Storytime #2: What is storytelling?

What is storytelling? It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times. I believe it’s an important question, if we are to revive or reinvent the art of storytelling, as Mezrab is trying to do. For me personally, storytelling was taking long walks with my dad in the streets Amsterdam while he told tales about his father and grandfathers, heroes and scoundrels who could compete with the heroes of old. For me the storyteller was not someone who had studied theater or writing, it was someone (my father) who had lived, and while living had absorbed events and stories around him, to pass them on later with passion and excitement.

My father, the great storyteller, disagreed. In his stories a storyteller is a serious profession. A special breed of men who studied for years and traveled to make their living. They knew how to entertain a crowd, how preserve and string together the old stories. They would tell their stories in squares and in tea houses. For years I had a mental image of these storytellers without meeting them, until I found some last year. Not in Iran, but in documentary shot in Morocco. Watching these storytellers who populate the squares of many cities in Morocco, together with snake charmers, fortune tellers, strongmen and other miracle workers, provides the mental imagery to go with the stories my dad told me many years ago. But more moving still is the way it portrays the protagonist, a young boy who tries to become a storyteller like his father.

If you speak Dutch, a TV version of the documentary is available online.

If you don’t speak Dutch, look at this trailer in Youtube:

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