Why should someone in the 20th century draw on a story that was passed through the oral tradition?Why should someone in the 20th century draw on a story that was passed through the oral tradition?
Simply put, there are lessons that can be learned from the oral tradition stories that can be applied to the modern condition. For example, the Native American creation myths that were passed down orally from different sources helped to explain aspects of cosmology and universal creation. This was important in a couple of ways. The first was that it helped provide explanation and meaning to a great extent. The other relevant condition is that these question plagued people then as they do now. No totality has been reached in thousands of years, and as a result, the oral tradition can be seen as extremely important to providing meaning in a setting where meaning is difficult to ascertain. In another sense, the stories of the oral tradition can help illuminate aspects of our own being in the human predicament. I think of Homer's Iliad as one such example. The entire work was a spoken poem that Homer memorized. In it, there is much that relates to the human condition. Achiilles' wrath, Agamemnon's coveting of power and control, Andromache's unending pain, and Hector's inescapable condition of suffering are all aspects of consciousness that have modern applications. It is here where I think that an oral bound story has modern relevancy.
William Faulkner, the great American novelist, wrote in The Sound and the Fury, "The past isn't dead. It's not even past."
What he means is that memory is timeless. We are always reliving both failures and successes, revisiting losses and savoring victories, although it is not possible to ever regain any moment in time. Families, in particular, keep their lore alive through oral tradition. We learn who we are and where we come from through those stories.
Joseph Campbell understood that human beings share certain behaviors that transcend time. The earliest oral tales of Homer, in works like The Odyssey and The Iliad, tell how heroes overcome obstacles and set examples. Those same themes, precisely, continue to be retold in works like Harry Potter. Without the preservation of the oral tradition, we would have much less of a sense of how similiar we are to our ancestors, and that would be a shame.
Old stories in the oral tradition are no less interesting and universal than stories newly minted in the post-oral tradition. Some great works of English literature began as oral tradition stories, for example, Beowulf. Oral tradition stories are complex and intricate, again, Beowulf is a good example, and therefore attention engaging. Further, they reveal truths about culture that our present day culture may have lost or may have a poor notion of, for example, Wealthow's great power and role as a wife, which can be compared to the power and role of English/American wives in later ages in history.