The origin of stories is an interesting one in itself – oral was king long before print became a reality. It had to be given the lack of literacy as we know it now but what I find great is that the oral tradition is still hugely important and will remain so. This to me implies a consistent flow of stories over the centuries and long may that continue. The world of stories should not remain static (otherwise it will stagnate and what stagnates dies).
Coming to more recent times, Dickens loved reading his stories to paying audiences. Writers now often take part in Open Mic nights and so on. Also, where would certain radio stations be without their dramas, comedies, short stories or books at bedtime extracts?
Theatre, when all is said and done, is a story acted out for the audience but they must still listen and so the oral tradition of storytelling not only survives, it thrives. It disguises itself in other medium such as film and television where people are still buying into the stories they want to listen to/watch. But they have to listen to the words as well as watch the action so oral storytelling will not die out.
Books and Memories
Naturally we cannot do without print stories either. Two of the great joys in life are, firstly, treasuring a much loved book and re-reading it often and, secondly, discovering new authors and genres out there. Some you’ll love, others you won’t but the world of books is a great one to explore. You will run out of time long before you run out of books to try.
Janet and I will have just seen The Chameleons’ performance of Ali Baba and The Forty Thieves when this post goes live. I can’t remember when I last read the story but it is in a book I treasure – The Reader’s Digest Book of Fairytales. This is a two-volume set, fully illustrated in colour, and contain the original tales collected by Grimm, Perrault, Andersen etc and the ones they wrote to add to the fairytale tradition. It is hard to imagine fairytales without The Little Mermaid or The Ugly Duckling in them now.
These books were given to me by my father. I was probably about 7 or so. I still have those books, one is more well thumbed than the other and has its spine bound up with gaffer tape! If those books ever leave my house permanently, you will know I’m no longer there either!
Much as I can see the point to decluttering, there are just some things I can’t part with. Books have treasured memories associated with them and you don’t just declutter them! Naturally I can see Janet disagreeing with me on this point but for some things, I find it comforting to have something tangible and whenever I see these books, they bring back very fond memories of my early life and, in particular, having my nose in these stories when I was a young girl and loving the beautiful pictures in them.
As for the story of Ali Baba, it is included in One Thousand and One Nights. This collection proves frame stories are nothing new either given the whole thing pivots on Scheherazade telling her husband a tale every night but without ending it making him spare her life each morning so he can listen to the rest of the tale the following night. Well, when you know he has each new wife executed the morning after the wedding so she has no chance to be unfaithful to him, you would have to find some way of prolonging your life wouldn’t you?!
So you get the joy of reading/listening to “her” stories and wondering if she runs out of ideas and if so what will happen to her. The traditional ending is that by the time Scheherazade runs out of inspiration (and there isn’t a writer anywhere who wouldn’t sympathise with her on that one!), her husband gives her a pardon and spares her life for good. (This is annoying in one sense given she hasn’t done anything wrong but from a storytelling viewpoint, it really couldn’t end any other way).
Ali Baba itself proves the point that fairytales are far from twee and it has violence in it. Anyone for some boiling oil and bodies being stitched together? Hmm… wonder how the Chameleons are going to show that! I expect there will be some editing of the original story (as Disney would have had to have done for The Little Mermaid). I look forward to reviewing the show next week.
Favourite Character Type
I always liked the role of the clever serving girl, Morgiana. I’ve long had a very soft spot for when a lowly character is clearly smarter than those supposed to be superior to them. (P.G. Wodehouse was the master of this when it came to his Jeeves and Wooster creations, so wonderfully brought to life on screen by Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie).
Growing up in the 1970s, I was particularly keen on stories of girls being smart and not just “dolly birds” there to be rescued. I became tired of those very quickly! It is also why I loved Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who and Lady Penelope in Thunderbirds, who could and did hold their own. (They also got it wrong, badly wrong at times, and I liked that too). Morgiana certainly holds her own in Ali Baba. There’s someone you don’t cross if you value your life.
What is lovely about stories is how so many of them cross time and cultures. There are many versions of the Cinderella story for example but the common element – that of a rag to riches tale – is shown throughout them all. It also shows themes people like to identify with, which is another interesting thought. Do we all think we are in “rags” and want a “fairy godmother” to turn up and help us out after all? Maybe my Three Wishes post last week was on to something then!
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.