The Travelling Storyteller

This is a little story that I created in order to illustrate a point.  I’m putting it up here for the fun of it.

It’s a few thousand years back in time, somewhere in the land that we now known of as the Middle East.  It is after sunset, and a group of people are huddled around a campfire.  The evening meal has long since been eaten; now it is the time for the telling of stories and exchange of the day’s events.  Tonight, however, is a special night for the members of the this nomadic tribe.  Tonight they have a visitor has come to join them, a wandering story-teller bringing news of other tribes in other lands.  For some of the women, the daughters of relatives scattered amongst those distant clans, it is an opportunity to receive news of home.  Kept separate from the knot of men by the fire by tribal tradition, they strain their ears from behind tent walls, eager to catch whatever news and stories the traveler will relate.

The traveler, what we would call a minstrel in the West, knows that a large part of his job is to keep his listeners entertained.  To do this, he will mingle fact with fiction, create a story out of mundane reality.  He will then adapt the story to suit the tastes of each individual audience, changing heroes into villains and vice versa, depending on who he’s telling it to.  He has to be careful not to upset the sensibilities of the tribal elders, or say anything that might be considered as undermining the authority of the local kings.  It is, in fact, part of his job to weave into his stories whatever legends or lineages the local kings or leaders want to propagate about themselves.  Some want their exploits elevated to the level of legend, and their foes turned into mythical beasts; others want to reinforce their authority through claims of godhood, or at least descent from the god of their choosing.  He obliges by dutifully crafting stories where these same kings or their ancestors are depicted as being the sons of gods, and real-life battles are recast as wars waged against superhuman opponents.  Of course, good, as represented by the king, the elders, or the ancestors, always triumphs over the evil of its adversaries.

He has decided that tonight he will regale his listeners with a story set to the backdrop of an ancient legend that he learned about during his travels to the east.  Since his audience is a wandering tribe of semetic shepherds, he will need to tailor it to suit their own unique history and peculiar religious beliefs.  All mention of those eastern gods will need to be purged though, and replaced with these people’s god.  That’s always very important, getting the gods right, particularly in these distant regions where foreign gods are often demonized.       He’ll also need to make the central character one of their patriarchs.  That part is easy.  If he doesn’t know of one, or can’t think of a suitable historical figure, he will just create one and give him a back-ground suitable to a legendary patriarch.  If he’s convincing enough, and he usually is, these people here tonight might even believe the yarn is about to spin.

He takes a sip from the pounded silver cup at his side, hiding his smile behind it.  These people are aliens, foreigners, in someone else’s land.  They are small in numbers, but have a strong belief in their own ways and customs.  One could say that they had a sense of historic destiny.  And, while they are not antagonistic towards the gods of the people around them – that will surely come with time, though; it always does –  the god that they worship is different from that of the people around them.  A story about an outsider desperately trying to get people to listen to his warnings about impending disaster, and having those warnings fall on deaf ears because he is an outsider, will certainly resonate with them.

He lowers the cup, placing it on the ground by his side where he can easily reach it whenever his mouth becomes dry, and clears his throat in the universal signal that the story is about to begin.
“This is a story about your ancestor Noah, a man called by God to warn the people around him about a disaster that was about to strike this land and about the people refused to listen to his message…”   So began his story, a story that unknown to him, would be passed down from generation to generation over thousands of years, believed and loved by a people who took it for the historical truth.  This mysterious stranger, this wandering storyteller, was without a doubt, the best of not only his generation, but of many generations to come. Strange, and somewhat sad, that nobody ever asked him his name…

 

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