Janice M. Del Negro, PhD
Storytelling Quotes (in order by Author)
Angelou, Maya "There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside of you."
Arendt, Hannah "Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it."
Carter, Angela - The Sadeian Woman: And the Ideology of Pronography “To be the object of desire is to be defined in the passive case. To exist in the passive case is to die in the passive case – that is, to be killed. This is the moral of the fairy tale about the perfect woman.”
Chesterton, G.K. "We are in this fairyland on sufferance; it is not for us to quarrel with the conditions under which we enjoy this wild vision of the world."
Chinweizu, Nigeria "What kind of people we become depends crucially on the stories we are nurtured on."
Dickens, Charles - British Novelist (1812-1870) "In a utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected."
Dinesen, Isak "Be unswervingly and eternally loyal to the story."
Esolen, Anthony - Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child“And those characters [in a fairy tale] dwell in a moral world, whose laws are as clear as the law of gravity. That too is a great advantage of the folk tale. It is not a failure of imagination to see the sky blue. It is a failure rather to be weary of its being blue- and not to notice how blue it is. And appreciation of the subtler colors of the sky will come later. In the folk tale, good is good and evil is evil, and the former will triumph and later will fail. This is not the result of the imaginative quest. It is rather its principle and foundation. It is what will enable the child later on to understand Macbeth, or Don Quixote, or David Copperfield.”
Johann Christoph Friederich v. Schiller - German Poet (1759-1805) "Deeper meaning resides in the fairy tales told me in my childhood than in any truth that is taught in life."
Goddard, Harold "The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in."
Gould, Joan "I don't know these stories as well as they know me, I've discovered."
Henry, Amanda "Narrative is a compulsion, the quickest bait on the sharpest hook. The first taste of it makes you desperate for the rest, the end, the place where the circle swallows its tail."
Lang, Andrew - The Rose Fairy Book “Madame d'Aulnoy is the true mother of the modern fairy tale. She invented the modern Court of Fairyland, with its manners, its fairies, its queens, its amorous, its cruel, its good, its evil, its odious, its friendly fées.”
Le Guin, Ursula K. "In the tale, in the telling, we are all one blood. Take the tale in your teeth, then, and bite till the blood runs, hoping it's not poison; and we will all come to the end together, and even to the beginning: living, as we do, in the middle."
Lopes, Barry - In Crow and Weasel “If stories If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”
Maitland, Sara - Gossip from the Forest: The Tangled Roots of Our Forests and Fairytales(#1 of 4)“The whole tradition of [oral] story telling is endangered by modern technology. Although telling stories is a very fundamental human attribute, to the extent that psychiatry now often treats 'narrative loss' -- the inability to construct a story of one's own life -- as a loss of identity or 'personhood,' it is not natural but an art form -- you have to learn to tell stories. The well-meaning mother is constantly frustrated by the inability of her child to answer questions like 'What did you do today?' (to which the answer is usually a muttered 'nothing' -- but the 'nothing' is cover for 'I don't know how to tell a good story about it, how to impose a story shape on the events'). To tell stories, you have to hear stories and you have to have an audience to hear the stories you tell. Oral story telling is economically unproductive -- there is no marketable product; it is out with the laws of patents and copyright; it cannot easily be commodified; it is a skill without monetary value. And above all, it is an activity requiring leisure -- the oral tradition stands squarely against a modern work ethic...Traditional fairy stories, like all oral traditions, need the sort of time that isn't money.
The deep connect between the forests and the core stories has been lost; fairy stories and forests have been moved into different categories and, isolated, both are at risk of disappearing, misunderstood and culturally undervalued, 'useless' in the sense of 'financially unprofitable.”
Maitland, Sara - Gossip from the Forest: The Tangled Roots of Our Forests and Fairytales(#2 of 4) “Now fairy stories are at risk too, like the forests. Padraic Column has suggested that artificial lighting dealt them a mortal wound: when people could read and be productive after dark, something fundamental changed, and there was no longer need or space for the ancient oral tradition. The stories were often confined to books, which makes the text static, and they were handed over to children.”
Maitland, Sara - Gossip from the Forest: The Tangled Roots of Our Forests and Fairytales(#3 of 4) “Forests to the [early] Northern European peoples were dangerous and generous, domestic and wild, beautiful and terrible. And the forests were the terrain out of which fairy stories, one of our earliest and most vital cultural forms, evolved. The mysterious secrets and silences, gifts and perils of the forest are both the background to and source of these tales....
Forests are places where a person can get lost and also hide -- and losing and hiding, of things and people, are central to European fairy stories in ways that are not true of similar stories in different geographies. Landscape informs the collective imagination as much as or more than it forms the individual psyche and its imagination, but this dimension is not something to which we always pay enough attention.”
Maitland, Sara - Gossip from the Forest: The Tangled Roots of Our Forests and Fairytales(#4 of 4) “I believe that the great stretches of forests in northern Europe, with their constant seasonal changes, their restricted views, their astonish biological diversity, their secret gifts and perils and the knowledge that you have to go through them to get anywhere else, created the themes and ethics of the fairy tales we know best. There are secrets, hidden identities, cunning disguises; there are rhythms of change like the changes of the seasons; there are characters, both human and animal, whose assistance can be earned or spurned; and there is -- over and over again -- the journey or quest, which leads first to knowledge and then to happiness. The forest is the place of trial in fairy stories, both dangerous and exciting. Coming to terms with the forest, surviving its terrors, utilizing its gifts and gaining its help is the way to 'happy ever after.”
McGuire, Seanan - Indexing “Everyone thinks of them in terms of poisoned apples and glass coffins, and forgets that they represent girls who walked into dark forests and remade them into their own reflections.”
Nabakov, Vladimir "The term “narrative” is often confused with the term “plot,” but they're not the same thing. If I tell you that the king died, and then the queen died, that's not narrative; that's plot. But, if I tell you that the king died, and then the queen died of a broken heart, that's narrative."
Nietzsche "We have the art of story-telling in order not to die of life."
Pilinovsky, Helen "Fairy tales, fantasy, legend and myth...these stories, and their topics, and the symbolism and interpretation of those topics...these things have always held an inexplicable fascination for me," she writes. "That fascination is at least in part an integral part of my character — I was always the kind of child who was convinced that elves lived in the parks, that trees were animate, and that holes in floorboards housed fairies rather than rodents … A little girl, contorted, with her legs twisted beneath her, shoulders hunched to bring her long nose closer to the pages that she peruses. Her eyes are glued to the pages, rapt with interest. Within them, she finds the kingdoms of Myth. Their borders stand unguarded, and any who would venture past them are free to stay and occupy themselves as they would."
Pullman, Philip - Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version“The fairy tale is in a perpetual state of becoming and alteration. To keep to one version or one translation alone is to put robin redbreast in a cage.”
Pullman, Philip "Finally, I’d say to anyone who wants to tell these tales, don’t be afraid to be superstitious. If you have a lucky pen, use it. If you speak with more force and wit when wearing one red sock and one blue one, dress like that. When I’m at work I’m highly superstitious. My own superstition has to do with the voice in which the story comes out. I believe that every story is attended by its own sprite, whose voice we embody when we tell the tale, and that we tell it more successfully if we approach the sprite with a certain degree of respect and courtesy. These sprites are both old and young, male and female, sentimental and cynical, skeptical and credulous, and so on, and what’s more, they’re completely amoral: like the air-spirits who helped Strong Hans escape from the cave, the story-sprites are willing to serve whoever has the ring, whoever is telling the tale. To the accusation that this is nonsense, that all you need to tell a story is a human imagination, I reply, ‘Of course, and this is the way my imagination works."
Rukeyser, Muriel "Say it, say it. The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
Rutkoski, Marie - Source: The Nature of Cinderella “Fairy tales are rife with transformation — from beast to handsome prince, from dirty scullery maid to well-dressed princess. It is perhaps no coincidence that nature in the Cinderella stories facilitates transformation, for nature itself is a changeable thing, from season to season, from a sunny day to rain, from an egg to a flying bird in a matter of weeks.”
Sendak, Maurice "It's something we've always known about fairy tales – they talk about incest, the Oedipus complex, about psychotic mothers, like those of Snow White and Hansel and Gretel, who throw their children out. They tell things about life which children know instinctively, and the pleasure and relief lie in finding these things expressed in language that children can live with. You can't eradicate these feelings – they exist and they're a great source of creative inspiration."
Sexton, Anne - Transformations “Give me your skin as sheer as a cobweb, let me open it up and listen in and scoop out the dark.”
Siberian Elder "If you don’t know the trees you may be lost in the forest, but if you don’t know the stories you may be lost in life."
Solnit, Rebecca - The Faraway Nearby “Fairy tales are about trouble, about getting into and out of it, and trouble seems to be a necessary stage on the route to becoming. All the magic and glass mountains and pearls the size of houses and princesses beautiful as the day and talking birds and part-time serpents are distractions from the core of most of the stories, the struggle to survive against adversaries, to find your place in the world, and to come into your own.
Fairy tales are almost always the stories of the powerless, of youngest sons, abandoned children, orphans, of humans transformed into birds and beasts or otherwise enchanted away from their own lives and selves. Even princesses are chattels to be disowned by fathers, punished by step-mothers, or claimed by princes, though they often assert themselves in between and are rarely as passive as the cartoon versions. Fairy tales are children's stories not in which they were made for but in their focus on the early stages of life, when others have power over you and you have power over no one.
In them, power is rarely the right tool for survival anyway. Rather the powerless thrive on alliances, often in the form of reciprocated acts of kindness - from beehives that were not raided, birds that were not killed but set free or fed, old women who were saluted with respect. Kindness sewn among the meek is harvested in crisis...
In Hans Christian Andersen's retelling of the old Nordic tale that begins with a stepmother, "The Wild Swans," the banished sister can only disenchant her eleven brothers -- who are swans all day look but turn human at night -- by gathering stinging nettles barehanded from churchyard graves, making them into flax, spinning them and knitting eleven long-sleeved shirts while remaining silent the whole time. If she speaks, they'll remain birds forever. In her silence, she cannot protest the crimes she accused of and nearly burned as a witch.
Hauled off to a pyre as she knits the last of the shirts, she is rescued by the swans, who fly in at the last moment. As they swoop down, she throws the nettle shirts over them so that they turn into men again, all but the youngest brother, whose shirt is missing a sleeve so that he's left with one arm and one wing, eternally a swan-man. Why shirts made of graveyard nettles by bleeding fingers and silence should disenchant men turned into birds by their step-mother is a question the story doesn't need to answer. It just needs to give us compelling images of exile, loneliness, affection, and metamorphosis -- and of a heroine who nearly dies of being unable to tell her own story.”
Tolkien, J.R.R. - On Fairy-Stories “The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords.”
Traditional folktale ending:“The Dreamer awakesThe shadow goes byThe tale I have told you,That tale is a lie.But listen to me,Bright maiden, proud youthThe tale is a lie;What it tells is the truth.”
Valente, Catherynne M. "In Russian fairy tales, the narrative flows a little differently. In those stories, you won’t find a tale for Cinderella, one for Snow White, one for Rapunzel. Instead, a peculiar cast of characters recurs over and over, in nearly every story, performing different acts and suffering different sorrows, but remaining the same. Ivan the Fool. Yelena the Bright. Baba Yaga. Vasilisa the Brave. Koschei the Deathless."
Valente, Catherynne M. "Fairy tales have always been about getting through the worst of everything, the darkest and the deepest and the bloodiest of events. They are about surviving, and what you look like when you emerge from the trial. The reason we keep telling fairy tales over and over, that we need to keep telling them, is that the trials change. So the stories change too, and the heroines and villains and magical objects, to keep them true. Fairy tales are the closets where the world keeps its skeletons."
Warner, Marina - From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers“The store of fairy tales, that blue chamber where stories lie waiting to be rediscovered, holds out the promise of just those creative enchantments, not only for its own characters caught in its own plotlines; it offers magical metamorphoses to the one who opens the door, who passes on what was found there, and to those who hear what the storyteller brings. The faculty of wonder, like curiosity can make things happen; it is time for wishful thinking to have its due.”
Warner, Marina - From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers “The more one knows fairy tales the less fantastical they appear; they can be vehicles of the grimmest realism, expressing hope against all the odds with gritted teeth.” Warren, Robert Penn "Tell me a story of deep delight."
Wiesel, Elie "God made man because he loves stories."
Windling, Terri - Black Swan, White Raven “In England in the 19th century, advances in printing methods, combined with the rise of a prosperous middle class, engendered a booming new industry of books published just for children. Casting about for cheap story material, English publishers laid hands on the subtle, sensual adult fairy tales of the Continental tradition and revised them into simpler stories instilled with Victorian values. Although these simplified versions retained much of the violence of the older stories, elements of sexuality and moral complexity were carefully scrubbed away — along with the feisty heroines who appeared everywhere in the older tales, tamed now into models of Victorian propriety and passivity. In the 20th century, the Walt Disney Studios watered down the tales further still in popular animated films like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, continuing the trend of turning active heroines into powerless damsels in distress. Walt Disney considered even the Victorian versions of the tales too dark for 20th century audiences. 'It's just that people now don't want fairy stories the way they were written,' Disney commented. ‘They were too rough.’”
Yaacobi, Gad "You don’t decide to tell a story, the story decides that you will tell it."
Zipes, Jack - The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World “Inevitably they find their way into the forest. It is there that they lose and find themselves. It is there that they gain a sense of what is to be done. The forest is always large, immense, great and mysterious. No one ever gains power over the forest, but the forest possesses the power to change lives and alter destinies.”
Zipes, Jack - The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre “Fairy tales begin with conflict because we all begin our lives with conflict. We are all misfit for the world, and somehow we must fit in, fit in with other people, and thus we must invent or find the means through communication to satisfy as well as resolve conflicting desires and instincts.”