In The Storyteller, what is the storyteller's role in Machiguenga society?

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The role of the storyteller in The Storyteller is to remind the Machiguengas of their cultural identity and what it means to be a Machiguenga.

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The storyteller is a figure that seems to be unique in so many ways to the Machiguenga people. The narrator of this tale first hears of the figure of the storyteller from the Schneils, a missionary couple working with the Machiguengas and trying to convert them. They found out about the figure of the storyteller and related his purpose to something like the troubadours of the Middle Ages in the way that his purpose is to not only bring current news but also to recite stories from the past of the Machiguengas:

Their named defined them. They spoke. Their mouths were the connecting links of this society that the fight for survival had forced to split up and scatter to the four winds.

The storyteller is therefore the "memory of the community," not only bringing current news of deaths and births of brothers and sisters, of fathers and sons, but also reciting tales of the birth of the Machiguengas as a people and their history. This is of course vital for a culture that is not literate and has no way of writing down their myths and legends. The storyteller is thus the very heart of the Machiguenga culture, as he keeps their identity alive.

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

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.

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