You don't need to be a Classics major or an expert in Ancient Mediterranean Cultures to appreciate Classical Myth. When I say Classical Myth, I don't mean just Greek Myth - although it did make the biggest contribution. Classical Myth however, is Greek, Roman, Sumerian, and even Egyptian Myth, all of which shared Indo-European origins. These Ancient cultures and their myths have set the stepping stones for modern literature and storytelling as we know it today. Almost every trope, every story, every plot twist know to humanity has somehow - consciously or unconsciously - been inspired by Classical Myth. There is no such thing as a "new" idea; every story in fiction today is, in a way, an extension or a retelling of an older one. Ideas don't just appear out of thin air, they're slowly formed and executed.
World Storytelling Day is a celebration of the art of oral storytelling. To help you celebrate, we’ve got a list of five fun activities you can do to enjoy World Storytelling Day.
With September upon us, the wonder of golden leaves, apple picking, and pumpkin carving are teasingly close. As such, you may find that the upbeat summer dance vibes that’ have been on repeat for the past few months no longer match the cooling days. The essence of crisp autumn air and warm apple cider is more likely to lend itself to soothing instrumentals and soft, atmospheric sounds. These are songs that, instead of prompting you to bump along with the beat, make you want to curl up with a blanket and listen to the story they tell. I’ve included five below from women who use their incredible voices to deliver some equally incredible words. So, get your cup of tea, a fuzzy sweater, and welcome the sounds of autumn.
‘Hunger‘ – Florence + The Machine
If I ever had to choose a human being as the embodiment of autumn, it would be Florence Welch. Whether it’s Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr, you’ll likely come across a post from Welch’s fans likening her to a mystical woodland fairy with the power to heal a forest. Frankly, I can’t say that they’re wrong. The opening notes of ‘Hunger’ feature Welch’s echoing and ethereal ‘oohs’ before she breaks into the first lines: ‘At seventeen, I started to starve myself / I thought that love was a kind of emptiness.’ This song marked the first time Welch had ever opened up about her eating disorder. While the song embraces the struggle of being young and hurt in your search for love, Welch told Story of Song that ‘Hunger’ is also ‘a celebration of how much I see young people changing things…I was really lost when I was a teenager, I was really confused and sad, so I feel really inspired by the young women I see today.’
the story behind ‘hunger’ | via @florence on instagram
‘breathe again‘ – Joy Oladokun
This soft ballad comes to life through Oladokun’s melodic vocals, a beautiful collection of strings, and a simple tune on the piano. Lyrics like ‘If my intentions are good, why can’t I come clean?’ and ‘When the world’s so heavy I can’t stand / I close my eyes and start again’ speak to the difficulty of living under crushing expectations. It can become so heavy that you forget to breathe. In an interview with American Songwriter, Oladokun told Kira Grunberg that ‘breathe again’ ‘is about letting go of perfectionism and embracing the warm flickering thing between light and dark that is our humanity…This song is important to me because it is a reminder in those moments to let go, return to the present moment, and start again.’ It offers the same reminder for us all.
‘fallingwater‘ – maggie rogers
The smooth, swirling sound of Rogers’ voice is like water babbling down a creek on a cool October morning. At the same time, the song itself, with its changes in volume and emotion and underlying beat, mirrors the ebb and flow of spilling water. This flow couldn’t better represent the give and take that’s inherent and often unpredictable with love. Rogers said ‘Fallingwater’ is a song ‘that celebrates rapid change and how simultaneously scary and electric it can feel. It’s about giving everything and not knowing if it’s enough.’ As the lines ‘I never loved you fully in the way I could / I fought the current running just the way you would’ hit you in the chorus, you’re brought back to all those moments that put you in your own creek.
Maggie rogers on set for the ‘fallingwater’ music video | via @maggierogers on twitter
‘betty‘ – taylor swift
My personal favorite track off of the quarantine-inspired and woodland-centric folklore, ‘betty’ is the final installment of the teenage love triangle Swift created for her new album. She named the characters (Betty, James, and Inez) after her friends’ kids. In ‘cardigan,’ we’re introduced to Betty’s perspective as she sifts through the pain of her love, James, cheating on her and wanting to win her back. ‘august’ offers the viewpoint of the woman James cheated with, and ‘betty’ brings the triangle to a close with James. In an interview with Vulture, Swift said ‘James has lost the love of his life basically and doesn’t understand how to get it back. I think we all have these situations in our lives where we learn to really, really give a heartfelt apology for the first time.’ With lyrics like ‘I’m only seventeen, I don’t know anything / But I know I miss you,’ Swift reminds us of what’s like to be young and naïvely believe we’re invincible. She reminds us of the first time we might’ve hurt someone, or gotten hurt ourselves, and how disorienting it is to confront something that goes beyond the year of seventeen.
‘joanne (where do you think you’re goin’‘ – lady gaga
When I think of Lady Gaga, I think of a woman who’ll stop at nothing to bring love and kindness into the world. She does so through her platform, in addition to the stories she shares through her music. ‘Joanne’ is the title track for Gaga’s 2016 album, but she released ‘Joanne (Where Do You Think You’re Goin’)’ two years later. The video opens with a black screen containing these words: ‘Joanne was my father’s sister who died at the age of 19 from the auto-immune disease Lupus.’ Those words fade into the next sentence: ‘My father was only 15 when she passed away.’ This beautifully stripped back version features only Gaga’s vocals accompanied by the piano, which allows every raw ounce of emotion to shine through as she belts lines like ‘if you could I know that you’d stay / We both know things don’t work that way.’ It sends chills down your spine and puts an ache in your heart. Gaga’s voice delivers both the pain her family has endured with this horrific loss and the love they still cherish for Joanne.
Feature image via We heart it
Reading is fabulous, but sometimes, everyone craves good live storytelling. Storytelling *literally* brings a tale to life and adds a whole new experience you didn’t know was possible. The characters are suddenly more real and the plot more exciting. I’ll never forget the first time I heard the Harry Potter books on tape. They truly transported me into the wizarding world and I wanted nothing more than to stay forever. While recent events may have changed our plans for the foreseeable future, if there’s one thing we know, it’s that stories never leave us.
Podcasts have quickly become a popular media platform, and we are here for it! There are podcasts on endless topics, but there is a special little corner for us book lovers. Here’s a list of our favorites. Happy listening!
1. Welcome to Night Vale
image via spotify
The town of Night Vale has its fair share of conspiracy theories, and every one of them turns out to be true. This is a great listen if you love spooky small-town stories where everything seems a bit too coincidental. There are tons of episodes for this one, so you are all set for a rainy day.
2. The Mortified Podcast
image via stitcher
Do you have your elementary school diary tucked into the deep, dusty crevices under your bed because you will never, never allow anyone to find it? It’s just too embarrassing. Well, you’re not alone. And actually, yours may not be as embarrassing (or uncommon) as you think. The Mortified Podcast has real people reading their real journal entries, and let me tell you, they are amazing. This podcast is great for when you need a pick-me-up or just want to have a good time.
image via stitcher
Another fun one! Along a similar vein, this podcast asks people to tell unbelievably embarrassing stories; the kind you would be tempted to take to the grave. You’ll be happy to just be a listener when you hear these awkward encounters!
4. Hello from the magic tavern
image via hello from the magic tavern
If you love musical theater, you’ll love this one. This fun podcast has the likes of wizards and monsters in an interview setting with a few musical numbers sprinkled in.
image via vox
This podcast chronicles the fictional story of reporter Lia Haddock as she investigates the mysterious disappearance of hundreds of residents of Limetown a decade ago. Check this one out!
Featured Image via unsplash
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The Atlantic put out a super interesting article last week about the value we as humans place on storytellers, and I totally recommend actually reading it because it’s worth it. Andrea Migliano, an anthropologist at University College London, and her team have found evidence that stories and the act of storytelling began partially as a way of creating and solidifying social bonds, ethics, and cooperation.
When her study began, Migliano wasn’t looking for data on storytelling, she wanted to know what qualities the Agta, a group of hunter-gatherers from the Philippines, valued most in their society. Her team of students asked 300 Agta to name five people they’d most want to live with, to nominate the strongest people they knew, those whose opinions were most respected, those with the most medical knowledge, and finally, as an afterthought, the best storytellers. They thought storytelling would be an interesting contrast amongst more esteemed skills, but the Agta seemed to value storytelling above everything else.
Those good at storytelling were twice as likely to be named ideal living companions, and storytelling was “highly valued, twice as much as being a good hunter,” said Migliano.
What’s particularly interesting is that this isn’t unique to the Agta. Storytelling is a skill revered by hunter-gatherer groups across the globe. They’re more likely to receive gifts and are desired most as both living companions and romantic companions. On average, storytellers have 0.5 more children than non-storytelling peers, which was a statistically significant finding. Migliano suggests that while “stories might help to knit communities together, evolution doesn’t operate for the good of the group. If storytelling is truly an adaptation, it has to benefit the individuals who are good at it—and it clearly does.”
It’s hard to pin this on storytelling alone, however. “Creativity comes with its own suite of personality traits, which may make people more attractive sexual partners,” said Lisa Zunshine, a professor of English at the University of Kentucky.
At the end of the day, hunter-gatherers are utilizing storytelling to instill a sense of community and ethics within their group. Michelle Scalise Sugiyama from the University of Oregon, who has studied the origins of storytelling, added that other societies, like the Tsimane of Bolivia place the same importance on storytelling, indicating “that storytelling contributes something of adaptive value to human life.”
“Stories also contain valuable cultural knowledge, and accomplished storytellers are repositories of this knowledge,” noted Sugiyama.
So basically storytellers are the best kind of people. I dig it.
Featured Image Via the Atlantic.