Monday, December 01, 2008

Who Were the First Storytellers?

The First Storytellers Were the Original Agents of
Change Who Helped Create Our Human Nature?
An Introduction to The First Story Ever Told.
© Paschal Baute, draft 3.0., 12/1

Long time ago, a very long time ago, in the primitive world, something new in the universe happened. About 5,000 grandmothers ago, about 100,000 years ago, human burial ritualized graves were found.

Until that date human bones were found simply scattered anywhere, but about that time, early humans buried their dead with ceremonial rituals, with tools, weapons, and small animal.

It is clear that humans about that time began to imagine things not present. Our ancestors faced the first great mystery of life: death--what was the meaning of death?

Now we have a family member alive, a hunting companion, a friend, a wife, a child, a parent, talking, warm, then suddenly they are dead, cold and beginning decay. How can we cope with this loss, this change? Apparently this is the beginning of human imagination, with the language skills emerging to conceptualize. As far as we can know it was death and burial that spurred the power to think of things not present with our human ancestors..

The stories about life and death, about courage and survival usually came from some singular gifted individual. Human change, as Joseph Campbell remarks in The Power of Myth, comes from an elite, not from the common folk. It was a singular person who envisioned something different, who invented a story to explain what others could not yet explain. Probably as he developed his storytelling and story making, his status developed as a tribal resource.

Storytelling, myth-making, had a survival value. Stories of courage, survival, and of heroism inspired others, motivated the tribe to compete more vigorously, and thus lead to better chance of survival. Whoever believed they were the bravest would more likely survive. We might call this the early placebo effect of belief.

Furthermore, who ever told the best stories won. We see this in Hebrew literature. The body of Hebrew literature was created by scribes and priests about 700 B.C. Ye, in comparison with all other empires and Wisdom traditions this was the literature that helped create our Western civilization.

Early storytellers, myth-makers began to be valued as helpful resources, to be listened to and learned from. These storytellers were the original myth-makers, creator of stories of survival that helped energized survival. They were the creators of culture who helped develop the power of imagination, the great human talent to think of things that were not present.

For many thousands of years, perhaps 95,000, we humans have is oral traditions, those passed on by storytelling, orally. Our human nature requires story as plots are universal: overcoming the monster, rags to riches, the quest, voyage and return, tragedy and comedy, rebirth and transformation. (Christopher Booker, 2005). Our first evidence of writing is about 5,000 years ago. The human imagination needed all of these plots.

In contrast with the mythology in the story of Adam and Eve learning the meaning of death as punishment for the disobedience of eating the forbidden fruit (This story is known to be copied from other ancient creation mythologies), does it not make more sense that human nature as we know it today began when the very first storytellers confronted the mysterious meaning of death, and began stories of an after life into which we passed by death? The inescapable archeological fact is that decorated graves began about 100,000 years ago.

Donald Hamilton proposes that at a certain time the Creator simply gave the gift of imagination to the evolving humans. This would be considered an activitist form of Intelligent Design. This theory seems contrived, like a Deus ex Machina to solve an evolutionary advance. I propose that it was the struggle to survive and the competitive advantage provided though storytelling that was itself the agent for the evolution of the modern man and his ability to imagine what is not present.

Joseph Campbell in the Power of Myth, the first storytellers, suggests that human change always comes not from some consensus of the ordinary folk but through the elite, the local visionaries. Among early mankind, the storytellers were the ones who created the burial rituals, and so spurred the development of language and culture.

Human graves decorated with artefacts suggest this primitive search for meaning began many thousand years ago.

So, if you are a storyteller and want to become one, realize that this skill, this art, this tradition, this occupation, was perhaps the earliest and most important in the entire range of the evolution of humans.

So when you enjoy storytelling, are fascinated with stories, catch stories, create stories, you are actually participating in the very same activity that created our human nature, the power of the imagination that has created the entire modern world.

Storytelling remains today as popular as ever, perhaps more so, still with print media, books, movies. Perhaps our first Black President won because he told the best story.

Now let me introduce you to the First Story of the Very First Storyteller.

Armstrong, Karen, A Brief History of Myth
Booker, Christopher, The Seven Basic Plots of Story
Campbell, Joseph, The :Power of Myth
Hamilton, Donald, the Mind of Mankind
Many articles on the Internet about the origins of storytelling.
See also other articles posted on Paschal’s Amazement blog ”

© Paschal Baute. 2008