The importance of storytelling beyond once upon a time…

The power of words

Words, pictures, voices and actions can be woven into storytelling in all its different forms. It can be an oral history passed down by Indigenous Australians, a Shakespearean tragedy, a rousing Italian opera, tall tales shared by good mates, moving pictures on the screen both big and small, or found in the pages of a book. Whatever means is used to tell a story, there is a purpose behind the telling.

For writers or at least for me, the narrative is the holy grail of storytelling. As children we often heard or read the words, “Once upon a time…” that would lead us into the world of princes and princesses, fairies and elves,  wicked step-mothers and ugly sisters. There was usually the elements of good and evil, a sense of injustice and redemption, followed by a happy ending to the fairy tale. Without being aware of the morals being espoused by such tales, our attitudes and morals were shaped by such storytelling. Being able to communicate through narrative is part of our human nature.

When we grow up, we learn not all stories have a happy ending and we need to find ways to make sense of the impact of events on our own lives and the world around us. I recall being fascinated by Aboriginal rock art images in Kakadu National Park, in the Northern Territory. The stick-like figures drawn by Indigenous people thousands of years ago showed swollen joints of individuals. I found out later this is was a  result of poisoning from the uranium in the ground. Other rock art depicts many images from the Dreamtime including the Rainbow Serpent. These stories are passed down from generation to generation.

The power of story-telling in much more recent times, is the first-hand accounts of individuals who have endured horrors beyond comprehension.  But there is healing in telling such stories for those involved and a challenge to the rest of us not to forget. During my recent visit to East Timor, my travel group had the privilege of visiting the Chega Museum in Dili. The word Chega loosely translated from Portuguese means, “No more, stop, enough!”. Chega was also the title of a report compiled by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor Leste. It is a powerful and emotional journey as one tours this former Indonesian prison, the site of many atrocities against the East Timorese and learn of the inhumane treatment of individuals and their families beyond its walls during the invasions. The trauma experienced has left deep scars but the personal stories told are part of the healing and a message to us that we must never permit this to happen again.  But the museum is also a place of hope and peace – where visitors can leave positive messages.

The power of one’s own story can have an impact across the generations and across the world if we preserve the narrative and ensure that those “Once upon a time..” stories have a happier ending.


The entrance to the Chega Museum, Dili, Timor Leste.



8 thoughts on “The importance of storytelling beyond once upon a time…

  1. Pingback: Dili, gateway to Timor Leste | Escape to the High Country…

  2. Story-telling should be mind-opening for consideration and it should be healing as well. Exposing ourselves to many views and realizing the end result is also varied by individual perspective often has a positive and eye-opening effect. It allows us to change sometimes rigid ideas of our idea of the original story! This has happened to me numerous times as I’ve matured. The original story (taught in school or at home, or possibly rooted from religious or family beliefs) can be reconsidered if only we allow ourselves to see many facets of the story. Excellent post, Lynn

    Liked by 2 people

    • Many thanks, Lori for your kind words. I wrote this a while ago for my university unit and thought it was worth reblogging. I have been using my writing as a way of expressing ideas and emotions. I do agree with your comments about allowing ourselves to look at the various aspects of the story and be open to other ideas. Blind allegiance can be harmful because we haven’t examined ourselves and why we do what we do.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I couldn’t agree more. Stories are reminders of our humanity, portals into gaining empathy for others and can be entertaining and dramatic, to boot. The kinds of stories I’m attracted to have changed over the years. As a child and young adult, I only wanted to read fiction and fantasy. Now I find myself more drawn to memoirs and poetry. In whatever style or genre it takes, stories (and those that control the narrative) are truly powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

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