Thursday, June 9, 2011


How Storytelling Came to Be

By Mike Moldeven and Will Bailey

Introduction: My friend Mike published a collection of stories called *Write Stories To Me, Grandpa!* For many years he volunteered time at elementary schools reading and just telling stories to kids. He believes that not only is it a bonding experience but it's a good way to pass down culture, heritage and lessons for life. I quite agree with him. Here is our blog on the art of retelling myths of long ago and why it's good for the storyteller too.



One way to get into storytelling is by giving your own version of a
well-known folk tale, a popular myth, or one of 'Aesop’s Fables' classics.


The plots, characters, and structures from any of the above sources have often been handed down from one generation to the next for centuries, and have passed the test of time. The moment you start your own version you become part of an everlasting procession of storytellers along with their audiences from the past and you join the wondrous world of the imagination.

Storytellers are occasionally asked how a story came to be.

Here is my version of an old West African folk tale about where all the world's stories came from and how they spread all over the world from one continent and village to another and deep into the hearts and memories of humankind:

In the famous *Anansi* myth Spider and the Box of Stories, Nyame, the Lord of the Sky, kept a strong-box close to himself in which he guarded all the world’s stories. *Anansi Spider-man* pleaded with Nyame for the box so that he could free the world's stories.

Nyame agreed to give Anansi the strongbox if he (Spider-man) would first bring to him a python, a leopard, a hornet, and a creature that no one could see. Spider-man met Nyame's demands by first misleading his victims and then with lies to each one of them in turn and using falsehoods, pretense and a malicious deception that stories freed and used as Anansi promised would make the world a better place for all living creatures. Through such evil conniving Spiderman captures and binds his victims and delivers each one to Nyame's grotto.

Although all-seeing all-knowing Nyame had watched Anansi abuse his innocent victims he decided to keep his own promise. Sadly, he gave Anansi Spider-man the box of stories and Spider-man freed them all. Soon the stories were all gone from the strong-box and they dispersed to wherever they wished to be among all the peoples of the world, forever.

When peoples of the world saw and heard the stories but not knowing that they themselves had been misled they were sorry. They welcomed, nourished and sheltered the stories to re-build the stories' strength and enjoy peace and comfort. In return the stories gave pleasure and constructive knowledge to people; unfortunately, with regrets, at times sadness and even fear.

What did the stories look like? They looked like everything and anything: trolls and elves, trees and clouds, birds and people, horses and barns, airplanes and boats and spaceships and stars in the sky, and all the things that are or ever were, and also things that are not and never could be. Stories look like anything that has ever happened and which might yet happen in years and centuries to come. And stories are whatever people might wish them to be, and maybe things of which they are afraid.

Sometimes, the stories from Nyame’s box did not change, and at other times, they were changed by new storytellers who gave them other meanings; however stories are changed they were accepted as gifts.

”The peoples of Planet Earth," Nyame warned at the end of each and every story, "must deserve and try to understand how to use gifts from the Lord of the Sky.”


This version of the Anansi myth, told in this manner, shows how, with deep sorrow, a noble gift from the Lord of the Sky came to the people of the world burdened with dishonesty, falsehoods, conniving and trickery. In our storytelling, we reject such words and concepts as 'deception', 'falsehood', 'connive' and 'hurtful' and replace them with words and ideas that encourage respect for '. . . life in all its forms', everywhere.


To the Reader: Choose a myth or a story that has been handed down for generations or centuries and experience telling or writing it in your own words. Children can learn from new versions of old stories and you learn to be a myth maker.