- 1: a teller of stories: as
- a : a relater of anecdotes
- b : a reciter of tales (as in a children's library)
- c : liar, fibber
- d : a writer of stories
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.
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, rudimentary drawings scratched onto the walls of caves may have been forms of early 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.
With the advent of writing, the use of actual digit symbols to represent language, 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. Complex forms of tattooing may also represent stories, with information about genealogy, affiliation and social status.
Traditionally, oral stories were committed to memory and then passed from generation to generation. However, in Western, literate societies, written and televised media has largely surpassed this method of communicating local, family and cultural histories. Oral storytelling remains the dominant medium of learning in many countries with low literacy rates.
Emancipation of the story
In oral traditions, stories are kept alive by being re-told again and again. The material of any given story naturally undergoes several changes and adaptations during this process. When and where oral tradition was pushed back in favor of print media, the literary idea of the author as originator of a story's authoritative version changed people's perception of stories themselves. In the following centuries, stories tended to be seen as the work of individuals, rather than a collective effort. Only recently, when a significant number of influential authors began questioning their own roles, the value of stories as such - independent of authorship - was again recognized. Literary critics such as Roland Barthes even proclaimed the Death of the Author.