Why are stories so important?

May 19th, 2019

My dad was a storyteller. It’s not a hard thing to be in Tasmania, which is packed to the brim with strangeness, beauty and tragedy.

So when my brothers and I were kids, on the long drives from Launceston to Hobart to visit family, Dad would tell us stories about the Halfway House, the Disappearing House, the champion ram’s skull that was nailed to a telegraph pole just south of Oatlands, and the mud brick walls where convicts used to be chained at night.

And because he knew that a good story was more important than the absolute truth, he would also point out the tumbledown cottage where the three little pigs used to live.

It was a good way to entertain four children on an otherwise boring drive. But for me, it was also the beginning of a long and stubborn desire to be a storyteller myself.

What is it about stories? They are such a deep part of being human. Why do we love them so much? Why are they so important?

“There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.” Ursula le Guin

When I was a teenager, my teachers told us it was tools that made us human. Then they said it was language. Turns out they were wrong both times. Other species use tools. Other species use language. But as far as we know, humans are the only ones who tell stories.

As far as we know.

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