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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Value of Storytelling

In "The Blank Page," Isak Dinesen highlights the importance—and the long history—of storytelling. Storytelling is depicted in the text as a means of giving out important information and of teaching valuable life lessons, as well as a source of livelihood for the teller. The old storyteller at the beginning of the narrative explains that she learned the art of telling stories from her grandmother and that her grandmother learned the art from her own grandmother.

Making the Invisible Visible

One aspect of the value of the storyteller's art is in the storyteller's ability to make known to their listeners things that would otherwise be hidden. In "The Blank Page," the old woman describes for her listeners a tradition concerning the bridal sheets used the night a princess is married. The sheets are never used again, as they serve to display evidence of a princess's virginity. Thus the storyteller's power lies, in part, in making the invisible visible.

The Power of Silence and the Unknown

Dinesen depicts storytellers as having the ability to transmit life lessons and cultural values through the elements of narrative. In "The Blank Page," the storytellers (Dinesen and the old woman) encourage readers and listeners to consider the value and power of silence and the unknown, both in stories and in life. This idea is shown in the story's two different references to the idea of silence or a blank page.

The storyteller recalls that when she was a young girl, her grandmother told her that if she is loyal to a story, the "silence will speak." This idea is later symbolized by the blank bridal sheet displayed in the convent. Not only is the sheet blank, but there is no name inscribed on it. For this very reason, visitors who come to see the sheet are drawn to it.

For storytellers, the idea of the "blank page" relates to the idea of the power of suspense and the value of leaving some things unsaid. When a storyteller or writer does not fully reveal all the facts of a tale, the reader or listener is filled with curiosity and begins to reflect on the story. Using this technique, the storyteller is able to fascinate their audience with the unanswered questions the story raises. This sense of intrigue constitutes the greatest success a storyteller could attain.

Dinesen's story illustrates a valuable lesson for readers, as it reveals the theme of silence and its power. Sometimes, words left unsaid have greater influence than words uttered, and silence is a valuable tool that a storyteller—or perhaps any person—can use to their advantage.

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