When I was a little girl, my grandfather lived with us, and he was a storyteller. He often spun tales about his past as a cowboy on a ranch in Texas, and, as children, my siblings and I loved hearing his stories. He had a way of telling the stories that made us listen closely and wonder at all of the things he experienced. Even though he had immigrated to the US from Germany as a small child and moved to California in his later years, he had a slight Texas accent from spending so much time there.
My brothers, sisters and I felt an almost hero worship for him and believed every word of the stories he told us, despite the rolling of eyes that some of the adults displayed when he started telling one of his stories. One thing I learned from these stories my grandfather told was that stories are a wonderful way to learn about people.
My grandmother was a storyteller too. Her stories were about the different plants she grew and the animals around her home. She told us stories about the squirrels in the garden who would come and eat nuts from her hand and the hummingbirds who would flit to and fro right in front of her face as they came to visit and feed from the hummingbird feeder she had out in her garden. As an animal lover, I loved hearing about the animals in her garden and their frequent visits. One thing I learned from the stories my grandmother told was that stories helped us to learn about our surroundings.
My other grandmother told me stories about my relatives and ancestors, and I had a great-uncle who once took me on a drive from San Jose, California to Bakersfield, California to visit my cousin, and he spent the whole trip telling me stories about the "old highway" trails (even pointing them out to me along the way). He pointed out things of historical significance and would explain how things had changed, both from progress and from earthquakes that had moved mountains and rockfaces. From both of their stories, I learned that stories can teach us about history.
I grew up to have children of my own, and one thing that my children loved was our bedtime routine, because they got to choose a story for me to read to them. Sometimes, they asked me to tell them a "made-up" story, which was a story I would think up on the spot and tell them, usually about children like them with their names and with different adventures they would get into. They loved these "made-up" stories more than the ones I read from books. I hope these stories helped to spark their own imaginations.
Storytelling is magical in that it can teach and inspire. It can create emotion in the listener. It brings our past and our present together and even opens windows into new realities. History is relived. Worlds are built and worlds fall. New creatures are created and extinct creatures are brought back to life. Anything can happen in a story. A storyteller weaves a magic unparallelled.
Do you have storytellers in your family?