From the beginning of our existence we, as humans, have been storytellers. From images on cave walls, to oral tales, literature, and now in the form of photography and film. Humans are social animals and we express ourselves through these mediums in order to further our sociability. Just like the form of storytelling has changed over the years, the details of stories have also changed. If you imagine it like a game of Chinese whispers: stories that have been told by word of mouth and are changed slightly from person to person and can end up being a completely abstracted or elaborated version of previous ones.
“There is never a single orthodox version of a myth. As our circumstances change, we need to tell our stories differently in order to bring out their timeless truth.” – Karen Armstrong
The extent to which stories are adapted is incredible look at. For example, you may be surprised to hear some far more gruesome versions of what we know from our childhoods of beloved fairy tales or Disney adaptations. A Little Red Riding Hood who ate her Grandmother and was called a slut by a cat, two horrible step sisters who cut off parts of their feet to fit into a glass slipper and have their eyes pecked our by pigeons, and a Rumpelstiltskin who decided to rip himself in two after being shown up as a fool! Whether it be adapted by the famous Charles Perrault or the Grimm Brothers, those individual seeds that were planted as the initial ideas to demonstrate morals and values have branched out into different directions significantly over time.
Lectures by Donna Leishman
Karen Armstrong (2004). A short history of myth. London: Canongate. Introductory pages