Today is National Storytelling Day. What a wonderful concept and one that fills my mind with images of the old Irish seanchaí. One of my favorite daydreams, all my life, was to imagine sitting around the hearth with family and friends, listening to the stories the seanchaí told, hearing the crackling of the fire, the wind blowing through the thatched roof, a mug of ale passed around…
This person, sometimes a wanderer, sometimes a member of the community, kept memories alive. Some also brought news from faraway places, tales of the deeds of the great and not so great, and always the old legends, brought to life as only a storyteller can. The Irish had a long-standing tradition of memorization. Bards and Druids memorized laws, poems, historical records, folklore. The spoken word was greatly respected and the tradition continues.
Eamon Kelly was an Irish actor who brought his storytelling skills to the stage as a modern seanchaí. Another modern day storyteller, is Marianne McShane, she keeps the ancient tales alive at festivals and readings. Her website can be found here: http://www.mariannemcshane.com .
Things have changed so much from the days of sitting in a village home listening to stories by the light of the peat fire. Today we rely more on printing than our memories, the internet, digital books…but one thing will never change whatever form it takes…the wonder of a story and the way a great storyteller can mesmerize us, whether we listen to their words or read them.