Narrative is stitched intrinsically into the fabric of human psychology. But why? Is it all just fun and games, or does storytelling serve a biological function? There are several surprises about stories. The first is that we spend a great deal of time in fictional worlds, whether in daydreams, novels, confabulations or life narratives. When all is tallied up, the decades we spend in the realm of fantasy outstrip the time we spend in the real world.
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Shelves: nonfiction In the beginning, there was a word, and the word was Storyteller. She was very lonely. There was nothing in the world but her imagination. She decided to create a story for herself to pass the time pleasantly. Let there be colourful flowers and trees and soft grass to sit on, she said.
A garden appeared instantly before her inner eye. The smell of the flowers was intense, and she became thirsty. Let there be a well where I can get water, she said. And she watched in amazement as a well was built In the beginning, there was a word, and the word was Storyteller.
And she watched in amazement as a well was built out of thin air. There was a bucket to draw water from the deep dark bottom. The Storyteller was excited. When she hauled up the bucket and drank the sweet water, she noticed a green, tiny living thing in it.
I will call you frog, and you shall be my friend! But after some time, it became monotonous. But the frog stayed the same it had always been. I wonder why. Maybe I need to apply some magic to make living creatures! She tried to kiss the frog again for another wish to come true, but the magic was spent. It did not work anymore. The Storyteller watched the happy union of the two frogs and felt very sad and lonely.
And it shall not be tiny, and cold, and green. It shall be bigger and softer and with long hair like me! When she let the frog go, and looked around, she saw a majestic creature lying on the ground, yellow, furry, strong, with a long, wild mane. The Storyteller imagined a pond for them, and they swam in it, to her great delight.
After a while, there were more frogs, a whole community. There must be another spell between the two frogs. But now I have plenty of new frogs to kiss, and I know what I will do. I will give my lion a friend, for he looks lonely as well. And I am going to call her lioness!
Every being she imagined and made come alive through the magical frog kissing procedure seemed to need something else, and her garden grew wilder and wilder, and more and more complicated. At first, the Storyteller enjoyed the new development, for she was never bored, and her imagination grew with each new creature that entered the story.
But so far, none of the creatures had responded to her in the way they responded to their own kind. There was always a gap between the Storyteller and the story. And she felt lonely at night, when she was not too tired to think.
One day, she bent over the pond to watch a new fish she had created. It swam exquisitely, and she was very proud of its colourful design. But on the surface of the pond, she caught a glimpse of herself, and her sad, lonely eyes stared back at her, and made her want to cry. That smile changed her life. But her wish had been very specific, not for a companion, but for a copy. And so she welcomed another woman to the garden, just as beautiful and lovely as herself, and just as full of imagination.
The Storyteller was overjoyed at first, and spent days talking about what she had done so far, and which were her favourite creatures.
The two women walked arm in arm, like sisters and best friends, and loved each other dearly. Life finally seemed to be a story with a happy end. But one day, the Storyteller noticed something different in the garden. There were animals she did not recognise.
Where did they come from? But the Storyteller felt her heart break, her stomach turn, her head burst. This is my story, and the frogs are my property! We are both in it! They withdrew into different corners of the garden and began to collect armies of frogs for warfare. It did not take long before the world became unbearably violent, and animals were killing and eating each other. For each new animal, there instantly was a natural counterpart, a deadly enemy.
Mountainous fortifications grew. Deep oceans spread. Stormy clouds brought rain that filled raging rivers and flooded the beautiful grassland. But as time passed, the women grew tired of the war, and they began to feel lonely again. They missed the company of another human.
The Storyteller thought of making peace and sharing the immensity of the creation equally. After all, it was now vast enough for both of them, and she was also very curious to discover more in detail the stories her sister had invented.
But she was dreadfully hurt, and could not overcome her pride. She still thought she was the entitled one, while her sister was a usurper. He was tall, strong, and handsome, and he immediately worshipped her and made her feel precious.
Now her story had a happy ending, she thought. But she was wrong about that. Her story had just begun, and there was no end to it at all from now on. The Storyteller realised that she had created the curse of human chain reactions when she saw that her enemy had imagined and kissed alive a man for herself, to protect and worship her!
He was even taller and stronger than her own man, and she felt envy creep into her heart. She wanted one like that as well! The Storyteller was about to produce an army of frog-kissed men when her imagination all of a sudden made her see the future, an eternal war in the making.
She had to stop the violence of humankind before it destroyed itself and all other creatures. She knew what she had to do to save the world. From now on, we are on our own! She had forgotten that humans now had companions, and could reproduce themselves without the frog magic. Oh, how she regretted that she took away the frog power! She realised too late that the man she had created as her own companion, but taller and stronger than herself, and with a ferocious wish to protect her, did not need frogs.
He could take over her position as Creator and Storyteller with the power of his muscles. It would take centuries and centuries for woman to remedy the terrible mistake of the loss of the magical frogs. With the loss, the era of the fairy tales ended and the era of reality began. But many, many of the stories from the fairy tale era remained in the world, and were told to children as cautionary tales or just to pass the time pleasantly.
And they varied slightly from Storyteller to Storyteller, for from the beginning of time, Storytellers have tried to surpass and outwit each other with ever-growing imagination.
The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human
We spin fantasies. We devour novels, films, and plays. Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives. Yet the world of story has long remained an undiscovered and unmapped country. In this delightful and original book, Jonathan Gottschall offers the first unified theory of storytelling.
The Moral of the Story
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