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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a number of reasons why stories have been told over thousands of years, and in different formats and styles.  Story-telling has been around virtually since the dawn of man. Cave drawings intended to describe events represent the earliest known instances of such communications, although such efforts are believed to have been intended primarily to report events that actually occurred.  Over time, however, storytelling evolved to include the conveyance of information, both fiction and nonfiction, through oral means, through paintings, music, dance, and through use of the written word.  Why individuals thousands of years ago -- and it is believed that Homer wrote his epics The Odyssey and The Iliad as far back as 800 B.C. (or, B.C.E.) -- decided to conjure up fictional tales and present them in myriad forms, including through plays, narratives, fairy tales, musical lyrics, and other means will never be known.  What was the purpose in writing or telling stories?  We really don't know.  What we do know, however, is that storytelling developed and evolved at least in part to help explain natural phenomenon that mystified earlier civilizations.  No where is this truer than in the development of mythology, especially by the ancient Greeks, who explained celestial observations through reference to theology.  Formations or constellations of stars were said to depict events and individuals, including gods and goddesses, that helped societies better "understand" the universe.  

Storytelling likely also came into existence as a way of explaining conduct or events that the storyteller hoped would divert attention away from conclusions that would prove deleterious to the storyteller in the event the truth were discovered.  In other words, lying was an early progenitor of storytelling.  Storytelling also evolved from a natural inclination of human beings to seek entertainment.  Plays and fictional stories have been around, as noted, for thousands of years.  Aeschylus was writing plays depicting accounts of historical events around 500 B.C..  Why did he decided to depict events in a theatrical format?  Only Aeschylus can answer that question.  All we know is that individuals were engaging in storytelling activities thousands of years ago.  

If one has to identify the main purpose of storytelling, the inherent need to depict and explain events remains the most important.  Not unlike contemporary conspiracy theories that seek to explain events around the world in a way more palatable to individuals or more consistent with many individuals' predispositions to view skeptically "official" or commonly-accepted explanations, storytelling in earlier eras almost certainly evolved as a way of understanding the unexplainable.  Storytelling also no doubt evolved as a means of ensuring important events and individuals would be remembered.  Tacitus and Herodotus lacked the tools enjoyed by later generations of historians.  Filling in the blanks in what "facts" they were able to attain invariably involved some level of supposition.  The link from that to fabrication, whether intended to entertain with no pretense of accuracy or intended to manipulate public sentiments through subterfuge was short, and enduring.

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I also think that storytelling is a means of finding meaning in and imposing order on the chaos that is life.  When we can create a narrative of our lives or the lives of real or fictional others, we are able to believe that there is purpose in life, that things happen for a reason, that there is a plan. Thus, in some ways, storytelling and religion serve the same purposes.  Jung posited that we all have a collective unconscious that is the repository of stories and archetypes and that we each "star" in these stories in some way that acts them out, each of us adopting a role in the stories.  Either way, our language reveals our deep need to perceive life as a tale, when we speak of having a "happy ending," for example or refer to a "chapter" in our lives.  Even supposing those cave paintings were intended to record actual events, they are still stories, since a story is meant to select the details that serve a purpose and impose some order and meaning upon the anarchy of existence. 

lil903 | Student

This can have various different answers depending on the author and book. Sometimes poeople write to prove a point or share an opinion, to share information, or because they simply have the desire to write. For some people, there's a certain need to tell the stories they writ

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vapoet | Student

It is always about the search for identity.  Place yourself in the shoes, if you will, of an author, a storyteller.  Whether the point of view is 3rd or omniscient, the author is searching for herself, her purpose.  Isn't it interesting that so many parallels exist between the author and the characters and events in a story?  And of course, storytelling is good for the soul, and I don't think there is any reason more important than this.  They allow us the opportunity to laugh, cry, pound our fists on the table.  They allow us to become storytellers, to find our own identities, to preserve our family history, our culture.  If you want to become a writer, a storyteller, you have to read stories.  They inspire us.  They allow us to have eternal life.