In The Storyteller, what purpose did the storyteller serve in Machiguenga society?

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The storyteller is a figure that seems to be unique in so many ways to the Machiguenga people. The narrator of this tale first hears of the figure of the storyteller from the Schneils, a missionary couple working with the Machiguengas and trying to convert them. They found out about the figure of the storyteller and related his purpose to something like the troubadours of the Middle Ages in the way that his purpose is to not only bring current news but also to recite stories from the past of the Machiguengas:

Their named defined them. They spoke. Their mouths were the connecting links of this society that the fight for survival had forced to split up and scatter to the four winds.

The storyteller is therefore the "memory of the community," not only bringing current news of deaths and births of brothers and sisters, of fathers and sons, but also reciting tales of the birth of the Machiguengas as a people and their history. This is of course vital for a culture that is not literate and has no way of writing down their myths and legends. The storyteller is thus the very heart of the Machiguenga culture, as he keeps their identity alive.

Read the study guide:
The Storyteller

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