Quotes

storytelling Storytelling fairytales Fairy Tales endings Endings technique Technique beauty Beauty truth Truth meaning Meaning

 

Storytelling

And the princess, telling the story, felt pure pleasure in getting it right, making it just so, finding the right word, and even – she went so far – the right gesture to throw shadow branches and shadow-figures across the flickering firelight and the yellow pool of candlelight on the wall. And when she had finished, there was all kinds of applause, harmonious wing-scraping, and claw-tapping, and rustling and chirruping.
--A. S. Byatt in "The Eldest Princess" from The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye

To be Human is to be a storyteller. A computer can tell us how many words are in a story, correct some spelling errors, and execute other mechanical tasks--but it doesn't have a clue to what the story is about. Conversely, although children will miscount the words and miss many spelling errors,they can easily tell us the gist of the story--and even imaginatively recount the story in their own words. Perhaps our brain's affinity for storytelling explains why the humanities are so basic to education. There are three distinctive yet interlocking elements in the art of a living tale: the functional element, the narrative element, and the performance element. Of these three, the functional element is primary. In fact, it underlies the whole development of storytelling, a uniquely human achievement almost as old a language.
--Barbara K. Walker, The Art of the Turkish Tale

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Fairy Tales

This is not simply a story about a frog and a prince. A story about a frog would be biological. A story about a prince would be historical. But a story about a frog-prince is magical, and therein lies all the difference.
--Jane Yolen, Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie, and Folklore in the Literature of Childhood

The fairytale hero...has no specific abilities; unlike the animals, which have inborn instincts, he is not equipped by nature for special tasks. (He) is in this way, just as in so many others, a general reflection of man, a being that has in fact been described by contemporary biologists and anthropologists as a deficient creature without specific abilities...There are animals that can swim faster and run better than man, and still others that can fly...but in a roundabout way, he achieves more than all the animals....Prince, princess, and king are especially good representatives of man. They have no special trade; they have no special training, and yet they can do everything.
--Max Luthi, The Fairytale as Art Form and Portrait of Man

(Angela Carter) once remarked, "A fairy tale is a story where one king goes to another king to borrow a cup of sugar."
--Marina Warner, introduction to Angela Carter's The Second Virago Book of Fairy-Tales, published posthumously.

In story, both listener and teller imaginatively "leave" the constituted self to enter an alternative storyworld constructed from different hypotheses, assumptions, presuppositions, and possibilities. This imaginative journey concludes with the return to the self, but now a changed self, a self changed in and through the cocreative interaction storying with one another. This storying and restorying is what ultimately makes healing and hope possible.
--Kevin M. Bradt, S. J., Story as a Way of Knowing

The magical story is not a microscope but a mirror, not a drop of water but a well. It is at once lucid and opaque, it accepts both dark and light, speaks to youth and old age... Look back into folklore and legend, myth and religion, and you will find much of the emphasis is on the shadow. A shadowless man is a monster, a devil, a thing of evil. A man without a shadow is soulless. A shadow without a man is a pitiable shred. Yet together, light and dark, they make a whole. And these light/dark chiariscuro figures walking about a magical landscape illuminate our lives.
--Jane Yolen, Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie and Folklore in the Literature of Childhood

In reality, the plot of the fairytale is both...something in its own right and at the same time the translation of the values represented by the figures into observable action. And the figures are also both--representatives of values and contrastive or antivalues, of attitudes, and of modes of existence, and carriers of the action.
--Max Luthi, The Fairytale as Art Form and Portrait of Man

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Endings

There is one modern method which has always seemed to me to be condemned, and that is the changing of the end of a story, for fear of alarming the child. This is quite indefensible. In doing so we are tampering with folklore and confusing stages of development...I live in dread of finding one day a bowdlerized form of "Bluebeard," prepared for a junior standard, in which, to produce a satisfactory finale, all the wives come to life again, and "live happily forever after" with Bluebeard and each other.
--Marie Shedlock, The Art of the Storyteller

The happy ending in fairy tales is an affirmation of what we can know and can accomplish. It is a celebration of what we can become if we listen to the magical voices inside our heads.
--Stephen Swann Jones, The Fairy Tale: The Magic Mirror of Imagination

Feminist critics of the genre--especially in the 1970s--jibbed at the socially conventional "happy endings" of so many stories....But Angela knew about satisfaction and pleasure; and at the same time she believed that the goal of fairy tales wasn't "a conservative one, but a utopian one, indeed a form of heroic optimism --as if to say: One day, we might be happy, even if it won't last."
--Marina Warner, introduction to Angela Carter's The Second Virago Book of Fairy-Tales, published posthumously.

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Technique

In essence, a tale is a folktale only if it has a teller and at least one listener. It serves as an intimate act of communication in which the teller shares one of his treasured narratives with a listener eager to receive that treasure. The eagerness prompts the teller to stretch tradition and talents to their outermost limits. The tale depends for its effectiveness on committed oral-aural interaction.
--Barbara K. Walker, The Art of the Turkish Tale

[In answer to a question about the wisdom of discussing a just-told story.] The medium that has been used in the telling of the story is (or ought to be) a purely artistic one which will reach the child through the medium of the emotions; the appeal to the intellect or the reason is a different method, which must be used at a different time. When you are enjoying the fragrance of a flower or the beauty of its color, it is not the moment to be reminded of its botanical classification, just as, in the botany lesson, it would be somewhat irrelevant to talk of the part that flowers play in the happiness of life.
--Marie Shedlock, The Art of the Storyteller

The special training for the story-teller should consist not only in the training of the voice and in choice of language, but above all in power of delicate suggestion, which cannot always be used on the stage because this is hampered by the presence of actual things. The storyteller has to present these things to the more delicate organism of the "inward eye." So deeply convinced am I of the miniature character of the story-telling art that I believe one never gets a perfectly artistic presentation of this kind in a very large hall or before a very large audience.
--Marie Shedlock, The Art of the Storyteller

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Beauty

That the fairy tale does not go into the special nature of the beauty intended in each case is, of course, not just because the epic, for various reasons, tends to be sparing with descriptions. An individualization of the beauty observed would not be suitable for the fairy tale, which aims for universal validity, and the essence, not the particulars, of phenomena. The word beautiful is enough. When it wants to go further, it reaches for timeless values that are rrecognized worldwide: the princess is as beautiful as the day, the shoes are golden.
--Max Luthi, The Fairytale as Art Form and Portrait of Man

The fairytale is committed to clarity, tangibility--and beauty.
--Max Luthi, The Fairytale as Art Form and Portrait of Man

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Truth

She had sat in Sunday School, hearing a fly buzzing against a smeared high window in a vestry, and hated the stories of St. Paul and the other apostles because they were true, they were told to her as true stories, and this somehow stopped off some essential imaginative involvement with them, probably because she didn't believe them, if required to believe they were true.
--A.S. Byatt, The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye

She kept asking me if the stories were true. I kept asking her if it mattered. We finally gave up. She was looking for a place to stand and I wanted a place to fly.
--Brian Andreas, Mostly True: The Collected Writing and Drawings of Brian Andreas

Yet even if it did happen--and maybe it did, anything's possible--even then you know it can't be true, because a true war story does not depend upon that kind of truth. Absolute occurrence is irrelevant. A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.
--Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried.

The Dreamer awakes
The shadow goes by
The tale I have told you,
That tale is a lie.
But listen to me,
Bright maiden, proud youth
The tale is a lie;
What it tells is the truth.
--Traditional folktale ending

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Meaning

The objective of the mythic quest is oneness with the divine, and accordingly, the initiation is a spiritual one in myths, an apotheosis or spiritual awakening. The objective of the legendary quest is social harmony, the overcoming of social problems and the defeat of cultural adversaries, and accordingly the initiation is into the cultural ideals of behavior. The objective of the fairy tale quest is personal happiness, measured as a rule by domestic satisfaction and tranquility. The emphasis is on personal relationships to family members and mates, and the initiation is into a greater awareness of one's own desires and fears.
--Stephen Swann Jones, The Fairy Tale: The Magic Mirror of Imagination

Stories differ from advice in that once you get them, they become a fabric of your whole soul. That is why they heal you.
--Alice Walker

Then again, why are we in such a hurry to find out what effects have been produced by our stories? Does it matter whether we know today or tomorrow how much a child has understood? For my part, so sure do I feel of the effect that I am willing to wait indefinitely.
--Marie Shedlock, The Art of the Storyteller

"If, as St John says, in the beginning was the Word, then the Story followed directly after, unfolding the universe from the imagination of God. In emulation of the divine, we have sought to duplicate that moment of creation by being storytellers, too."
--David Spangler

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