Today I feature as a Guest Blog, a great up and coming children’s author Z. R. Southcombe. Zee has a great imagination and her books will take your mind everywhere you least expect it.
The Ancient Art of Storytelling: Why do we love stories?
The ancient art of storytelling is ancient indeed. Every culture of the world – even those that no longer exist – have roots in storytelling. Beginning with oral traditions, stories were also passed on through art (like cave drawings), gestures, music and dance.
But why is storytelling a core art across the cultural spectrum? Stories were (and still are) more than just entertainment. Stories teach us lessons in an accessible form, preserve historical events, explain the mysterious, and celebrate the lives of key members in our communities.
I have a hardcover edition of Aesop’s Fables that was gifted to me by my parents. It is now well-worn from being well-read and emphasises one of the prominent reasons that I read: to learn.
Because Aesop’s Fables usually feature animals, it is an ideal way to confront negative traits in a way that isn’t too confrontational. One story I took to heart was that of The Fox and the Grapes. It tells the story of a fox who tries to reach some grapes growing from a vine, and after several attempts, he fails. Instead of admitting defeat, he mutters, “They were probably sour anyway.”
The moral? It is easy to despise what you cannot get. I realized (even at the young age at which I read these stories) that there were things in my life I disliked just because I knew I couldn’t get them. Aesop’s other stories, or at least those attributed to him, had a similar effect on me. They served their purpose to teach, as they had done for centuries before me.
Other than teaching, it is clear from ancient mythology and religious texts that one key reason for telling stories is to explain life, the universe and everything. Equally clear is the desire to preserve and celebrate key people and events in a community or culture.
But above and beyond all of those reasons for storytelling is the opportunity to empower.
There is a reason the narrative structure is built – always – upon the skeleton of orientation, problem, solution. What more do we want than to hear about the trials and tribulations of people like us, and to learn that they overcame their troubles?
Reading is often labeled as an escapist activity, but I see stories as so much more than that. As both a reader and a writer, stories tell me time and time again that whatever it is I feel helpless about, I do have the power to change it.
Because if they could slay the dragon – then maybe we can, too.
About the Author
Z.R. Southcombe is a writer and artist.
Her latest book, Lucy’s Story: The End of the World is about 12-and-a-half year old Lucy, who accidentally destroys the Earth. She is then on a mission to find a way to bring the world – and everyone on it – back to life again.
Zee’s books are written for children, but with their wild sense of imagination, rich vocabulary and emotional resonance, they are loved by readers of all ages. Her paintings are surrealist and focus on the emotive self.
A true creative, Zee usually has a few creative projects on the go, but no matter what project she is currently working on, Zee is usually accompanied by a cup of tea.