the art of conveying a series of events in words, images and sounds, which are
often supported by creative thinking or an exaggeration. Stories have always been an integral
pert of every culture as a means for entertaining, educating, besides preserving the culture. The
main aim of this page is to offer you an introduction to storytelling day.
The key elements of stories and storytelling include mainly the plot, characters and narrative
point of view. The original forms of storytelling are believed to be primarily oral, while
combining gestures and expressions. The ancient cultures reveal the story telling art in their
times as elementary drawings scratched onto the walls of caves. Read on to know more about
Getting on with info on storytelling, the story, in the very early times was told using a mixture of
oral narrative, music, rock art and dance. Sand, leaves and the carved trunks of living trees have
also been used to document the stories in pictures or with writing. These were useful for the
storyteller to remember the story.
Storytelling conserves the oral language from previous cultures, while introducing it to the
language of the present generation. The benefits of storytelling are many and varied. Presenting
ideas and thoughts in a pleasurable way, it helps in bringing people together, making them part
of a warm and personal shared experience. It also institutes a positive attitude towards stories and
books. Children and students get motivated to read on their own after having a good session of
storytelling. The rich and varied language patterns presented to the listener in a satisfying format,
gives the opportunity for people of all ages to interact on a personal level.
Storytelling encourages children to read. Opening the doors to the world of literature, it helps
them to develop sequencing skills, oral language development and expanding language skills too.
It also helps to increase attention spans and stimulates creativity and imagination among the
Traditionally, oral stories, persistent in memory, have been passed from generation to generation.
However, recent times, with the advent of new technology, written and televised media has
largely exceeded this method of communicating. After this brief Storytelling intro, browse the
place for other details on the subject of storytelling day..