Myths and Storytelling, Part Four
Stories and myths have impacted our world and worldview for thousands of years. This is how we learned to understand and navigate our environment. It also became a powerful tool for education and entertainment. Throughout time storyteller have woven the fabric of our societies and cultures. A storyteller captures your attention. They weave a story that creates pictures in your mind and heart. We feel the tension of the story arc as they create the characters, setting and action that fill the story. We then also feel the release of the tension through laughter or humor and powerful endings or conclusions to the tale we have either read, listened to or been a part of in some way.
Storytelling could be one of the most important traditions human’s possess. Every story contains a lesson to guide or instruct their audience. Stories teach us to love, to forgive others, to be just and to strive forward in a variety of directions. The hero’s journey and all the archetypes we explore from time to time developed over the ages through storytelling.
When people talk about the great storytellers of the modern era J.K. Rowling is included on any list compiled. Rowling’s true genius lies not in pure prose, but in story structure. She is a great storyteller. She started foreshadowing the end of the series from the very beginning. There are many subthreads that develop throughout the series and in each book. A good example is when we meet the Grey Lady in book one, only to learn about the importance to the founding of Hogwarts and the destruction of the Horcruxes in the seventh book. This is very impressive as a storyteller. The focus involved in her storytelling is profound.
And yet as powerful as the plotting is in the Harry Potter series, it would not have been read by millions without Rowling’s command of characterization. She creates a rich interpersonal world within the wizarding community. We care about these characters. It is a simple narrative necessity of demonstrating emotional intelligence. This is a very important quality that powerful storytellers have.
Rowling’s ability to develop characterization is amazing. From Harry Potter to the seemingly minor person and supporting characters she creates distinct, relatable characters. Mrs. Dursley is a nosy gossip; Hermione Granger is a shy and awkward brain. Ron Wesley is the funny, red headed side kick for Harry. Ron develops and grows dramatically throughout the series , as do all of her main characters. By the end of the Harry Potter series Ron has grown into a powerful Horcrux bashing warrior.
Along with her ability to create highly developed characters and relationships between them J.K. Rowling also is a world builder. Her ability to create a just out of sight magical world with its own system probably isn’t the most impressive thing about the Harry Potter series, but it is very hard to do well. Rowling’s created an entire subculture, complete with government, sports, economy and history for her characters to live in.
For those of you who care there is a “Harry Potter For Writers” website (harrypotterforwriters.blogspot.com) He you are introduced to the world building of Harry Potter’s world.
Rowling slowly broadens the scope of this world from Sorceror’s Stone weaving the setting and wizarding culture into all the books of the series.
Our next modern novelist in this blog is Peter Matthiessen. He was a naturalist, wilderness writer, zen teacher and CIA agent. He was one of the few writers to have won the National Book Award in both fiction and non-fiction. Several of his books have been made into movies.
His fifth novel, Far Tortuga is an amazing experience to read. He captured a series of moments with a clarity that quickens the blood. The poetry in this book has a curious quality that contributes to his storyteller’s narrative style. His joy in writing this book about the Caribbean and the green turtle migration is obvious throughout the story.
Another one of his famous books is The Snow Leopard which is about a powerful trek in the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal. His writing even in non-fiction is that of a spellbinding storyteller. His words create powerful images that guide you through the world he is in either in non-fiction or fiction. A genius and master storyteller for our culture.
Storytelling and myths are the fabric of our world’s tapestry. Stories are what our ancestors gave their children and have been down to us through time. Hopefully we can cherish them and pass them on to future generations.