Prince Thadeus has assembled a number of female storytellers because his wife has been struck by a desire to hear stories. He opens the long telling session with the following words:

”There is nothing more pleasing and glorious in the world, O my noble women, than hearken to the deeds of others; and not without reason did Aristoteles, that great philosopher, place man’s greatest happiness in listening to pretty stories, since in hearkening to them care and gloom vanish, and life is lengthened”.

This situation occurs in the book Pentamerone – a book that I believe should belong to any storyteller’s library. The book I have, I found in an antique store in London and is written by the Italian Giambattista Basile.

The stories have clear folk motifs that we recognize in folk tales also in Norwegian traditional stories, but here they are set in a narrative frame. The book’s construction is one of the reasons why it is worth reading. It is similar to the Decameron, another collection of stories, in the sense that a group of people sit together to tell stories. Here it takes place over 5 days, hence the title of the book. Pentamerone comes from Greek and means five days.

The frame story is an adventure in itself, a young woman is under a curse, that means she can only marry a certain young man whom she must save. This is Prince Thadeus. She almost manages this, but falls asleep and a servant (slave) takes over in her place and releases Thadeus and marries him. Our heroine does not give up and cunningly arouse the wife’s desires after hearing stories. Therefore, a number of women are gathered, including the heroine, to tell stories. The last story to be told is the heroine’s own story.

The images and mood in the collection are filled to the brim with plenty of Baroque, a storehouse of metaphors in lavish ornamentation and with a king in every street.

One of my favorite stories in the book is the story of two old sisters, who manage to fool a young king. The young king is filled with lust and takes one of the old sisters to wife – unseen. The description of the king’s meeting with his wife in the dark, in bed, is enjoyable, especially when he discovers that she is not a young woman, as he believed:

”he marvelled with exceeding marvel, but kept silence, so as to be better assured of the case; and forced himself to do that for which he had no more desire, and entered this pig-stye whilst he believed he would enter the coast of Posillaco; and sailed with a fishing smack, when he believed himself on board a galley.”

The collection emphasizes that where people gather, stories must be told. It appears as a glue in encounters with known and unknown.

Three wishes (Norwegian folktale)

There was once a girl who had to go to the well every day to fetch water. It was far to walk, so it was a burden to do this. But once she came to the well, she threw down the bucket, and pulled it up again, and in the bucket there was a frog.

The frog jumped up and down, and said, «Wack, wack, dear beautiful girl let me free. Let me loose and you will have three wishes fulfilled. Yes, you can wish whatever you want and it will come true. »

Where people gather, undeniable stories arise because we want to get to know each other and form a common foundation. The collective memory begins in the family.

Maurice Halbwachs, the French philosopher I mentioned in a previous post, compares recreating an event through a memory like reading a children’s book one has not read since childhood (Halbwachs, 1992). You will be surprised how changed your experience of the book is. it can be like this with a memory, what I remember can be quite different from what you remember. But together we have probably agreed on a common version of what happened.

The imagination we use to recreate memory is characterized by our social environment (Halbwachs, 1992). What makes memories come together is not because they naturally come in a particular order, but because they are part of a larger line of thought that characterizes a group of people. Folk tales are an example of the collective memory, they have a structure of events that are influenced by a variety of circumstances, the way the storyteller relates to the storyteller’s environment, and the influence from the folkloristic on how a folk tale should be structured. Today, this structure may not be suitable, because my environment is different than when the folktale was written down.

Halbwachs believes that every family has its own way of structuring memories and the family does not tell everything that has happened, but has made a selection. And without Halbwachs saying it directly, this could be the seed of long-standing family conflicts. Although we remember in our peculiar and individual way, the family or group to which you belong activates this memory. The family’s way of recreating and selecting memories is again influenced by the structure of society. This has led to a number of things being censored, events that are not acceptable to remember.

This can be both a strength because it creates a common culture, but also an obstacle for those who want to break out of it. In a previous post I mentioned that changing the story can lead to personal crises, like this it can also be for the individual who needs to redefine their own story.

The collective memory is about being inside and outside.

The girl thought it was a good payment for such a small service. She reflected on her first wish. 

Then she uttered her wish: All she asked to fly, should be able to fly. The second wish was that everything she hit with her hands, should fall off. And the third wish was that everything she pulled in with her hand was going to be stiff and long.

Then she dropped the frog back into the well, filled the bucket with water. And started walking home. But it was a long way to go and it was heavy to walk. And when she arrived the last hill, she stopped and said to herself, «Oh I wish the bucket flew up the hill by itself. » As soon as she said this, the bucket flew out of her hand and up the hill by itself.

What does your family tell when you meet, what stories are repeated? Or when you’re with friends, what kinds of stories do you tell each other? Comedies, tragedies, melodramas, secrets, gossip?
This was a sight. She began to grin, she began to laugh. She laughed so hard and for so long, that at the last roar of laughter she raised her hands and hit them on her thighs. And svuisj, before she knew,
Grandfather growled. We, my mother, my siblings, were at dinner with grandfather and grandmother. We often ate there, especially when grandmother made the favorite food, soup with fresh meat, as they called it. Grandfather took a piece of meat, it was a bone with little meat left on it. He grabbed the meat that was left on the bone, put his teeth in it and teared it off. As he did so, he growled like a mad dog, we were taken back millions of years. We had hunted and lay over the carcass and tore the meat of it. The alpha male should have the best and growled. And then we had a huge LOL.
her legs fell of. The girl went straight to the ground, legless as she was. Then the girl got another song. She began to cry, to growl. She was crying both hard and long, so she became snotty. Then she took her hand to her nose to dry it. She pulled her nose. And before she knew, the nose grew long and stiff. There she was, with a huge nose and legless. And if she has not recovered, she is still there.

You might think that I as a storyteller also have the storyteller’s place in the family, I do not. When we’re together, I’m actually the quiet one. This is also an important characteristic to have in connection with both the collective memory and being a storyteller.


Halbwachs, M. (1992). On collective memory. Chicago og London: The University of Chicago Press.

Virtual World

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Outfit:Alpha tribe, AITUI, Cureless&Disorderly, Zibska, Clover, Azoury