Epic Storytelling Events - Seattle Storytellers Guild
What are Epic Storytelling Events?
A number of Storytelling Guilds, including the Seattle Storytelling Guild, have been presenting lengthy programs where multitude storytellers take the audience through a particular cultural or literary epic tale. There are quite a few Myths, Legends and Literary works that are much too long for a typical storytelling program. Even today, entended narratives like The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, Harry Potter, Star Wars have taken to multiple installments to tell their tales. This is nothing, new - the Wagner's Operatic Ring Cycle is presented in four parts. Television dramas require "binging" to get through extended serialized story lines.
There are many mythical cycles and legends that lend themselves to an extended presentation. And what better way to do it, than to have a variety of storytellers, each taking a portion - and carrying the audience through the stories from beginning to end. Following the lead of a sister guild in Canada, The Vancouver Society of Storytelling had annual Epic Weekends for many years - the Seattle Storytellers Guild did its first "epic" telling in 2016 with Ella Young's Irish myth inspired "The Wondersmith and His Son" - which we presented with sixteen tellers. We followed that with the Finnish "Kalavala" - an entire afternoon at the Nordic Heritage Museum with sixteen tellers, each bringing their own styles to this little known Epic poem in March of 2017. We did the 1,001 Nights with thirty-one Tellers over a two day program on May 4th and 5th, 2018; and another Epic telling of Norse Mythology in the Fall - also with multiple tellers in November of 2018. Preparations for the Welsh Mabinogion were underway for May 2020 when the Covid-19 shutdown forced us to postpone this event until 2021. This event was being planned to include the Puget Sound Welsh Association and two storytellers from England were to have been a part of it.
Seattle Storyteller's Guild Epic Events
© 2020 - Barry McWilliams and The Seattle Storytellers Guild
- The Wondersmith and His Son (Presented March 19, 2016) is a literary epic inspired by various Irish Myths from the Mythological Cycle of Irish Mytholgy written by Ella Young. Click for Event Pictures and Resources on Irish Mythology
- The Kalevala - The National Epic of Finland (March 25th, 2017) at the Nordic Heritage Museum in Ballard, Wa. Click for Resources on the Kalevala, Pictures, and the Audio Stories from all the tellers.
- 1,001 Nights (The Seattle Storytellers Guild Epic Event May 4 & 5th 2017. Click for Resources on the 1,001 Nights. Pictures, Audio Stories will be available after the event!
- Norse Mythology at the New facility of the Nordic Museum was done November 20th, 2018 at the Nordic Museum in conjunction with the opening of their Viking Exhibit.
- A Gathering of Santas - Several of Santa's "Helpers" from times past share stores at a Third Friday Storytelling Event - December 21st, 2018
- The Welsh Magbinogion Postponed until 2021 due to Covid shutdown. Here is a breakdown of the branches for an epic storytelling and a list of published resources.
Some Hints on Planning "Epic Events" . . .
Organizing these events is challenging - finding appropriate venues, storytellers, publicizing the events, etc - what has been striking to the organizers is the number of volunteer storytellers eager to participate. For them, it is often the delightful task of learning new stories, telling them for the first time. It is also the great experience of hearing the other tellers as the stories unfold together.
One of the values of telling "epics" is that they often have particular cultural backgrounds that lend themselves to special presentations and events. Wondersmith being Irish lent itself to St. Patrick's day. The Kalevala was done at the Nordic Heritage Museum in celebration of Finland's Centennial. The 1,001 Nights partnerrd with an Arab cultural group, and mid-eastern folk dancers, music and food were also part of the event. Our Nordic Myths accompanied a Viking Exhibit. Epic events can often take advantage cultural events and the need for better cultural awareness in our multi-cultural communities. At the same time, it is important that the stories told be put into their correct historical and cultural contexts. Do be careful with materials considered culturally sacred.
"Epic" events don't necessarily have to grapple with great myths or literary works. Programs could easily be done with Raven Tales, or Nasrudden or Brer Rabbit or American Tall Tales like Paul Bunyan or the Jack Tales.
It is good to have a common source for the stories, though the individual tellers will be free to consult other versions and to shape and tell the story as their own. And you will want to work with materials in the public Domain. Many myths and legends have been published in older collections, and are now in public domain - sometimes even available in e-book form. Often times, books written for younger readers make a good base line - the stories are usually simpler and shorter. Public Domain authors like Padraic Colum, Charles Kingsley, Andrew Lang, Howard Pyle or Ella Young can be good starting points - as are children's books by more recent writers like Roger Lancelyn Green. Using one of these as a base, the tellers can fit their presentations into each's place in the flow of the whole story - with what has already been brought into the story, and how it will follow afterwards. The organizer of the event will want to make sure there are smooth transitions from story to story, and that no "toes are stepped on" as the telling proceeds. A synopsis of the whole (broken into about equal portions for the telling) should be available when recruiting tellers as they chose which portion of the tale to tell.
Other Epic Myths and Stories just waiting to be told: (A definition of "Epic")