I love the inherent flexibility of an oral story – it means it can be improvised, allowing for each telling to be shaped to its audience and the environment where it is being told. With oral delivery, tellers can bring their own personalities to the story, and listeners get to experience what it means to be part of the creative process. There are many different kinds of oral story; I thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at some of them. (These are in no particular order).
anecdote – this is usually a short account of a real incident or event, often interesting or amusing though sometimes biographical. Example: You’re in a cooking class and are about to learn how to make a souffle and the chef prefaces the lesson by telling you about the first time he made a souffle and it was a disaster. Anecdotes are used to lighten the mood, to reminisce, to caution or to inspire. … Read More »
The fabliau is a short, usually anonymous and often funny tale made popular by traveling troubadours, or ‘jongleurs’ in medieval France (13th Century). Most fabliaux are up to 400 lines in length, and many were composed in octosyllabic rhymed couplets that were the standard narrative form of the period, but the form could vary – from simple linguistic playfulness and dirty jokes to complex comic developments and irreverent anecdotes. For the most part, a fabliau dealt with deception and revenge visited on the avaricious. They were enjoyed by peasants and nobles alike. Their reputation for being coarse and bawdy grew out of their excessive use of sexual and scatological obscenity and their anticlericalism. Anyone interested in social history will find fabliaux fascinating reflections of daily life in the middle ages. … Read More »
Threes figure prominently in storytelling. This may be because humans remember things most effectively through patterns and three is the smallest number of elements required to create a pattern. A series of three often creates a progression in which the tension is created, built up, and finally released.
Back in the days when stories were chiefly passed along in an oral tradition, saying a thing three times or using a structure three times might have been the easiest way to recall the story and to teach it to the next generation. … Read More »
There’s a fair bit of crossover between folk and fairy tales; the latter don’t always have fairies in them, nor do they all end happily ever after. Loosely speaking, fairy tales are a sub-genre of folk tales and differ mostly in that they often include magical elements and/or fantastic creatures. They are commonly set in the real world, but unlike legends for instance, they are neither time nor site specific. Everything happens long ago and far away and is designed to drive the plot forward by the swiftest of means, including the characters who possess little in the way of inner lives. In fairy tales, pretty much anything is possible – the wind counsels, rivers sing, animals speak, and people and objects frequently undergo transformations.
Folktales are stories rooted in oral traditions among common people, most of whom were illiterate. They reflect universal experience, and similar tales are ubiquitous the world over. One imagines many stories circulating throughout history yet it is only a select few, those that contained polished nuggets of wisdom, that managed to be passed down through generations until they were eventually collected and published by individuals like Charles Perrault and the brothers Grimm.
Who Were the Brothers Grimm?
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, who died in 1863 and 1859 respectively, were German scholars with an interest in culture who studied linguistics and collected folklore. Their first volume of tales published in 1812 was widely translated and had a profound
influence on other European scholars who set out to do similar work collecting folktales from their home countries. This soon gave rise to folklore societies whose interests expanded into collecting songs, poems, proverbs, games, traditional lore and folk medicine.
I recently heard an interview with writer Colum McCann (clip below). He wrote a book called Let the Great World Spin. In the interview he said “one of the great privileges about being a writer is that you become alive in a body that is not your own.” … Read More »
How We Build Stories at Moving Tales
Conventional spoken storytelling is collaborative in that the tales are handed along and developed over time. Every telling is unique and requires a listening audience to become meaningful. We believe that digital stories are no exception: they too develop over time, and are created through the collaborative efforts and disparate skills of many individuals, each of whom brings his or her own perspective and creative signature to the projects.
At Moving Tales, all aspects of production, from the written narrative, to the creation of images and ambient sound form part of a collaborative call and response process as the stories are developed. The written narrative is seldom fixed from the start, but rather expands and contracts in the call and response process as the images and sounds are developed around it and woven through it over time. This method is unique as opposed to writing in isolation. … Read More »
The Technology of Sticks and Pigment
You could say the relationship between storytelling and technology goes back a long time – that the first stories were told in caves and in the sand, and the first ‘technologies’ were the sticks and the pigments used to draw them.
There is clearly a shift taking place towards a multi media approach to exploring, developing, sharing and preserving stories, both age old and modern tales. These intersections present all sorts of possibilities which challenge us to question the nature of what constitutes narrative storytelling in its many manifestations as it evolves in the digital age. … Read More »
Exploring Narrative Through Technology
At Moving Tales we are continually exploring innovative ways to create dynamic content for our interactive digital publications. Part of this endeavour is to keep pace with evolving technologies. It is no coincidence that most of what we do and dream of doing seems to circle around our deep rooted love of stories. After all, we find it impossible to imagine a world without them. … Read More »
This much I know is true:
What a blog is NOT
waves, at South Beach Co. Wicklow
a stiff creak in the hip
a velvet curtained stage
a dog chasing a passing cyclist
dirt under my finger nails after transplanting raspberry canes
salty sea wind on my face
the half hour ahead of us
What a blog IS
the world as it looks through a series of broken mirrors
a dark undulating plain, in which certain moments are spotlit
part of the story I put down, that cannot fade
a digital loom, for words and images
a way to describe loose ends of thought
like a sound, just for the sake of it, in a public stairwell
a white sky full of zeros and ones
holding a pose, in text
‘ memory’s furious land ‘
What a blog COULD be
up for consideration
a new way to think about your dog
bewildering cubist constructions and biomorphic shapes
a way to shake up internal composure
something to read at an airport
We often lose the power of the moment, because we are so rarely in it. Yet the most meaningful and rewarding aspects of living require time, and presence.
The invention of the printing press in the middle of the 15th century gave rise to a period of
information proliferation which scholars of the time bemoaned for a variety of reasons.
They lamented that, as mass production increased, the quality of printed texts diminished, but they also expressed concern that the supply of new information was ‘distracting and difficult to manage’.
Does this sound a little like 15th century information overload?
Fast forward to the age of the internet, to a world where, thanks to rapid advances in computer technology, distracting and unmanageable information overload has become a blessed curse, and is now a way of life for most of us.
I feel a keen sense of metaphysical vertigo when I try to imagine the world in another fifty or even twenty five years as information and access to information continues to grow exponentially. This is not unlike the feeling I get when I gaze up at the sky on a cloudless night – a visceral sense of seductive and paralyzing wonder as I feebly attempt to measure the significance of my life against the profusion of possibilities inherent in an ever expanding universe. Looking out from my half lit 21st century cave, the milky way of information and social networking looks and feels similarly overwhelming.
The challenge for me, fortunate enough to have been born into this fascinating and frustrating time, is to learn to live in ways that are outwardly simple, but inwardly rich.
As I aspire to live more mindfully in a complex world driven increasingly by technology,
what I am learning from the age of information overload is that breadth of knowledge is not the same as depth of knowledge, and that being good at multitasking is not the same as being able to engage meaningfully with complexity.
Although I can be as inclined as the next curious person to enjoy falling down the virtual rabbit hole of the internet, I am also learning that setting priorities and simplifying my life helps a great deal when it comes to determining what constitutes personal, meaningful engagement.