Becoming a storyteller


Here I present parts of the little talk I had in Rome about storytelling. I have added an audio file so you can hear the stories I used in the talk.

I grew up on an island.
(the story about uncle Johan)

I grew up with stories, where the real and imagined life mixed into a believable blur.

To understand how to become a storyteller, there is a need to understand what a storyteller is. Yes, a storyteller is one who tells stories. It does not have to be more complicated than that.

Yet, The concept “the oral storyteller” is quite new. You cannot compare the storyteller of our postmodern time with what we in Norway would call the “tradition carrier” or the traditional storyteller, the ones who were informants of collectors of folktales from 1800 – to a bit up on 1900. Even though we do tell the same stories. But being a storyteller, as an expressive art form, getting paid for being a storyteller, is relatively new.

In the federation of European storytelling network – FEST, we did a survey this spring, the replies on the survey shows that the concept of storyteller consist both being a performer who tells stories and someone who use applied storytelling, meaning using stories in contexts where the performing is not essential. This is analogue with the post – modern art theory, where the artform is no longer just being aesthetic, but also where the social element like community and participation is defined as a part of the artform. This are theories by Erika Fisher- Lichte and Claire Bishop among others.

So, the storyteller is both someone who performs stories orally and someone who work with oral storytelling in contexts like schools, museums, library, prison just to mention some few.

Yet, how to become a storyteller?

Some few years ago, the French storyteller Abbi Patrix had a short speech where he said that when he looked at those who became storytellers, he saw that a common thing was that there was a lack of something. Quite often, the storytellers came from two cultural backgrounds, where they had little contact with one of their backgrounds. This lack is supported by Tom Maguires theory, where the storytellers comes from the theatre, they did not longer believe in the dramatic illusion. They missed a truer artform, which they found in storytelling.

Yes, there was lack in my childhood, I grew up on a remote island with no friends. When I started school, far away on another island, I stopped talking, for seven years I did not say a word. On the school, which was a very small school, the headteacher was called Rektor Rummelhoff.

(Story about Rummelhoff)

So, yes, a storyteller might arise because there is a lack, but one also need a role Modell, I think. To become a storyteller, you have to encounter storytelling, you need the idea of a storyteller. Which I was so lucky to grow up with.

But maybe the question is also about, why become a storyteller to day, when everybody are they own storytellers. I mean today, there is no longer a need to remember, because you are carrying devices that is keeping track of your memory. And you can easily publish experiences with just one click that once would be the seed for memory.

In the 1930’s the philosopher Walter Benjamin, said that there would be no need for storytellers in the future, he saw that stories died in the need for information. Today we are even more surround by a constant flow of information, we have need to be updated all the time.

Despite of this, there are those who decide to become storytellers.

There is probably a lot of reasons for why some becomes oral storytellers. But one thing, which I am curious about doing more research on, is connected to the memory. Yes, you can save a lot on a hard disc. But we forget that that a memory, is not just stored. Memory is something that is alive, memory is also depending on the meeting, on the presence of two persons. I remember because you remember, I understand who I am, because the meeting of the story show something I did not know about myself. And what about all the voices who no longer can utter themselves, who can give life to them, if not storytellers.