If you want to listen to stories, you have to tell them too.
Recently, I had the pleasure of discussing the importance of fairy tales with critically acclaimed anthologist Kathleen Ragan - the mastermind behind Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales from Around the World and Outfoxing Fear: Folktales from Around the World. During our conversation, we began to talk about the importance of telling stories and she relayed the following tale:
“There was, there was, and yet there was not. There was a boy, who lived far away in time and place from where we are now, and this boy just loved - I mean LOVED - hearing stories from around the campfire. And night after night he’d go and sit and listen. And one night, the oldest man turned to him and said, ‘Now it’s your turn to tell a story.’
The boy of course was horrified, and said ‘I...I...can’t do that! I don’t know where to start!’ The old man smiled and said, ‘That’s not a problem, the stories all start the same way: ‘Once upon a time’ or in this case, ‘There was, there was, and yet there was not.’ The boy goes ‘...oh...oh...okay.’ And he starts off: ‘There was, there wa….wait I can’t do that! I can’t even read! How am I going to tell a story?!’
The old man says, ‘It’s different. Readers keep their stories locked up in books, but ours live in our hearts, day by day, in our hearts.’ And so the boy takes a deep breath and goes, ‘Okay, okay…..NO! What if I don’t remember the words right?!’ And the old man says, ‘Stop worrying! Don’t worry about it. It doesn’t matter. A story is like a letter that comes to us from yesterday: each person adds a word here or there and passes it on tomorrow.’
And so the little boy takes a deep breath and he goes, ‘There was, there was, and yet there was…..’ And he looks around at ALLLLLL the people sitting around and listening to him, and he just kind of froze. And the old man says, ‘Go on now! You tell a story, because if you don’t tell a story, you have no right to listen to them anymore. Listening without telling is like harvesting without planting the seeds. It’s like picking the fruit off the trees without planting the trees or helping to prune them. If you want to listen to stories, you have to tell stories.’
So when the boy heard that, he knew he could hesitate no longer. And so he began: ‘There was, there was, and yet there was not…’
Because if you wanna listen to the stories, you gotta tell ‘em.”
To learn more about the types of stories Kathleen Ragan tells through her fairy tale anthologies, visit Crixeo.com for our full interview.