"THE HISTORY OF STORYTELLING!"
Ever since mankind became imaginative, storytellers have been
explaining everything people encountered, whether or not it was true.
These storytellers are modern humans most influential people.
© 1999 - 2010 Donald L. Hamilton
Human Imagination has given mankind the unique ability to communicate abstract concepts and ideas among its people. It has given its storytellers the power to emotionally enter people's minds. These storyteller's have the ability to create happiness or hatred or any other emotion humans may possess. Their ability to persuade make them one of the most powerful groups among the "Homo Imaginative Sapiens" species.
Ever since mankind had evolved a brain capable comprehending abstract ideas, along with an extremely powerful creative imagination, people have from generation to generation gradually created more complex cultures as they progressed. Their highly sophisticated talking apparatus in their throats plus this powerful new imagination enabled them to create many complex vocal sounds that they could associate with everything they encountered in everyday life, even the mysterious things they encountered but did not understand.
They connected these vocal sounds into a series of sounds that became crude sentences. Languages were created. This allowed them to convey more complex and sophisticated ideas to one another. Eventually, the sentences became a language, the language of a particular family or tribe. There are thousands of different languages and dialects in the world today.
People used this crude language to convey everyday deeds and ideas to one another. Some imaginative people in the tribe began using the words to tell stories of events that happened to them, perhaps on a hunt or some other incident. They discovered that if they used their imagination they could embellish their stories with fanciful fabrications. This gave them a sense of power. By telling stories they soon realized that they could influence the other people to do their bidding, either good or bad. They could dominate other people just by their storytelling. They could frighten them with their stories. These people have evolved into our storytellers, mankind's most influential and powerful people.
As languages became more sophisticated and complex, people's imagination began to aggrandize. Its hard to imagine imagining without having a language to use. Our imagination works best when it is stimulated by challenges - adversity, exigencies, beauty, new ideas, etc. Its power multiplies when it interacts with other “imaginative minds”. The power of our imagination depends upon the sophistication of the society we live in. The more words we have at our disposal the better our imagination will work.
Words are mental pictures we have learned to associate in our imagination with specific things and ideas, either by vocal sounds, writing, or signs (hand). They are one of mankind’s most vital tools.
Early storytellers told of great encounters they had with animals and other tribes whether it was true or imaginary. The early artists tried to tell their stories by painting pictures on the cave walls or rocks. They told of encounters with their ancestors, of imaginary adventures. Anything they did not understand they rationalized with a fabricated story.
Eventually some imaginative storytellers invented Gods, a ‘supernatural beings’ that had special powers to control certain phenomena, to explain various things such as thunder and lightning, etc. that they did not understand or was difficult to explain. (Man always has that feeling of a mysterious unknown in the back of his mind.) These stories were passed on from generation to generation, embellished and changed somewhat. They became the great myths of the tribes. The storytellers created myths, superstitions, rituals, morals, traditions, rules, codes, laws, religions, from things that they experienced or imagined in their mind.
Some storytellers, in order to make a greater impression on their audience, even claimed to have talked with their ‘Gods’. This made the storytellers very special people themselves. It gave them a special power, to be able to talk to their ‘Gods’. They became the priests of the tribe. They claimed they received special powers from their ‘Gods’. It elevated them above the other members of the tribe. They now enjoyed a very special standing within the tribe and were able to exert much greater influence on their fellow tribesmen, even to the point of demanding animal and human sacrifices.
For thousands of years these storyteller priests, all over the world, were able to convince their believers that these sacrifices were necessary to satisfy their ‘Gods’. Hundreds of thousands of people died because of these stories. It was a form of domination and mind control on their part, a method of influencing and controlling their subjects. Their myths and stories were mainly used to set a moral codes for the tribe to follow, with their ‘Gods’ looking over their shoulder to make sure they followed the codes. Moses went up the mountain and came back down with the Ten Commandments his ‘God’ had given him. These commandments became the dominant moral code for western civilization.
For hundreds of years the Hebrew tribe’s storytellers spun their tales, created traditions, etc. They were passed down verbally from generation to generation and finally collected and written down in the Bible as the word of ‘God’. Later the followers of Jesus Christ added their own stories to the Bible as the New Testament. These were also accepted as the word of 'God' by the Christians but not by the Jews.
Homer's great epics are another example of the tenacity of storytelling and the power of the human memory. Homer created his stories around 1200 BC, long before the Greeks developed a credible, lasting, alphabet. His works were then passed vocally from generation to generation for hundreds of chaotic years by a sect of priests called the Homer ides of Chios. They were devoted to preserving, purifying and reciting these stories. They had to completely rely on their memory to accurately convey these great works through the ages. The stories were finally written down around 700 BC. They became the textbooks in the schools of Greece and the cornerstone of western literature.
Great storytellers such as Jesus Christ, Confucius, Moses, Mohammed, Gautama Buddha and the Hindus' of ancient times created the world's great religious myths and moral codes that are followed by billions of people today. Moses and Mohammed claimed to get their stories directly from God. Jesus said he was the son of God. Confusius was more interested in explaining everyday life rather then spiritual life and the mystery of creation. These philosophies have a powerful positive influence on humanity.
In contrast to this positive influence, at the extreme other end of the spectrum, was Germany's famous storyteller, Adolph Hitler. Hitler is a good example of a creative imagination doing its worst for mankind. (The human imagination can create stories that promote tremendous evil just as well as it can create stories that promote tremendous good.) By writing his book, giving hundreds of stirring speeches, staging tremendous awe inspiring rallies, and telling many stories he convinced the German people to follow him. All of these things put together were Hitler's “story”. His stories provoked deep human emotions that created tremendous hate and anger against his potential victims.
Hitler was well aware of the power of storytelling, since the very first thing he did when he came to power was burn the books of the other storytellers. He made sure his was the only story being told in Germany. It is ironic that some of the greatest storytellers of all time (the Jews) were prime victims of this evil storyteller.
Democracy and freedom were held in very low esteem in Hitler’s Germany. At about the same time that Hegal was creating his philosophy (that contributed to the rise of Hitler), our country’s storytellers; Jefferson, Paine, Henry, Adams and their contemporaries, were creating our country's democratic philosophy. Later, Karl Marx another powerful storyteller created the communist philosophy. Which stories would become dominant was determined in the battles of World War Two and with the communist philosophy, in the “cold war”.
President Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and General Charles DeGaulle were the storytellers who prevailed in this era. The stories of each of these leaders offered mainly hope to their people and led the way to our post war prosperity. I think Stalin was more of a ruthless power grabber, rather then a storyteller. Lenin and Marx were the storytellers who influenced the people in Russia. Benito Mussolini and Mao Tse-tung were other storytellers whose stories led to tremendous grief for the people of their respective countries and other countries.
In the New World, thousands of years ago, an ancient storyteller priest somewhere in central or South America told the story to the effect, that in order to appease their gods and keep them happy they would have to sacrifice people by cutting their hearts out and spilling their blood. This grim story unfortunately was accepted and spread throughout the area. As a result of this story, millions of innocent people were murdered in these regions by the Aztecs, Incas, Mayas, etc. for hundreds of years. There are countless other examples of storytelling that have had a profound effect on mankind throughout its history. It seems as though people will believe any story they hear. Storytellers are extremely powerful people.
All families, tribes and societies need resolute storytellers to constantly encourage, inspire and guide their people in a positive moral manner!
Storytelling, both positive and negative, is one of the most powerful of all human capabilities. It is surely one of the devil's most valuable tools. (Yes, there really is a devil, but it exists only in the 'Mind' of mankind. It is simply the dark side of Human Imagination.) Storytelling is used in every conceivable way to influence motivate and dominate people. It is easy to spot the evil storytellers on television and in the other media today spinning (or singing) their tales of hate. People who agitate hatred and anger against other people, who falsely accuse their neighbors of wrong doing, or start false rumors are examples of evil storytellers.
The young girls who instigated the infamous witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts a couple of hundred years ago by accusing their neighbors of witchcraft are good examples of the harm this type of storytelling can cause, especially when some foolish people take the accusers seriously. It still goes on today, falsely accusing people, wrecking their lives.
The Homo Sapiens before they received their powerful imagination (before the "transformation" to imaginative beings) were not capable of this power. They were extremely intelligent beings but lacked the Human Imagination. They did not have the mental power to invent words, languages, stories, etc. According to recent findings they lacked the "language gene" necessary to begin the storytelling traditions.
For thousands of years following mankind's transformation people had only the spoken word to rely on for their communication. Ancient prehistoric drawings and paintings of animals, people and symbols were also early forms of communicating. This type of communicating evolved into pictographs and later ideographs such as the Egyptian hieroglyphics. Finally around five thousand years ago the Sumerian tribes in southern Mesopotamia developed the first primitive phonetic writing called cuneiform. It marked the end of prehistory and the beginning of recorded history. The idea of placing marks on a clay tablet that could be associated with specific ideas was a giant imaginative step in mankind's intellectual progress.
Words, whether they are vocal sounds or marks on a paper convey ideas (mental pictures) to our mind. They are made possible by our ability to imagine. If we hear words or see them written in a foreign language that we have not learned to associate with things or ideas, they mean nothing to us. They simply do not generate any mental images for us. Some of the more intelligent animals have a limited ability to “learn” vocal sounds but not writing. Writing has given mankind a much greater ability to communicate more accurately and preserve the stories and ideas of the previous generations.
The joy of creating stories, or poems, singing ballads, reading, or listening to these stories is also one of the great pleasures of being human. When we read or listen to a story we instantly form mental images of the characters and actions in our mind. We can “visualize” with our mind. We can learn the intimate thoughts of the great minds of the past by reading their stories. We can travel in our imagination anywhere the story takes us no matter where or when. We can go back in time and travel down the Mississippi river with Huck Finn or go into the future, travel out into space to another galaxy. It makes no difference, as long as we have an imagination we can go to these places.
When listening to stories on the radio, before television became popular, each listener had to visualize their own private mental pictures of the characters and locale. We were usually very surprised when we did finally see a picture of the real person who portrayed the character in the story and it did not match our mental picture at all. Such was the magic of radio.
The playwright and movie maker go a step further in their storytelling. They physically set up the scenes, props and assign actors to play the part of the characters. Presenting drama plays is an ancient form of storytelling that the Greeks and Chinese developed long ago. It is a natural outgrowth of storytelling. Although with the play, the audience could actually see the characters and actions of the story, much was left to the imagination as far as the scenery was concerned.
Now a days there is much more elaborate movable scenery to support the story and less imagination is needed to enjoy the play. With the advent of the motion pictures everything is becoming more and more realistic. The present state-of-art technology of computer generated special effects used in motion pictures are so realistic that no matter what situation is portrayed little imagination is needed. With the development of “Virtual Reality” the audience will be going right “into” the scenes in the near future. Someday we may be able to “enter” a Jurassic type park and walk among the dinosaurs in a virtual reality world.
Storytelling has grown immensely in its scope and power from its simple beginning of telling stories over the camp fire. It now encompasses every facet of human endeavor. Nearly everyone has a story to tell. We are constantly being bombarded by stories both good and bad, by our family, friends and the media. Companies spend billions of dollars every year on advertising, trying to get their stories across to us, trying to influence us to purchase their products.
Beer advertisements, for example, have equated partying and having a good time with drinking beer for so long that it now just seems the normal thing to do. Political leaders try to influence us with their stories. On television, religious leaders are constantly telling their stories. In large areas of the world today religious leaders completely dominate the lives of whole populations through their mythical stories. Holding the threat of eternal damnation over their heads if they disobey their "word of god". (Very powerful people!)
Satellite broadcasting of radio and television, newspapers, magazines, and now the computer’s Internet are immensely powerful storytelling mediums that spread both positive and negative stories into every household across the world for better or for worse. The editors have tremendous power to disseminate the stories they want made known and to ignore the ones they don’t (not so much power over the Internet, yet). Violence is especially acceptable in the movies, viewers are constantly being exposed to people being killed and battered as realistically as possible.
This scenario may be OK for movies, depending upon who the storyteller makes as the bad guys. When the movies or stories start making various groups of people the bad guys, we are getting into a dangerous area. The hate and anger emotions produced by the storytellers may be more dangerous then the actual violence of the stories. Some “rappers” are continually expounding their hate and anger stories to our young people. The influence of these stories is beginning to be felt around the country.
In real life, the government's storytellers tell stories (propaganda) to arouse the anger in their citizens when they are preparing to go to war against other countries. I witnessed this in our country during World War Two when the Germans and Japanese were the bad guys (they really were). After the war the stories changed from these countries to making the communists out to be the bad guys. At the present time we are sort of floundering looking for some new potential bad guys.
(Note) Since I wrote this article we have indeed found some new really bad guys with the militant Muslims. ((Mullahs whose hatred stories of America and the other western democracies have influenced powerful dupes such as bin Laden and his followers to want to kill as many Americans as they can.))
The news media has been a powerful storytelling influence on people since the invention of the printing press. With the invention of radio, television and the video camera its power has increased immensely by graphically reporting their stories on television over and over and getting everybody all upset.
In addition to violence, the movie and television storytellers relate their stories over and over to the effect, that the “normal” thing to do, if people of the opposite sex are attracted to each other (are in “love”), is to have sex as soon as possible. This has helped change the morals of our young ladies in a couple of generations so much that they now think they are abnormal if they resist having sex until they are married. Hollywood, a city whose primary business is storytelling, has made having sex the socially acceptable thing to do. Adultery is now more or less accepted as normal (depending upon who is doing it).
As the moral ethics code of the motion picture storytellers has deteriorated in the last thirty years, the birthrate of single mothers has risen in direct proportion. Whether we realize it or not, all these stories are exerting a powerful influence on our young people. It is leading to a gradual moral decay in our country. We may not have a Hitler ranting and raving but our ubiquitous storytellers are just as effectively spreading their powerful influence into every nook and cranny across the country (and alot of it is not good).
A large percentage of our young people are able to accept or reject these messages on their merit but many are not and if the stories are repeated enough (and are not opposed by positive storytellers) they are eventually accepted as normal behavior. Our storytellers; family, peers, friends, church leaders, teachers, movie producers, authors, politicians, philosophers, historians, comedians, civic leaders, etc., need to accentuate the positive. They have the power to guide, motivate, inspire and influence our present and future citizens.
Storytellers, through their stories, can enter into our imagination
and interact with our deepest human emotions.
They can inspire us to strive for greatness or motivate us to do senseless evil. They can make us happy, angry or sad. They can make us laugh or cry. Storytelling and human emotion are closely linked, together, from the time of infancy, they strongly influence every aspect of our life. Very little happens in the human drama without a storyteller at its source.
Storytelling includes all types of family and tribal gossip, religious and secular teaching, philosophy, prose, poetry, religious beliefs, myths, traditions, propaganda, scientific writings, speeches, news chronicles, periodicals, advertising, plays, movies, television stories, songs, and unfortunately lying. It is one of the most powerful of all human capabilities. It started with people’s ability to create words that they could associate, in their imagination, with some idea, thing or action. Its power can be awesome! It help create the "MIND" of mankind.
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