I find it interesting that so many stories are told purely through oral story telling. I’m amazed that such things are able to occur. Though it seems to be like broken telephone, where you’re never going to get the same exact story, maybe that’s why it continued to survive for so long.

Like with the Iliad, the story is compelling enough that it is possible that the changes in variation kept the story telling from being boring, and were able to gain the audience the story teller needed in order to keep being requested to continue on with their performance because those who listened were aware it would change with the next time it was told.

This, in a sense, is a great wonder to me, because this tradition doesn’t occur in the same sense today, but like the textbook relates to, the idea that Urban legends are a form of oral traditions.

The idea that most people know of the alligator in the sewer of New York is proof that some traditions, no matter how small, in a way continue across generations and even distances.


6 thoughts on “Oral Traditions

  1. I agree, because we live in such a literate society it really is very strange to imagine a world where oral tradition is so prominent. Though your descriptions of oral myth also make me think of experiences I had growing up. One example is that my cousins and I would always ask my brother to tell the campfire story every time we’d have a campfire at our cottage. The campfire story is this really bizarre story that grew to have a few different variations and apparently came from some story a family friend had once told my brother. Even when it was only slightly different than the last time we were still interested. It was the campfire story and it was an essential part of a campfire.

    • Your story is very much like my own. When my cousins used to come visit for a week during the summer, we used to sleep in the same room (at least us girls). Because I was the oldest, I felt compelled to keep them entertained with ghost stories. This usually ended up being a mixture of what I heard from friends and what I could come up with on my own. I have to admit that it was a challenge to keep the stories from going stale. Even to this day, my cousins remember my telling these ghost stories (and we’re going back a few decades!).


  2. What strikes be as a hopeful light for the future is that creativity was nurtured and encouraged or so many versions would not have existed at all. The nature of humanity seems to need originality and creativity no matter the time we live in. As we head into a world where the lowest common denominator is catered to, it is encouraging to me that creativity and individuality is alive and well.

  3. I appreciate the comment that you posted jgrichard2013 because it describes how I feel perfectly. It certainly is interesting to see how certain aspects of myth seem to evolve and especially how certain events within a myth are emphasized more or less then the previous time they are told.

  4. I remember many times camping and sitting around a fire at night making up our own stories in the round. Hilarity, competition and sometimes real imagination stretching occurred. But, we had lots of fun and great memories to cherish. So although the oral tradition has changed it has not dissapeared completely. Hopefully my girls will carry it on with their children.

  5. The way I see it part of the reason some of these stories were meant to keep the children in line. If the tribe lived close to a big cliff there were some cases where they would create a misadventure around that area to deter the children from getting too close. Not to say the alligator in the sewers was one of these tales as it was fabricated much later but maybe it too has the same bases to ensure young ones keep clear of the sewers.

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