Storytelling

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Definition

Storytelling is the conveying of events in words, images and sounds, often by improvisation or embellishment. Stories or narratives have been shared in every culture as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and in order to instill moral values. Crucial elements of stories and storytelling include plot, characters and narrative point of view.

Historical perspective

The earliest forms of storytelling were thought to have been primarily oral combined with gestures and expressions. In addition to being part of religious ritual, rock art may have been a form of storytelling for many of the ancient cultures. The Australian Aboriginal people painted symbols from stories on cave walls as a means of helping the storyteller remember the story. The story was then told using a combination of oral narrative, music, rock art and dance. Ephemeral media such as sand, leaves and the carved trunks of living trees have also been used to record stories in pictures or with writing. Complex forms of tattooing may also represent stories, with information about genealogy, affiliation and social status. With the advent of writing and the use of stable, portable media, stories were recorded, transcribed and shared over wide regions of the world. Stories have been carved, scratched, painted, printed or inked onto wood or bamboo, ivory and other bones, pottery, clay tablets, stone, palm-leaf books, skins (parchment), bark cloth, paper, silk, canvas and other textiles, recorded on film, and stored electronically in digital form. Oral stories continue to be committed to memory and passed from generation to generation, despite the increasing popularity of written and televised media in much of the world.

Contemporary storytelling

Modern storytelling has a broad purview. In addition to its traditional forms (fairytales, folktales, mythology, legends, fables etc.), it has extended itself to representing history, personal narrative, political commentary, and evolving cultural norms. Contemporary storytelling is also widely used to address educational objectives.

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