We’ve all done it. Sitting around the campfire with friends, we find ourselves telling a story about some crazy thing we did or some weird thing that happened to us. It doesn’t even have to be a recent story, but even one that happened years ago. The tradition of oral storytelling is one that goes back to ancient times. But why is there this fascination with telling other people stories? What purpose does it serve?
On the most basic level, telling each other stories is just fun. I’ve recently been listening to these videos by a Youtube channel known as “Let’s Read”. It’s essentially a podcast primarily focused around spooky, scary stories shared via Reddit, an online forum. I’ve taken to listening to these in the background as I play a game or whatever. It’s strangely soothing, even with the spooky subject matter.
It’s not just the storyteller that gets something out of it. It’s fun to listen to other people’s stories as well.
Which brings us to another reason for storytelling: to connect to other people. Storytelling isn’t just a fun little thing that people do for the sheer sake of it. It serves an important social purpose by allowing people to come together and find some common ground through the lens of stories. Going back to that Youtube channel I mentioned earlier, a decent amount of the people who submit stories are doing so in the hopes that others have had similar experiences or will be able to help shed some light on the strange occurrences within their story. Stories give us a way to reach out and become a part of another person’s life, even if just in a small way.
But there are other, more selfish reasons for storytelling as well. One of these is for us to sharpen our oral skills. By telling stories, we as human beings become more proficient in conversation. We also become better at telling the stories as well, which is a very useful skill if you’re, say, a writer.
There can also be a generational purpose for stories. For example, if the father tells the son a story about the grandfather he never met, the son can feel more connected to the grandfather even if that person is no longer with us. Stories can be a way to pass down experiences and skills, as well as just keeping someone’s memories alive.
In any case, oral storytelling has been around a very, very long time. And it hasn’t changed much since the ancient times. So the next time you’re sitting around the fire with a bunch of friends, it’s only a matter of time before one of them regales the group with a story, true or not. Because after all, some of our favorite stories are the ones that have been embellished or even outright made up.