Submission by Vanessa Tilley:
Storytelling has always played a valuable part in societies from ancient times to modern times. The society I chose to focus on is the Sumerian people.
In Sumer, one role storytelling played was to provide entertainment after dinner. Every evening, the family would gather around the dinner table and, after the meal was finished, someone would play an tell a story whether through song or just verbally. The poorer families had family members tell the story while the wealthier families had slaves for providing such entertainment. One of the first epic stories in existence actually came from Sumerians. It was the Epic of Gilgamesh which tells of Gilgamesh's deeds from meeting and becoming friends with Enkidu, to slaying Humbaba the Terrible and the Bull of Heaven, to discovering the secrets of eternal life, and ending with the death of Gilgamesh.
The other role storytelling played was to provide explanations how for things came to be or why something is done a certain way which is done by societies even today. One good example would be the Sumerian story of the flood. This particular story is part of the Epic of Gilgamesh and is told to Gilgamesh through the god Utnapishtim. Utnapishtim started as an average man but eventually was granted immortality by the gods. Utnapishtim was told by the great god Ea of the evil plot of the 'great gods' (Anu, Enlil, Ninurta, and Ennugi) to destroy all mankind by creating a flood. Utnapishtim built a large boat and filled it with animals, his relatives, and craftsman which they all stayed in during the flood. After the flood, Utnapishtim made a sacrifice and the great goddess came down and banned Elin from being able to go to sacrificial offerings due destroying mankind without thinking of the consequences Utnapishtim and his wife were then given immortality from the gods. Gilgamesh had come to Utnapishtim to learn the secret to his immortality where Utnapishtim told him of a plant located at the bottom of ocean that can make Gilgamesh immortal if he can reach it. Gilgamesh is able to obtain the plant but, while he is taking a bath, a serpent steals it and his skin then sheds as a form of rebirth. The portion about the serpent served to explain why the snake sheds his skin.
Sadly, the Sumerian culture is no longer in existence so the tradition, for them at least, can not continue through their people but their stories continue to live on in printed text and are discussions in various literature classes in our modern society.