Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tell Us the Truth, Ruth, Part 1

From Ruth Sawyer's The Way of the Storyteller (Viking Press, 1942):

"Storytelling is a folk art. To approach it with the feelings and the ideas of an intellectual or sophisticate is at once to drive it under the domination of mind and critical sense. All folk-arts have grown out of the primal urge to give tongue to what has been seen, heard, experienced. They have been motivated by simple, direct folk-emotions, by imagination; they have been shaped by folk wisdom. To bring a sophisticated attitude to a folk art is to jeopardize it. Or rather, it is to make it into something that it is not. To the unpracticed, unthinking public there is no difference between dramatic reading, recitation, and storytelling. But to one who knows, dramatic reading and recitation belong to a comparatively modern and sophisticated age, and storytelling is one of the oldest traditional arts, having its roots in the art of articulate expression. I think is is a common experience among storytellers of long standing to have the millstones of dramatic reading and recitation hung about their necks. Sometimes worse. The wife of a university president once said to me: "I haven't any parlor tricks. I wish you'd stay a week and give me some lessons in storytelling."

Of course, isn't the very act of reading a book about storytelling kind of like copping the attitude of "an intellectual or sophisticate"? OMG, I've corrupted myself!

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