Stories to Aging Children Come
I hit a milestone this year. I applied for Medicare. And so marks my transition into old age. I’ve been thinking a lot this year about how to transition myself as a storyteller, as well, in my golden years. There have been some trends in the last ten years or so, that are making our ilk seemingly less useful. For those of us who ALSO tell folktales and recognize their value to the world of storytelling at large, there seems to be more and more focus on telling personal tales, while the value of the old tales, that have been with us for thousands of years, is being pushed aside. The other trend is how we make our money (if that is a path that we choose). I have noticed that libraries are shifting more to “makers” environments in which children create. Schools are focusing on science and technology and don’t have time to fit storytelling into their already jammed curriculum (and sadly, some don’t have the funding either). It makes me wonder where Einstein would chime in on this change, i.e., ”if you want your children to be brilliant, read them folktales.”
I personally feel that personal storytellers greatly benefit from a foundation in folktales. By being exposed to archetypes, a variety of story arcs, and provided modeling by some excellent tellers who have met the test in a variety of scenarios and audiences, their work could only improve. When I hear personal stories, I can usually identify those who have already had a foundation in folklore. What’s more, with a background in folktales as well, there are more audiences to perform for, e.g., children and families, as well as adults. I will always be there for those who are seeking to understand the contribution of folktales to storytelling at large. But it is not my battle to fight, to convince them otherwise.
It has been hard to even try to resist these trends. Just like I don’t believe we should continue to fund coal as an answer to today’s energy needs, could it be that the old folktales and those who tell them are going away too, and we must make way for the young hipsters and their equal draw to personal storytelling? Is it an indication of the evolution of our culture at this point in time, and about that, nothing can be done?
I must admit that I am one of the more fortunate ones, as I don’t rely on storytelling for an income, although I am a proponent of all tellers being paid for all that they contribute, including myself. I had a conversation with a storytelling peer recently who just got a well-paying and intriguing new job, for which he was very well-suited. He was happy, that now, he could pick and choose what he wanted to do with regards to his storytelling portfolio, and develop more in-depth material. He added that he had been so focused on making money in storytelling over the years, that most of the material that he developed was to meet a client need, rather than to satisfy his own creative spirit.
Accordingly, I am entering a time of kicking back, of reflection. A time where I can give more thought to what I perform with myself as the ultimate client. I’m sure there will some who will not like what comes out of that experience, but then again….it may, in the end, be my best work. I will be creating like a child…for the sheer pleasure of it.