by Berice Dudley

STORYTELLING is the art, in which a teller conveys a message, truths, information, knowledge, or wisdom to an audience – often subliminally – in an entertaining way, using whatever skills, (musical, artistic, creative) or props he chooses; to enhance the audience’s enjoyment, retention and understanding of the message conveyed. Stories are sometimes told purely for joy and delight.

I am aware that the above definition does not exclude, for example, George Miller, storyteller and producer of movies: Mad Max and Babe; or master storyteller and author, Bryce Courtenay, who lays his stories down in print, as well as telling them.

Perhaps our definition should be qualified for `oral storytelling’. The more I think about storytelling and attempt to nail it down with a definition, the more it slips away, like quicksilver. Like happiness, storytelling means different things to different people. Writing a definition is like pulling the wings off a butterfly, to see how it flies. `The whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts’.

The need for a definition, arises from the need of professional tellers to be recognised, hired and paid an appropriate fee for their valuable services. The buyer wants to know `What’s in it for me’.

We need to convince curriculum planners in Education Departments:

(1) What a valuable tool storytelling is, when used to get a message across to students.

(2) How storytelling can be used successfully, right across the curriculum – in reading, writing, history, science and many other subjects – in both primary and secondary schools; to benefit both teachers and students.

(3) Storytelling is useful in multi cultural education; it can assist in creating classroom communities; in improving students’ emotional health; enhancing childrens’ grasp of our social and environmental responsibilities.

Stories truly are tools, the familiar implements of a teaching method, as ancient as speech – yet utterly modern. Quote from preface to: Tales as Tools – the Power of Story in the classroom. – National Storytelling, USA. 1994.

Once taught as a subject and used by teachers knowingly, as a valuable tool, it can evolve from there to till whatever needs arise.

As for different levels and types of storytelling, and applications of each type, we draw your attention to the criteria for storytelling accreditation, set up and working well for Australian Storytelling Guild (NSW).

But that’s the business side of Storytelling and I need to recapture some of the magic, so I’ll close with a quote:

`Each of us has been designed for one of two immortal functions, as either a storyteller or as a cross-legged listener to tales of wonder, love and daring. When we cease to tell or listen, then we no longer exist as a people. Dead men tell no tales.’ — Bryce Courtenay `A Recipe for dreaming’.

Berice Dudley, NSW © 1997,


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