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“‘Sometimes personal or family stories can be an entry point to traditional tales.'” Simplia said.

“Tradi-SHUN!” Sagacia sang in her best baritone, holding aloft the wooden spoon she’d been stirring the cookie dough with.

Simplia cocked her head.

“Oh, sorry!” Sagacia said apologetically. “That’s actually quite nice.” she added. “That sentence. Profound, even.”

“It wasn’t me who said it,” Simplia replied. “It was Barra the Bard. She was talking about how people can just be sitting around the table telling holiday stories, and she gave the example that, well . . . Here! I’ll read what she said!” Simplia shuffled through the papers on the table and pulled one out.

We all have quests during our lives, whether or not we’re calling them that. Even if it’s being in quest of making a big holiday meal for one’s in-laws for the first time, it’s helpful to hear stories of similar experiences, good and bad, encouraging and funny (and here I’m thinking of the cook outwitting her master after she ate most of the chicken intended for dinner).


Walter Crane’s Clever Grethel. That chicken does look tempting!

“Oh, right!” Sagacia exclaimed. “I think of that story whenever I start nibbling away at the holiday ham, too!” She licked her fingers. “Or the cookie dough.”

“And I like what Cathy Jo Smith says here,” she tapped the end of her spoon on a yellow sheet of stationary.

Simplia picked it up and read:

Personally, I think we need some grounding in folklore if we want to craft new universal stories instead of ephemeral personal tales–like the painter who must study the classics and techniques of the masters before creating modern art that has meaning beyond the moment.

“That sounds ideal, but is it always possible?” Simplia asked. “I mean, I’ll agree for ourselves, we story enthusiasts who are always aiming to craft the perfect story, but you can’t legislate storytelling, or any art, for others. It’s kind of like what Tim Ereneta says:

When people sing in the shower, they don’t care what they sound like. They sing their favorite song. Put a group around a piano bar, a karaoke machine, and suddenly –for most– the fight or flight response kicks in. Only the bravest take the stage, knowing that everyone is going to compare their voice to Frank Sinatra or Celine Dion or “the original.” Personal story events, like American Idol, give a democratic venue to those who dream of stardom, with the added bonus that the audience will reward authenticity and not compare the story and delivery to any fixed notion what the story should sound like.

“Of course, authenticity is the goal, and they’re both right!” Sagacia said. “And, if you can’t legislate storytelling, you can’t contain it, either. Like Kayti said:

All stories come from the same well, including the personal ones. There is value in all manifestations of the archetypes, some of us are skilled in keeping the old stories going, some have more juice for a meaningful telling of something current or personal. Why do we always have to have such hierarchical judgement about everything? Art will not be confined.

“Aw! I was itchin’ fer a fight!” Simplia stamped her foot. “Why do you always have to make everybody sound so agreeable!”

“Fear of controversy?” Sagacia wondered aloud.

“Anyway,” she shook herself out of her reverie. “It’s just that there really are two sides to every question,”

“So the time-tested tale comes first?” Simplia asked. “Or could it be like Barra also says . . .

I’m recalling something C.S. Lewis wrote in one of his essays, that if you could trace it far enough back, behind the legends of Thor, there was probably a bad-tempered, red-haired farmer with a hammer.

“Chicken or egg? Is that what you’re asking?” Sagacia prodded.

“Well, maybe. Maybe that’s what I wanna know, but, really, I have room for both. Or even more than two. As Janice Del Negro said . . .

People have different narrative needs. Not being the storytelling police, I am not going to take a position on what individual tellers should tell. That being said, I think the personal story/slam scene is indicative of the human need to connect in an increasingly disconnected environment. Since this emerging (emerged?) paradigm has such a high profile, it is the paradigm with which those new to storytelling are familiar. If you are a storyteller who feels folk and fairy tales are important to tell, you should tell them. I do.

“So which side of the question do slams come down on?” Simplia asked aloud. Do you think some slam stories could become traditional classics? Like “Who’s on First?” Or, do you think knowledge of traditional tales–whether or not one is even aware of it–enter into the storymaking of today’s slam artists?”

“Or both!” Sagacia insisted.

“Or neither!” Simplia countered.

She didn’t really think that; she’s just being contrary, Sagacia thought to herself. But then, Sagacia has a fear of controversy.

So, what do you think, dear reader?