Heritage: Something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor: legacy, inheritance; tradition

Oh-so-very-much could be written on this, but for today just a brief consideration of a very large difference between traditional storytelling and story slam storytelling – and while I’ve so far written more about process and form, this is primarily about content.

Although there are here-and-there exceptions, story slams are almost entirely filled with first-person (“personal”), original, true-life stories; the telling of events that the storyteller experienced personally.

trickstersIn contrast, and as we noted in the Definitions/Descriptions post, traditional storytelling is filled with many, many different kinds and genres of stories – Legends, myths, folk tales, ghost stories, fairy tales, history, sacred stories… Stories and stories and stories that have been passed on, handed down through years and generations and even millennia…

…and so offer the incomparable experience of connecting to a vast web of human experience and tradition, community and culture. A rich heritage indeed.

Traditional/non-slam storytelling certainly also can include the telling of personal stories, as well as literary tales and creative original-to-the-teller stories. In my experience and observation, however, the large majority of stories told are “traditional tales” that have been handed down through time, a legacy of storied human experience, custom, folly, and wisdom, a rich inheritance offered to us all.

We have our work cut out for us!

Many of us whose first love (and profession? and bread-n-butter?) is traditional stories and storytelling can look pretty askance at the burgeoning popularity of story slams, and can even cast plenty of aspersions thataway (“It’s not crafted;” “It’s narcissistic;” “Storytelling’s not supposed to be competitive,” etc., etc.), and wish that those people would come to our traditional storytelling events, our festivals and conferences and various performances (Whine, whine! And – true confessions – boyoboy I’ve done that!).

“…An audio-visual herself!” – Audience member, Westberg Symposium keynoteBut a better, much smarter, more fruitful way to go will be to strive for cross-pollination between the storytelling events/genres (and I will forever be grateful to Laura Packer for putting forth this metaphorical term). And I am convinced that that requires, at the least, that “we ‘traditional storytellers’” educate ourselves! – go to, observe, get involved with story slam events, if they’re available to you.

Learn, be a presence, create conversation. And then…

…my hope is that we can find ways to connect and then communicate about the rich heritage of traditional storytelling

– and the growing numbers of people who enthusiastically attend story slams will, well, discover the appeal of other storytelling events and so rediscover the rich inheritance of traditional storytelling/stories available to us all.

Listening to a well-told personal-experience story at a slam can engage one in empathy and an entertainment experience. However, through “a well-told traditional tale we can marvel at the power of our own imaginations, touch other cultures and maybe learn a little about how to move through the world.” (Laura Packer again!)

Traditional stories from across cultures and centuries – a rich heritage indeed, and something to be sought and valued right here and now in the 21st century.  

Do you agree?

Thanks for reading – Pam