Week 1 – Early Storytelling

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Week 1 – Early Storytelling

Postby Prof. Gustavo Flores » Mon Jul 02, 2018 3:41 am

Who doesn’t enjoy a good story? I’ve always seen telling stories as a way to satisfy an inner need, whether it’s sharing an anecdote or expressing feelings, it’s the need to communicate something. While we can picture storytelling as those amazing moments in which a mother reads a book to her child right before bed; or a grandpa having his grandsons and granddaughters surrounding him eager to listen to his stories; or even a group of friends around a fire ready to share their stories (or at least, those are the first images that come to my mind when talking about storytelling!), truth is that storytelling can be traced back to the Paleolithic period.

It is estimated that most of the cave paintings date back to 40,000 years ago, and while the exact purpose of them is still unknown, those paintings were not only there for decorative purposes! They were there to communicate something! I won’t tell you much because now it your time to do a little bit of research!

For your first task, please investigate how a specific people used pictures or spoken word to record events or preserve stories. Are there any members of that culture still doing this?

Please, send your research task to hol.bookclub @ gmail.com (without the spaces). Use ‘Week 1 – Early Storytelling - HOL ID’ as your subject line, and send your results by July 8th, 11:59pm HOL time. Remember to write at least 150 words if you want to earn your 10 points.

When sending your research paper, please also include your HOL name, ID and House in the body of the email! If you do not want us to post what you sent in here, please say so in your email!
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Re: Week 1 – Early Storytelling – Images that Communicate

Postby Prof. Gustavo Flores » Mon Jul 02, 2018 3:42 am

Submissions have been received from:

Arianna Stonewater
Gail Allen
Ingvild Ogden
Janie Peterson
Kendra Givens
Maxim Trevelyan
Polaris Black
Prof. Gustavo Flores
Silas Hipolito Crist
Vanessa Tilley
Will Lestrange
Zach Jameson
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Re: Week 1 – Early Storytelling

Postby Prof. Gustavo Flores » Mon Jul 09, 2018 4:59 am

Submission by Arianna Stonewater:

I am originally from Colorado. In elementary school, we learned a lot about the tribes who settles across the state, especially the Utes and the Algonquians (Cheyenne and Arapahos). We learned that as Europeans invaded and introduced things like horses their arts changed from mostly animals and what is believed to be hunting maps, they became more about people and battles. Historians can figure out where the tribes migrated to based on the art styles spread throughout the state. It's believed that those from the Ute tribes went to the high country and inner mountains while the Algonquians moved west into the plains, hunting the buffalo. During Lincoln's presidency, as the settlers moved westward, the drawings depicted more things like cowboy hats, horses, and peace medallions. The horse drawings tend to be my favorite because a lot of the animals drawings aren't necessarily realistic, but more symbolic in the way they understand animals. For example, bears tend to be drawn with all of their toes/claws shown, and horses were drawn with long necks and short legs, which is how you would feel a horse looks while riding it. The Utes and Algonquians are still around today, but a lot of the meaning in drawings has been lost. The ceremonies today often look like the drawings (like the bear dance we saw) but the Chief who spoke to us said the meaning behind some of their rituals may be different than when they were first depicted. For example, what they interpret as a rain dance today, may have actually been a "goodbye/safe return" ritual for those off to war.
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Re: Week 1 – Early Storytelling

Postby Prof. Gustavo Flores » Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:00 am

Submission by Gail Allen:

Finland

In Finland there exists an epic poem consisting of 22795 verses which are divided into 50 songs, called the Kalevala. The Kalevala was compiled in the 19th century by a man called Elias Lönnrot. In Finland there had long been an oral tradition and up until the 18th century most Finnish poetry only existed as an oral tradition, which was very common. In the 18th century however the tradition began to dwindle, largely due to western influences. The reason for that is that the meter of the Kalevala is very distinctive, and very different from European rhyming poetry which was becoming popular in Finland at that time.

The Kalevala is sorted chronologically and start with the origin of the Earth itself and it is believed that some of these stories have their roots in ancient history and could have roots in events as old as 3000 years.

Until the 16th century this oral tradition was still productive, adding to the tale all the time, and being repeated so younger generations would learn it. But with the reformation the tradition became somewhat stagnate and stopped producing new content, but the old verses were still repeated and survived to be written down.
There are still people who learn the entire Kalevala by heart and although it has been written down the Finns still believe it is a poem that belongs in the oral tradition. The events and images in the Kalevala are also alive in the collective consciousness of the Finns in much the same way Greek Mythology might be in the western world, where companies are named after people or events in the stories, and references will be largely understood in the community. Today it is viewed as an important national artefact that holds Finland together and makes them the people they are.
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Re: Week 1 – Early Storytelling

Postby Prof. Gustavo Flores » Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:00 am

Submission by Ingvild Ogden:

Norwegian folktales

Norwegian culture, predictably, always fascinates me as I am Norwegian. I love hearing stories and reading about my country’s history. One of these fascinations come from a pair of men who lived in the 1800s. Their names were Asbjørnsen and Moe. In 1841 they started publishing collections of old Norwegian folktales, or fairytales, today known as «tales of Asbjørnsen and Moe». It actually reminds me a lot of «the tales of beedle the bard».
Asbjørnsen and Moe traveled Norway for many years trying to find and write down folktales that had previously only been passed down the generations orally. They heard different variations of the same tales and wrote down an «official» version of the tale. Since then almost every child in norway has heard of and been red the stories of «The boy who had an eating match with a troll», «the pancake» and «The three billy goats gruff». All of these folktales were told through generations without ever officially being wrote down. They were told from friend to friend, mother to daughter and so on. Therefore no one really knows what the originals actually sounded like, but mine and others fascinations of the Norwegian folktales, or the tales of Asbjørnsen and Moe, is that we know these stories were told by our ancestors before books ever existed. I also find it so interesting that many of the Norwegian folktales reflect that our ancestor believed in trolls, nixes and gnomes and so forth and that because of their belief and their stories told though generations, trolls are now an important part of Norwegian culture, as well as the folktales themselves.
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Re: Week 1 – Early Storytelling

Postby Prof. Gustavo Flores » Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:01 am

Submission by Janie Peterson:

The American Indians of Arkansas

I decided to begin by researching the Paleolithic Period to find a bit of backstory. According to Khan Academy, humans in the Paleolithic Period painted cave paintings in order to communicate with other humans who practiced different cultures. They were able to share their spiritual and moral beliefs as well as their social structures with each other. This was their way of building a method of human communication.

I found an excellent collection of research on the American Indians in Arkansas on archeology.uark.edu. According to the website, the research was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Arkansas Humanities Council, and the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program. Although it was published in 2007, and most of the researches they used were from the later portion of the 20th century, I feel as if it is still adequate research that deserves mentioning!

Included in this collection of research on the Arkansas American Indians, it is mentioned that the pictures that were painted onto the rocks could potentially have deeper meaning and value to them. For example, the sun could potentially be a symbol of fertility while the mace (ceremonial axe) could easily represent the elite religious and political roles within the culture.

Going back to what Khan Academy explains about the creation of human communication through cave paintings, if another group stumbled across these images and observed the practices of the artists, they might begin to understand the groups morals and religious beliefs. That is where the communication begins! They could potentially adopt or shun such beliefs, either creating or solidifying beliefs of their own. This is how todays culture was formed.

Although the American Indians of Arkansas are no longer a functioning group, there are potentially still humans walking on Earth today who carry their DNA. The practice of cave painting ceased for the American Indians of Arkansas but that doesn’t mean that their photos will be forgotten!
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Re: Week 1 – Early Storytelling

Postby Prof. Gustavo Flores » Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:02 am

Submission by Kendra Givens:

When considering ancient cultures, the Maya are the only people to have a complete writing system and were able to communicate exactly what was spoken with their writing. The oldest discovery of Maya writing was discovered in Guatemala around 300 B.C. Maya writing can be found today on cave walls, pottery, and in 4 books referred to as the Mayan codices. In most cases, Mayan writing is read left to right, top to bottom, just as ours is written. Their writing system has around 800 signs that combine sounds and symbols to form coherent words and ideas. Much like our communication system, their symbols can represent different sounds (such as how a “c” at the beginning of a word in English can have a soft or hard pronunciation depending on the word), but they also have many symbols with a consistent sound value. One sound could have 12 to 15 different written signs! Their writing system is even more complex, as glyphs can be written in various ways. Signs can be written overlapping each other or one can be written inside another. They also had a system of blending glyphs together to represent particular words or meanings. Glyphs were sometimes also written as heads on various figures to create a specific meaning.
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Re: Week 1 – Early Storytelling

Postby Prof. Gustavo Flores » Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:02 am

Submission by Polaris Black:

The Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. They were excellent navigators and thought to have journeyed in waves by canoe to New Zealand some time between 1250 and 1300 CE. Once on New Zealand, the Māori were very isolated for several centuries and developed a unique society consisting of many ferocious and combative tribes. Te Reo Māori, their native language, is related to Tahitian and Hawaiian and was the only language spoken throughout New Zealand before the 1800s. At this time all Māori literature, including legends and song, was orally passed onto succeeding generations. But if your culture relies heavily on the spoken word and your information is not correct, your entire history becomes distorted. Therefore in the past, the importance of attention to detail and correct presentation were emphasized so much, that Māori storytellers risked life threatening consequences if they lacked skill at their craft.

Today, with the help of Script to Screen, an industry-wide initiative established to develop the culture of screenwriting in Aotearoa/New Zealand, Māori stories are being brought into the modern world. The three essential pieces of the old forms of Māori storytelling are the waiata (the song), whakapapa (the genealogy of the story), and the karakia (the prayer). Experts ensure that Māori characters and their motivations are understood and ‘getting it right’ is still an essential element when telling Māori stories. Māori storytelling has never been as strong, locally and globally, as it is right now.
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Re: Week 1 – Early Storytelling

Postby Prof. Gustavo Flores » Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:03 am

Submission by Prof. Gustavo Flores:

For my research task I decided to share a very important story for us, Mexicans, because it is part of our identity as a culture. It is the story of the eagle and the cactus. It is an Aztec legend that dates back to the 12th and 13th century. Little is known about the early Aztecs because they were a nomadic tribe, but the legend says that the Aztecs were living in Aztlan until the god Huitzilopochtli called them to find a new land where they would have power and richness. The Aztecs felt they were the “chosen people” of Huitzilopochtli and so they started their journey to find this land. The only “clue” that they had was that when they found an eagle standing on a cactus and eating an snake, they would know that they had arrived to the promised land. The Aztecs started this migration journey that lasted around 300 years, until they found the eagle and the snake in the middle of Lake Texcoco, where they settled in and built the city of Tenochtitlan (the actual Mexico City)

This story is depicted in the “Tira de la Peregrinación” or Migration Scroll. This legend is so important for us, that the eagle, the snake and the cactus became symbols for us, and they are known worldwide because they have been preserved in our flag.
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Re: Week 1 – Early Storytelling

Postby Prof. Gustavo Flores » Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:04 am

Submission by Silas Hipolito Crist:

Cave paintings were used for decorative purposes, for different forms of comunication and for religious and ritual purpose. People used them to store memories (for example happy hunt), to keep attention of something dangerous or special (paintings of interesting and dangerous animals; predators, animals seen first time and so on. Paintings were also used as sign for other people that something dangerous is near.

Despite that paintings were used for keeping instructions; some rituals and types of hunting.

It is known that things drawn on the walls of caves, were always simple drawn and easily recognizable. Usually the paintings have been added colour, which people got from different plants. It is known that paintings were also done as abstract things; which is telling a lot about prehistoric people.

The style of painting was always unicate to specific tribe or other group of people.

The cave painting is not very usual these days, because there are many new ways of keeping records and remembering old stories.
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Re: Week 1 – Early Storytelling

Postby Prof. Gustavo Flores » Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:05 am

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.
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Re: Week 1 – Early Storytelling

Postby Prof. Gustavo Flores » Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:05 am

Submission by Will Lestrange:

There are many different moments that can be seen as the "birth" of cave painting. Surprisingly, the first cave painting that actually depicted a human being does not date to Europe at all but rather to an island south of the equator in an archipelago which is now known as Indonesia!

Approximately 40,000 years ago, in a region we know refer to as "South Sulawesi" in Indonesia, the local inhabitants came up with a way to immortalize their own image in the form of their own hands. They would place their hand up against the wall of the cave and have a special mixture of water and red ochre blown around it. When the hand was removed, the portion of the wall that was untouched by the ochre would have the exact shape of the hand, preserving a white hand-shaped imprint for posterity! They could also make red hand-shaped imprints by placing their hands in a special red liquid (which got that way due to leaves) and then putting the hands on the roof of the cave. In total, 26 of these handprints live on to this day!

Not only do these handprints immortalize their subjects, but they were used to signal the life and death of their subject; the image of a thumb would be removed from a handprint once the subject died - allowing the handprint to serve as a memorial to a deceased and respected elder.

I should point out that we have no way of knowing for sure which primitive people deserves the credit for these handprints; after all, they were not known to the Western World until more than 35 millennia after they were made! The most reasonable guess, though, is that the handprints were due to the Makassarese people as they were native to the region we now know as South Sulawesi.
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Re: Week 1 – Early Storytelling

Postby Prof. Gustavo Flores » Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:06 am

Submission by Zach Jameson:

Storytelling through oral, or spoken, tradition dates to different points in history. The when part depends on the culture. These traditions use song, chants, and epic poetry to tell stories that been handed down for generations. Some of the oral stories eventually would be written and published. The most popular oral tradition is that of myths, specifically the story of creation. These myths are most common and popular in the Native American cultures, like that of the Cherokee tribe. The Cherokee tribe continues to recount their creation story however it does get skewed depending on who tells it. Traditional storytelling by word of mouth still takes place in the modern day, for example meeting a friend and catching up with their lives. Oral tradition has helped to shape current studies in the field of communications and still does to this day. Even most songs, both in past and modern days, tell a story in their lyrics.
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