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storytelling2-art - 1/9/96


Another storytelling article by Yaakov.


NOTE: See also the files: storytelling-art, poems-msg, p-stories-msg, bardic-msg, Hornbook-art, Bardic-Guide-art, story-sources-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



From: HAROLD.FELD at hq.doe.GOV

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: More Storytelling.......(long)

Date: 6 May 1994 23:12:14 -0400


          [being a continuation of the Dialog between Mar Yaakov

          HaMizrachi and his sister, Aura of Befudlement, on the

          subject of storytelling]


          Aura of Befudlement:  I am glad to see you again, dear

          brother, for I heard yesterday that you had some business in

          the courts and could not come to continue our discussions of



          Yaakov HaMizrachi:  In truth I was, and a great victory did

          we have before the learned judge.


          AB: And did you use your storyteller's arts?


          YH:  It was not I who made the presentation, for I

          merely helped in the preparing of briefs and researches into

          the legal texts.  But, though you meant your words lightly,

          I will tell you that you speak truely.  the lawyer uses the

          same arts as the storyteller, as does the orator and the

          politician.  All have the same purpose, to convince another

          of the truth of the matter.


          AB:  It seems to me, then, that a storyteller can follow

          many paths in life to success.


          YH:  You speak with excellent wit.  It should therefore be

          plain that storytelling is no idle thing, nor are

          storytellers to be triffled with and scorned like jongluers

          or actors.  In Ireland, so I am told, the storytellers have

          status second only to the kings.  All live in fear of them,

          for they may inflict most terrible satires on any who

          offend them.  But, they are also courted by great lords, for

          through their efforts one may achieve immortality.


          AB:  That is quite plain.  After all, how do we know of

          Arthur and his knights, save that storytellers have sung his

          praises through the ages.   But come!  Let us return to the

          topic you mentioned before, that of the storyteller who

          grows too enamoured of his own arts and does not pay proper

          heed to his audience.





          YH: I shall return once again to that analogy that has

          served me so well in this discourse, that of a young man who

          wishes to woo a lady.  As you know, it is the fashion for

          men who would woo to write poems to their beloved, and to

          look greenly when she approach, to carry her picture in a

          locket, to sigh and swoon, and in otherwise make a great

          show on their affections.


          AB: Aye.  every spring, it seems, a fainting plague takes

          the young men of the city.


          YH: No doubt you have observed some young men who become so

          wrapped up in their pantomime that they forget the object of

          their affection and continue to behave so even after they

          have attained their desire, or after a seemly time has

          passed when the maid has made it plain the suit is not

          welcome.  Or, worse, that they so enjoy _being_ in love

          that they switch the object of their affection from one maid

          to the next, writing sonnets and romantic nonesense to a new

          woman every week.  They look ridiculous to all save

          themselves, and are held up in the commedia and everywhere

          else as laughable.  So too some storytellers take such

          deleight in their own telling that they shall tell the same

          tale over and over, well past when the company have grown

          tired of it.  Also, they put far too much emphasis upon

          their words and gestures.


          AB: But how can a storyteller know when he is in danger of

          becoming such a laughingstock.


          YH: Take heed of your audience and regard them well.  Do

          they shift uncomfortabley?  When you begin your story, do

          they seem to groan, or to look at the ground or their

          neighbor?  Also, as you tell your tale, you should keep

          careful eye upon them and so judge their mood. You must not

          become so involved in your tale that you forget the

          audience, or so involved in the audience that you forget

          your tale.  Also, it helps to know more than one story.

          Time and again, at bardic circles, I have heard the same

          fellow or two stand and tell the same story, for the

          fourteenth time.  The first time may be wonderous, the

          second splendid, but the tenth in quick succesion becomes



          AB: Should you never repeat a story, then?


          YH:  No, that is to go to far in the other extreme.

          Further, if you go to such great Faires as Pennsic or

          Estrella you may do well by moving from fire to fire.  I

          have myself eaten and drunken well on one story and two

          songs at Pennsic, since it is new to the different company

          each time.  Yet here I shall caution you of another danger.

           It may be that you tell a story so often that you yourself

          cannot bear to hear it again.  In that case, give it rest,

          for if you cannot tell a story with the same enthusiasm as

          before, the audience shall hear the boredom in your voice

          and will likewise find the tale tiresome.


          AB: It seems then a very good thing to have a large



          YH: Indeed it is.  In this way, also , you shall have

          stories for every occassion- bawdy tales for revellers,

          solemn tales for high occassions, romances for the ladies,

          and so forth.


          AB: Can you really keep track of so many stories in your



          YH:  Alas for our generation!  Of old, it is said that the

          Skols of the Norsmen could recite all the lineages of their

          kings and sing the praises of their ancestors. Our sages of

          old, may their memory be as a blessing, could recite the

          whole of the Talmud by heart.  Yet we cannot recall more

          than a handful of stories!  So does man ever decline.  Yet

          it is still possible to recall several different stories if

          one takes proper precautions.


          AB: And what are these?


          YH:  When you ready yourself to go to some bardic gathering

          or faire, take the trouble to refresh your memory and

          practice again those tales you wish to tell. Even if you

          are confident you can recall it, practice again at

          least once before you plan to tell it.  If someone requests

          a story from you, consider for a moment if all the details

          and segues are fresh in your mind.  It is no shame to tell

          someone who has requested a tale 'Alas, I fear I do not

          recall that one as well as I might, I shall surely tell it

          to you on the morrow.'  This shall not hurt your reputation,

          and may well draw the fellow back with friends to hear the

          tale.  Whereas, if you began and then discovered in the

          middle that you could not recall some crucial plot twist, or

          rembered it after it needed to go into the story, then you

          would look absurd and find yourself as the fool who plunged

          into the well to catch the moon.


          AB: Is it such a horrible thing, then, to forget a part of

          the story?


          YH:  Only if you do not know how to recover from your error.

           Too often have a seen a novice tale-teller with promise

          lift the audience to great heights with his talents only to

          send them crashing down again by stopping suddenly and

          saying: 'Oh, I forgot to mention, the knight had a magic

          sword.'  For the interuption plays havoc with the illusion

          you have created and the audience must be coaxed back again

          to the pleasant dream in which you had enraptured them.

          This work is far harder than it was before, like trying to

          put back to bed a friend you awakened by making a loud

          noise.  The awakened sleeper is grumpy, and blames you for

          rousing him from his pleasant state.  Worse, the storyteller

          frequently loses the rythm of the tale himself, and loses

          some measure of confidence.  These two things, the

          frustration of the audience and the nervousness of the

          storyteller, with its concominant loss of skill, wreak

          havoc with the tale and make a succesful conclusion

          difficult indeed.


          AB: Is there no way, then to recover from such a mistake?


          YH:  On the contrary, if you listen to what I say now, you

          will be able to recover from any such mistake of memory so

          easily that none shall detect it.  Recall that the audience

          _does_ _not_ _know_ _the_ _tale_.  Only you, the

          storyteller, know the tale.  Even if the audience be

          familiar with the plot, there are as many variations as

          there are storytellers.  Further, even if you yourself have

          told the story to this same audience aforetime, they will

          not remember every detail.  And, even if they do, they will

          think nothing of it.


          AB:  All this is true, but how does it help in this case?


          YH:  When you tell the tale and reach the part wherein you

          remember some forgotten and crucial detail, keep calm.  Do

          not panic, which is the precursor of defeat. Instead, work

          the detail into the story as if it were meant to come at

          just such a point.  Let us return to our example of the

          hapless storyteller.  Rather than saying: 'I forgot to say

          he had a magic sword that could cut through armor,' let him

          say: 'But unbeknownst to this villain, our hero had secured

          a magic sword from a djinn many years ago.  This very

          weapon, which could pierce any armor, now came into our

          hero's hand...'


          AB:  I see the cleverness of your device.  Even if a part of

          the tale has been omitted, it can be thus added as if it

          were meant to belong.


          YH:  Exactly.  Many such devices and variations exist.  The

          words 'meanwhile' or 'unbekownst to our hero/villain, and

          'for it was not known that' are your freinds and allies.

          Even if the audience suspects, they will forgive you, if the

          story continues to flow smoothly.  Afterwards, the clever

          among them may call you out on it.  In which case smile and

          do not deny it, but rather let them think themselves clever.

           It shall not diminsh you fame or honor to have a reputation

          for having recovered well in a difficult spot.


          AB:  Wise advice, but I must ask: what if you cannot

          remember the ending?


          YH: Pray that God will inspire you.  And speaking of

          prayer, the time draws nigh when I must return home to

          prepare for the Sabbath.


          AB:  Peace be with you then.  Perhaps, if God is kind, we

          may resume this discourse later.



From: HAROLD.FELD at hq.doe.GOV

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: More Storytelling.....(long)

Date: 4 May 1994 10:42:54 -0400


          Unto all who read these words, greetings from Yaakov.


          I have elected to change the form of my discourses on

          storytelling a triffle.


          A Dialogue Upon Storytelling, and the Manner of

          Storytelling, by Yaakov Hamizrachi, residing upon the Rialto



          Aura of Beffudlement:  Good brother Yaakov!  I am pleased to

          see you here upon Rialto Bridge.   In truth, I expected to

          find you here, for I am told by those that know you that you

          are here often, doing no real work, but engaged in debate

          with the other habitues of this place.


          Yaakov HaMizrachi: Sweet sister Aura!  Well glad I am to

          see you again.  How do you like the study and courses of the

          University?  I pursued them in bygone days myself.


          AB: I find them noble arts and necessary in the conduct of

          affairs, but I regret that while at University I neglected

          to learn bardic arts.  For, on my return to the Laurel

          Kingdoms, I found myself at bardic circles, where, to put it

          briefly, I was tongue tied and awkward, and regarded as

          little more than a block of wood.  I should have liked to

          have acquired skill in storytelling during the hours between

          serious studies, an accomplishment which would have rendered

          my company welcome to all.


          YH: That will be an easy thing by reading good books in

          order to sharpen your wit and by learning storytelling,

          singing and musical instruements.


          AB: I much enjoyed singing and playing the doumbec, which

          put me on good terms with the Horde.  But I could not get

          me a silver armband or other treasurer upon which, it seems

          to me, the reputation of a young bard depends.


          YH: You are quite right, as those who give treasurers and

          rewards do not desire to have splitting headaches, which

          comes from overmuch listening to the doumbec. Also,

          storytelling allows a patron to survey the bard and see all

          his aspect, to savor the quality of his performance, and to

          see if his breath emit an odor, as of bad meat. And the

          good storyteller do encompase all the arts of the performer

          such as singer, oratition, actor, and more that these others

          do not put forth.  Therefore is storytelling considered the

          best and most worthy of the bardic arts.


          AB: You speak truely, it seems to me, but that I have heard

          certain moralists and others rail against storytelling as an

          idle practice.  As you are a religious man I pray you tell

          me why it be permitted to spend time on such things, or to

          tell bawdy or other unseemly stories.


          YH:  For every detractor of stories, there are a hundred who

          do praise them for their power to teach and to give wholsome

          diversion.  The Rabbis report that the greatest among them

          knew all the tales of foxes, and of washerwomen, and for

          this were they considered great and learned. Further, it

          is reported that the High Priest was kept awake all the

          night before the Day of Antonement by storytellers, lest he

          suffer an emission in the night and be rendered unfit for

          service in the Temple.  The descendants of Ishmael so revere

          stories and storytellers that the tales of Mohamad are a

          source of law.  So too the Christains say that their Jesus

          preached by means of parables and stories.  Even the anceint

          pagans did thus, for it is said that Augustus himself could

          not sleep at night unless a storyteller stood by to relieve

          the cares of the day with fables and tales of wonder.


          AB: This seems a most excellent recomendation.   Yet what of

          the bawdy tales that are favored, that deal with matters

          coarse and plain.


          YH: Even these tales have value.  For, if you examine them,

          you will see that many of them have fine value and give good

          moral teaching, showing the vanity of love and romance and

          the futility of persuing one's venal desires. Also, in

          many of them, it is shown how those who behave immorally

          receive their comeuppence.


          AB: Your discourse shows me proper wisdom.  I see it can be

          meritorious to tell even the bawdiest tale. Therefore,

          since there is no shame in the matter, I would bid you teach

          me all that you can about this most excellent art.


          YH:  Since I know your quality, I know that you know the

          basics: To learn the tale well so that you are familiar with

          the details, to practice it, and to use one's body and one's

          voice in the telling.


          AB: Yes, these basics are known to me, so that I may tell a

          passable tale.  But now, dear brother, do confide in me the

          techniques and devices by which one may improve the telling

          of tales.





          YH: First, you must give thought to the language which you

          use.  The storyteller must, above all else, use words to

          paint an image.  Wherefore first I must caution you, if you

          tell what is commonly called a 'period' tale of old, to

          exise from your words all trace of modern loqutions and



          AB: But why should this be so?


          YH: Nothing will so anger your audience as to tease them

          into the image you desire then to tear it down before them.

          If you have filled their heads with the vision of Arthur and

          his knights of old, nothing could so jar them as to hear

          Arthur disclaim some modern jape or slang expression.  Then

          will the audience's dreams be dashed and your purpose



          AB:  But is it not true that some humor may be derived from

          this juxtaposition of imagery?


          YH: I'faith, a truely skilled storyteller may sometimes

          achieve this effect,  but more often than not it is the

          amature who does this by accident, never noticing the slip

          that has tripped off his tongue.  Even if the audience

          laughs, you have but gained cheap laughter of no account.

          You may as well saved everyone the trouble of listening to

          you and broken wind loudly before your elders.


          AB: Your point is well taken, but do you speak against all

          comedy then?


          YH: Heaven forfend!  The gift of laughter is one of the

          greatest gifts the Holy One, Blessed be He, has given to

          man.  But recall that you are bard, not a buffon.  The Bard

          uses wit, and satire, and irony.


          AB: How may this be achieved?


          YH: Irony is a great weapon.  Make it sharp, but not so

          subtle that it passes out of view of your audience.

          Euphamism may also aid you, especially if you use it

          ironically.  For example, if you said of a man in the act of

          fleeing his foe 'and so he exercised that bravery and

          intelligent discretion for which he was justly famous.'


          AB: And, as you have said, the gesticulations of the hand

          and face should also compliment this effect.


          YH: Precisely so.  Further, you may make the point with the

          quality of your voice, and contrasting it with the

          description given in words.  For example, if you said of a

          harriden: and then, in her own sweet dulcet tones, she

          gently exclaimed' and then screached out the words, that

          would work as well.


          AB: I see.


          YH: Yet I urge you to be wary and not to overuse any one

          trick.  A song may be beautiful once, but it becomes tedious

          to hear again and again.  In a tale, you must balance the

          tricks you use for effect.


          AB: Yet how does one know the proper balance?


          YH: That skill comes with time and much practice.  If you

          persist, then you shall learn the way of it. But come, the

          hour of nones comes nigh, and I am famished and parched.


          AB: In truth, good brother, so am I.  Let us continue our

          discourses after we have taken refreshment.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org