Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Stories are a part of human cultures.  We have stories like the Bible, the Mabinogion, Robin Hood, King Arthur, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Beauty and the Beast.  The stories we grow up with shape our view of the world.  In that way, the stories shape our culture.  But the culture also shapes the stories.  The stories we tell now are not the same as the stories we told centuries ago.  In folk music, I notice that the songs that are centuries old tend to have plots more like Romeo and Juliet -- people fall in love and then they die -- while in more modern songs, it's more common to have a plot in which people fall in love and then they live happily ever after.  Now once dark tales become Disney movies with less violence and more kindness.

How have stories shaped our culture? One way is that we all know what unicorns, giants, elves, fairies, vampires, gnomes, and dwarves are, even though they don't exist.  I think another way is stories tell us what traits make one heroic.  For example, Robin Hood says it is noble to steal from the rich and give to the poor.

Many stories today push a message of love while at the same time the heroes fight battles using physical violence (for example, Harry Potter).  A Quaker story would not do that.  The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare is an example of a good Quaker story I have read.

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