Chennai Storytelling Festival 2018




Some thoughts about Storytelling and Stories

from Festival Director, Eric Miller --



Storytelling is about more than telling what happened.


Storytelling is also about bringing characters and situations to life, in collaboration with one's listeners.


Storytelling is largely about engaging with listeners, interacting with them, especially on emotional levels.  This is different from delivering information to people, or entertaining them.


One way to bring aspects of one's imagination to life and to engage with listeners emotionally is to play (enact) characters -- letting characters speak and move for themselves (instead of just describing the way the characters speak and move). 


Yes, one uses voice modulation and body language in this process, but those are mechanical terms: what one really wants to do is understand, experience, and express the inner emotional and intellectual states of characters.


When characters speak to other characters, this can be called dialogue.


When characters speak to themselves, this can be called a soliloquy.


A Storyteller could express various emotions, a range of emotions -- some of them deeply -- both as the narrator and as characters.


A Storyteller may be tempted to seek to speak full-speed throughout a performance, but experienced storytellers often develop the confidence to vary the speed of their speaking -- some parts slower, some parts faster.  "Pregnant pauses" give time for listeners to think and imagine -- such pauses draw listeners into the story world.


Each story has an inner core.  This has, in part, to do with the emotions the characters are feeling, and the relationships they are having with the other characters.  By considering these matters, a Storyteller coud develop a sense of what a story is really about, and could find ways to bring out this meaning in performance.




In the CSF 2018 Storytelling programs on Fri 9th, Sat 10th, and Sun 11th Feb, at 4:30pm-6:30pm daily --


Any kind of story could be told -- folktales, personal-experience stories, historical stories, original stories, etc.


The stories would be told in English.  (The Festival has events for storytelling in Tamil languages on Sun 4th, and in multiple languages on Wed 7th Feb.)


There would be 7 Storytellers in each program, with each Storyteller tellling for 10 to 12 minutes.


The audiences would be a mix of children, teenagers, and adults.


The Storytellers have been requested to give material that challenges the young people to feel and think.


The Storytellers have also been requested to let characters speak for themselves as much as possible, with characters using their own unique ways of speaking and moving.


As narrator and characters, the Storytellers might use --

1) Various styles of speaking, chanting, and singing.

2) Rhythmic and melodic speech.

3) Rhythmic and otherwise stylised forms of posture, gesture, movement, and dance




Regarding story content:


The stories would have plenty of --

Twists and turns!


Danger and risk!





The theme of CSF 2018 is


"Storytelling for Teaching, Training, and Healing: Helping to Activate the Listener"


So stories relating to this theme might be told.


For example, a Storyteller might refer to the proverb, "You can take a horse to water, but you can't make him/her drink".




This has been the year of the "Me Too" Movement (against harassment of women).


So "Stories about Strong and Clever Girls and Women" might be told. 


Just for general interest, resources relating to such stories are below.




"Into the Dark Forest: The Fairytale Heroine’s Journey", an essay by Theodora Goss, is here.




An annotated list of Active Heroines in Folktales is here.




Some "Strong and Clever Girls and Women" stories online are,


"Kate Crackernuts"


"Mollie Whuppie"


"Cap O' Rushes"


Speak Bird, Speak Again: Palestinian Arab Folktales.

Story: "The Merchant's Daughter"


"A Flowering Tree" and Other Oral Tales from India.

Kannada Folktales collected and translated by A. K.

Ramanujan.  Many of the stories feature strong and

clever female characters.  The complete book is here.




Regarding Tamil folktales featuring strong and clever girls and women:


contains 23 Tamil folktales that were told orally, in the mid-1990's in a household near Thanjavur.


The tellers in that household were all women, so naturally many of the stories they told featured clever and strong girls and women.


These tellings come directly from the ancient Tamil oral tradition of telling grandmother stories in homes.




Here are some recommended books relating to Stories about Strong and Clever Girls and Women:


Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters.

Folktales collected and retold by Kathleen Ragan.


The Nisan Shamaness: A Manchu Folk Epic.

Retold by Margaret Nowak and Stephen Durrant.

University of Washington Press, 1977.

A young woman goes into the underworld to bring back her husband.



Retold by Kim Echlin

A wonderful telling of the myth.



Retold by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer.

Based on excellent scholarship.


Daughters of the Moon: Witch Tales from Around the World.

Retold by Shahrukh Husain. Faber and Faber. 1994.


The Storyteller's Goddess: Stories of the Goddess and Her Wisdom from Around the World.

Retold by Carolyn McVickar Edwards.


The Virago Book of Fairy Tales.

Angela Carter. 1990.


The Second Virago Book of Fairy Tales.

Angela Carter. 1992.


Mirror, Mirror: Forty Folktales for Mothers and Daughters to Share.

Retold by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple.


Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls.

Retold by Jane Yolen. 2000.


The Flying Tiger: Women Shamans and Storytellers of the Amur.  (Siberian tales.)

By Kira Van Deusen McGill. 2001.


The Serpent Slayer and Other Stories of Strong Women.

Retold by Katrin Tchanna. Little, Brown. 2000.


Wise Women: Folk and Fairy Tales from Around the World.

Retold by Suzanne Barcher. Libraries Unlimited. 1990.


The Maid of the North: Feminist Folktales from Around the World.

Retold by Ethel Phelps.


Womenfolk and Fairytales.

Stories retold by Rosemary Minard.


Women Who Run With the Wolves.

Retold by Clarissa Estes.


Clever Gretchen and Other Forgotten Folktales.

Retold by Alison Lurie. 1980.


Cut from the Same Cloth: American Women of Myth, Legend and Tall Tale.

Retold by Robert San Souci. 1992.


Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales and True Tales.

Retold by Virginia Hamilton. 1995.


Women in the Moon and other Tales of Forgotten Heroines.

Retold by James Riordan. 1985.


Great Deeds of Heroic Women.

Retold by Maurice Saxby.

Goddesses, warriors, and champions from Greece, China, and Arabia


Mother and Daughter Tales.

Mother and Son Tales.

Father and Daughter Tales.

All retold by Josephine Everts-Secker and Helen Cann.


Uppity Women of Ancient Times.

Uppity Women of Medieval Times.

Uppity Women of the Renaissance.

All by Vicki Leon.

Each has Life Stories of 200 women.


Women of the Celts.

By Jean Markale.

Ways Celtic women and goddesses have shaped European identity.


The Women of the Bible: 316 Biographies.

By Edith Deer. Castle Books. 1955.


Spiders and Spinsters: Women and Mythology.

By Marta Weigle

Women as depicted in myths of the Americas and Judeo-Christian Tradition.