The subject of story-telling is super-trendy right now. I feel like everyone is saying, “We’re storytellers, we harness the power of story, we teach through story.” And often, they say this as if they’d discovered it, or been the first to make use of story.
I don’t disagree about the power of stories. I absolutely agree.
And when I was reading a book of Aesop’s Fables, I was reminded that although the power of story-telling is trendy right now, it’s an ancient truth that has been recognized throughout the centuries.
Aesop’s Fables date from the 5th-6th century BCE. There are various versions, and in my collection, the story “Demades and the Audience” recounts:
Demades, a famous Greek orator, was once addressing an assembly of Athens on a subject of great importance and in vain tried to fix the attention of his hearers. They laughed among themselves, watched the sports of the children, and in twenty other ways showed their want of concern in the subject of the discourse. Demades, after a short pause, spoke as follows: “[The goddess] Ceres one day journeyed in company with a swallow and [an] eel.” At this point there was marked attention and every ear trained now to catch the words of the orator.
As English writer, G. K. Chesterton observed, “Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.”
It’s a truth too important to be new: We listen best when we listen to a story.