Storytelling  Information and Resources


Cover Image – The Native American storytelling doll originated in the Southwest USA. The doll was a woman or man surrounded by children, and sometimes animals.

The doll symbolizes everyone’s potential to be a storyteller.

In many cultures the storyteller was the holder of traditions, carrier of family lineage, educator, peacemaker, and healer.


  • Heals physical, mental, emotional, & spiritual wounds
  • Inspires
  • Offers knowledge and wisdom
  • Creates cultural, community, and family legacy
  • Bridges differences
  • Educates
  • Shows common experiences of humanity
  • Entertains
  • Enlightens
  • Motivates compassion
  • Promotes Peace


Story’s Essential Ingredient – Listening

Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. . .When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.  — Brenda Ueland

For a story to succeed, it must be heard, or seen, or read. The essential talent for the storyteller to develop is the ability to really hear, to listen, without judgment or preconceived ideas. To truly hear a story you must take on a child’s mind – be open, observant, curious, and excited to enter the world of your mind’s eye – your imagination. To learn to listen to others, you must be sure you are able to listen to yourself.


The receptive listener allows us to express what we think and feel. Being heard and acknowledged helps us clarify both the thoughts and the feelings, in the process firming our sense of ourselves.

— Michael P. Nichols


The Power of Listening – A Story

Momo could listen in such a way that worried and indecisive people knew their own minds from one moment to the next, or shy people felt suddenly confident and at ease, or downhearted people felt happy and hopeful.

 If someone felt that his life had been an utter failure, and that he himself was only one among millions of wholly unimportant people who could be replaced as easily as broken windowpanes, he would go and pour out his heart to Momo.

 And, even as he spoke, he would come to realize by some mysterious means that he was absolutely wrong: that there was only one person like himself in the whole world, and that, consequently, he mattered to the world in his own particular way.   — Michael Ende

Some Storytelling Definitions

From Storytelling Encyclopedia

Edited by David Adams Leeming and Marion Sader by Oryx Press 1997

Allegory – From the Greek allos – other and agoria – speaking. Other speaking, a method of using characters, places, events and objects to have a symbolic meaning. Most important function is to teach. “Allegories attempt to impart some level of wisdom, ideology, or truth to the reader, listener or observer.” Personification is primary vehicle of allegory.

Example: Once upon a time a shining, silver dollar coin sat in a special place on a beautiful woman’s desk. She kept the coin shining and polished because it was a Peace Coin. The coin felt important and treasured. But another war started and the woman’s heart broke. She put the coin in her purse to protect her. In the dark, it began to tarnish. The coin felt neglected and unimportant.

One day, as the woman rushed to catch a bus, the coin fell from her purse. It was stepped on, rained on, and blown down streets. It was scratched and bruised before someone found it and spent it. Years flowed into decades until the coin was tossed into a jar with many other neglected, unused coins. It no longer felt important. It was just another worthless, tarnished, scarred coin of no value to anyone.

Until one day, the coin felt a breath of fresh air and heard an exclamation of delight, “Look a 1923 Peace Coin.” Gentle hands, washed and polished the coin and placed it on a shelf. The coin knew then even in its time of greatest neglect, it remained and would always be a special shining symbol for peace.

– By Skywalker Payne

Anecdote – short, narrative about a single interesting incident. Most often used for personal stories.

Examples: News features on an outstanding whaler in a community or an artist’s newest work.

Ballad – a folk song that tells a story. Does not have to be sung but usually has a definite rhyme scheme and sometimes a refrain. Come from folk tradition and have been written as literature. Usually address serious inter-personal issues, events, and historic events and individuals. You can find many ballads on the internet.

Fable – Short story, told in prose or poetry, designed to share a moral ethic or method of good conduct. Most fables use allegory and personified animal characters. Aesop was a black Greek slave who wrote hundreds of fables.

Example – An Ant, nimbly running about in the sunshine in search of food, came across a Chrysalis that was very near its time of change. The Chrysalis moving its tail and thrusting attracted the attention of the Ant, who then saw for the first time that it was alive.

“Poor, pitiable animal!” cried the Ant disdainfully. “What a sad fate is yours! While I can run hither and thither, at my pleasure, and, if I wish, ascend the tallest tree, you lie imprisoned here in your shell, with power only to move a joint or two of your scaly tail.”

The Chrysalis heard all this, but did not try to make any reply. A few days later, when the Ant passed that way again, nothing but the shell remained. Wondering what had become of its contents, he felt himself suddenly shaded and fanned by the gorgeous wings of a beautiful Butterfly.

“Behold in me,” said the Butterfly, “your much-pitied friend! Boast now of your powers to run and climb as long as you can get me to listen.”

So saying, the Butterfly rose in the air, and borne along and aloft on the summer breeze, was soon lost to the sight of the Ant forever.

Appearances can be deceptive.

Folktales – “Imaginative and magical tales from many cultures whose primary purpose is to entertain. . .” They often address serious topics and offer lessons. Heros often overcome adverse circumstances, supernatural and magical elements.

Example – This folktale is from the former slaves of the South Carolina coastal islands. They had their own way of speaking called Gullah. Once when de grass was greener, trees taller, and de sun shone more bright den it do today, der was a man and wife. Der daughta marry de debil but she not know he be de debil. He take her home to burn her up. Ole’ woman gib her tree needles and tell her to trow one down when she needs help. She ump on de debil’s fastest horse and ride ‘im off. Roosa sing, “Massa, massa, yo’ pretty gal gone home fo‘ day dis morning.” De masta say, I tink I hea my woosta’s boice.” De woosta sing, “Go east massa, go east massa, you pretty gal gone home fo dis mornin’.  De debil get on his horse, just bout to catch up wit de gal, she drop de first needle. Big forest rise up. Gal keep riding but da debil get close, she drop de second needle and a wide lake rise up. She almos home and de debil right behin her an she drop de tird needle an big fire rise up an burn up de debil and she ride on home. Step on a tine, de tin bend, it’s how dis story ends.

Personal Storytelling – Live, true storytelling occurs around the world in theatres, bars, libraries and other venues from India to Ireland to New York City. The Moth, established in 1997 by George Dawes Green is one of the largest and most established organizations presenting live storytelling events. These are true stories, told without notes


Ideas for Telling Your Personal Stories 

  • Childhood memories – best friend(s), games, school, family
  • Puberty – relationships, sports, school, dreams, accidents
  • Favorites – food, clothes, entertainment
  • Spiritual – beliefs, experiences, influences
  • Family – good times, bad times, celebrations, travels
    • Births – yours, your children, relatives, friends
    • Deaths – family, friends, accidents, unexpected
    • Sickness – yours, others, overcoming, living with
    • Caretaking – challenges, rewards, lessons learned
  • Places – lived in, visited, liked, disliked
  • Work – loved, hated, dream work, successes, failures
  • Homes – favorite, description
  • Creativity – drawing, cooking, dance, building, sewing
  • Adventures
  • Disasters
  • Frightening
  • Dreams – ambitions
  • The opposite sex – interesting encounters
  • Accomplishments – work, family, school, creative, military
  • Contributions – service, volunteer work, family
  • Gratitude



Doug Lipman, “Story Listening as a Transformative Process.” In Diving in the Moon: Journal of the Healing Story Alliance, 2013.

Brenda Uehland, “Tell Me More: On the Fine Art of Listening.” In Strength to My Sword Arm, Holy Cow Press: Minneapolis, MN 1996 (1941).

Michael P. Nichols, The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships, Second Edition, NY: The Guilford Press, 2009. p. 23.

Michael Ende, Momo. Translated by J. Maxwell Brownjohn. Doubleday 1985 New York: Doubleday, 1985. pp. 10-12.

Jack Maguire, quoted at