Ron Lancaster: Storyteller

Ron Lancaster

The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.

I have been a storyteller for 30 years. But storytelling goes back even further, probably to the first campfire, and it likely corresponds with the birth of language. Smoke signals and pantomime just wouldn’t do. There was way too much to talk about.

It is man’s first communal entertainment and art form. In times of old, good storytellers had an important position in a group. He or she could offer the comfort of well-crafted stories no matter the troops of troubles that would beset the listeners.

We all tell stories whenever we are with other people, whether it is about a trip to the market or an incident at work. It would be hard to turn off that faucet whenever people gather. Being the very essence of community and friendship, it is the glue that cements families, religions, politics and the full array of human interactions.

In a world as prickly as a hedgehog, a good tale will soothe the hardest heart and tame the fiercest warrior callous with intent. It can stop a child from crying and bring a mother to tears of joy.

With the advent of written language some 600 decades ago, we planted an anchor in the sands of time. We could begin to pass along stories in a multitude of modes: myths, parables, fairy tales, folk tales, histories, allegories and incidents of pathos or humor. It became a wide-open venue for our very lives. Before writing, the great sagas and legends had to be memorized to pass on to future generations. Homer’s colossal stories would be too challenging a chore for modern tellers if they had to remember thousands of lines. Our minds have moved past that kind of labor.

A dull sermon or speech without the juice of a story to lock the listeners in allows the audience to slip off into imagination with a story of their own choosing, all the while seeming to pay attention. And no one is the wiser because everyone is doing it, except the one doing the pontificating.

Stories create wonder because they are wonder-full. It is a joy to watch a child be wide-eyed hearing a fairy tale about a knight slaying a dragon or a dreamy-eyed teenage girl shed happy tears over a love gone right.

I usually perform for a more mature adult audience that can appreciate themes that only time will ripen into understanding. Using humor as a tool to bring a spark of good fun that sometimes hides hidden and alone, I try to coax smiles and laughter out into the open and away from our mutual world of cares.

Storytelling is our most valuable art because it is everywhere people come together. They can transport us to the heights of delight and wonder and give perspective where it was once thought lost. This art is a real treasure chest that contains a real treasure — our best qualities. They are not lost. They are a twinkle in the eye away.

Ron Lancaster is a professional storyteller, retired teacher, veteran and author of five books.