In The Storyteller, what is the role of the storyteller in the Machiguenga Tribe?

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The function of the storyteller in the Machiguenga tribe is to sustain the cultural identity of the tribe, which was spread out throughout the Amazon rainforest. As Machiguengas were an itinerant people, and as they had free rein of so much space before the forest began to be chopped down, it was important that they had some way of maintaining their cultural identity and their notion of what made them Machiguengas. This was the job of the storyteller, who travelled from different group to different group in order to repeat the tales, myths, legends and news of the Machiguengas. This is something that the narrator of this story finds immensely moving:

I was deeply moved by the thought of that being, those beings, in the unhealthy forests of eastern Cusco and Madre de Dios, making long journeys of days or weeks, bringing stories from one group of Machiguengas to another and taking away others, reminding each member of the tribe that the others were alive, that despite the great distances that separated them, they still formed a community, shared a tradition and beliefs, ancestors, misfortunes and joys...

The storytellers were thus a vital part of this culture's way of surviving in a world where it would have been all too easy for people to forget who they were and the culture that they belonged to. The storyteller forged vital links that allowed the Machiguengas to retain their cultural identity and be true to who they were. The storytellers singlehandedly make the Machiguengas into a society and reminded them of their interdepedence and their interconnections.

Read the study guide:
The Storyteller

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