What is the purpose of storytelling?  

Expert Answers
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For hundreds of years, storytelling was a way for cultures to maintain their history. If a village was large enough to be able to support a scop (storyteller), that person would record important events, births, battles, etc. Strangely enough, for such a time-honored position within the community, the job was not limited to men: a man could pass the job along to his daughter.

The traveling scop was a source of entertainment, especially in a castle, when the nights were long and cold. If a traveling storyteller was worth his "salt," he would have enough stories and/or songs to last him (or her?) many nights, ostensibly providing for his food and shelter until he ran out of "material."

This job and its importance is described in John Gardner's Grendel, with the presence of the Shaper, an old blind man who can "shape" the way people see and remember things through his words. Even in the epic poem Beowulf, the grandeur of storytelling is evident in the grandiose way the story is told, like an exciting story of war and valor, told by a scop.

And, finally, in today's world, storytelling can be the passing of stories of our childhood or the lives of our parents and grandparents, etc., which not only preserves the lives of those in our past, but promotes the use of imagination, something that I believe is in jeopardy with children who become so entrenched in the world of technology: game playing instead of "pretending" is a real loss in today's society.

mimerajver eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In addition to all of the above, life is, among other things, a narrative. Every time we tell others about our past experiences, dreams, purposes, or mindset, we are telling a story, since we do not reproduce dialogue or thought directly, but use reported speech and cohesive devices to connect the parts.

One interesting thing that happens in the case of past experiences is that two or more people who have lived the same event and then retell it will probably render it in a different way. This is due to two main reasons. One is that parts of the event failed to get stored in long-term memory, and the narrator unconsciously bridges the gaps with fictional material that makes sense within the parameters of the story. The other is that those who shared the experience focused on certain details and overlooked others, so their memory, even if truthful, is dissimilar.

Why do we tell these particular stories? Because we may be  seeking confirmation, approval, sympathy, and/or opinion. For human beings, the only species endowed with language, the need to share -i.e., to tell- seems compelling. 

catd1115 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Storytelling takes different forms and has different purposes depending on the time and place.

As noted above ancient storytelling was how communities were formed, how traditions were passed down, and how beliefs were shared and transfered to the next generation. We still do this in the form of bedtime stories and books for our children. Storytelling is also entertainment and education. Read any modern children's book and you will likely find fun, along with a moral.

Storytelling also exists to share our individual and collective stories with others. In earlier times it was through oral tradition, but today that same tradition continues in books, magazines, newspapers and online. We tell stories to enlighten and amuse, but also to share what we know and to share of ourselves. Before the digital age storytelling in both oral and book form was the only way people knew and learned of those people and places outside their own lives.

marbar57 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Storytelling enriches the lives of those listening, is a great form of entertainment, and appeals to audiences of all ages.   Sometimes whole histories of nations and peoples are told through storytelling, the stories often being told with great humor or warmth.  Through the words and actions of a gifted storyteller, we are transported through time and space to another world!  For a few minutes or hours, our world fades away and we become part of another one.  We laugh until our sides hurt; we cry with the sorrowful and tears run down our cheeks.  We feel, we dream, we love, we hate!  It is a much-needed respite from the crazy, hectic, fast-paced world in which we live.  And when we return to reality, we are refreshed, renewed, and enlivened.  We can go on!

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Storytelling serves a variety of purposes and motives.  One reason for storytelling is to capture a moment or event and immortalize it; this was certainly a primary motive in ancient times with the great oral traditions of storytellers.  Storytelling can also be used to explain occurences or events that we do not understand, like in the ancient greek, roman, and native american mythology. 

The most important aspect of storytelling that unites all of the motives is, of course, to entertain.  Storytelling should have the ability to transport the listener to another time or place.  A story that fails to capture the listener's imagination becomes just another boring lesson. 

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Storytelling serves to codify the values of a culture, explore the conflicts faced by populations and individuals, and examine the nature of personhood within a specific cultural context. 

That's one way of boiling an answer down to a few talking points. I think these points are important though and not just "pat" responses because, whether you are the storyteller or the listener, the story represents an attempt at expressing identity. Identity is a large and rather obscure notion, increasingly so the more you attempt to look at it directly. Storytelling offers an indirect way to engage with our ideas of who and what we are as people. 

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Storytelling passes on personal, hi-stoical, or cultural events or experiences so they transcend to shared experiences. Storytelling alters individuals,changing them into families, groups, communities, and even nations. Storytelling can heal or encourage or motivate or perpetuate, depending upon the community need a nd depending upon the storyteller's intention.   

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Another value of being a storyteller is having the opportunity to relive past experiences and perceive new insights in the process of telling the story again. As different audiences react in different ways, the events may be viewed from different perspectives, which can result in deeper understandings of the significance of the action.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Historically, a major purpose of storytelling was to create a community.  People had no shared written history in those days.  Therefore, a major way to create a sense of unity among them was to tell stories.  As people were all exposed to the same stories, they came to have a common tradition.  This held them together as a community.

goreadabook eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think we all tell stories to make sense out of our lives.  Sharing stories allows us to understand the human experience and find ways to relate to and connect with one another.  Telling stories gives us a sense of culture, history, and personal identity.

alphawolf9 | Student

storytelling is to entertain to narrate adventure which all add a whole new operspective to things and help build imagination and beliefs :)

melonsmasher | Student

increase creativity,remove stage fear

natlim99 | Student

It is to pass a story from one generation to another in a creative way,not just giving a piece of paper to a child and say "Hey kid protect that,and pass it to your son" 

That is if it is a story really important to your country's culture.

aznboy578 | Student

Story telling is fun to tell others when you are starting to have boredom. Also every time someone story tells the story twists a little so when someone tells you a story it might not be the whole truth but made up. When someone tells a story you can tell the inside part of that person and how they tell the story. 

kaj12345 | Student



 according 2 me d purpose of story telling is to provide a moral, and even to know about d world aroung which v hav 2 tackle, to capture the moments and events of d story , and to enhance d memory

Zac Egs | Student


Personally I think that the purpose of storytelling is enthralling. It aims at enriching the personality of the listener or spectator. It is then highly didactic. It can be ill or good but in general it is to be related to a kind of therapy i.e. the listener will be able to tame his passions and volitions. In other words he will correct his own imbalance.

I hope it will be helpful.


Zac Egs