How Evil Came Into The World

Lesson 1.3 – Assignment 1:5

This is my story about how evil came into the world. I invite you to listen to to this audio recording of me telling my story while you read the words.

click here for mobile access to audio of How Evil Came Into the World

I have a story to tell you…

A long, long time ago the world had only one little house. This small house had two rooms.

One room faced east. It had a big window overlooking a lush valley where the sun always shined.

The other room faced west. It had a small door that opened out onto a balcony which overlooked a vast ocean covered by swirling grey mist.

Birds could be seen chasing each other in the clear blue sky above the valley. Zigzagging down the sides of the vale were many different trees, some yellow, some green, and a few were pink.

Beneath the tumultuous haze, the surf crashed with a steady beat, and each swell called out as it hit the shore “there’s more” … “there’s more” … “there’s more” … Seagulls dive bombed into the waves, and came up flapping their wings as they soared into the roiling clouds.

Since time began a girl and a boy lived in the house.

The girl spent hours looking out her window. In the early morning, just after the sun had risen, and was shining down upon the valley, she would laugh as she watched elk, foxes, and moose washing their faces in the river.

The boy studied the vast open space beyond his balcony. Every evening, as the sun was setting, a golden path appeared across the surface of the sea, and called out to him. Depending on the mist, the path might be clear and straight, or hidden and barely seen, but he always knew it was there.

They both knew what they knew.

But they didn’t know what they didn’t know.

They knew they had each other.

They knew every inch of the valley including the names of all the animals and all the birds who came to play.

They knew all the secrets the trees held, and the mystery of day and night.

But they didn’t know what was beyond the ocean.

They didn’t know what was outside their valley.

The girl loved watching the little river, which was not much bigger than a stream, as it meandered between granite rocks and a rainbow of wildflowers. She couldn’t understand why the boy wanted to know what was out beyond the sea.

The boy’s yearning for something different grew stronger and more desperate. He wasn’t satisfied with frolicking birds, or playing with the flora or fauna within their valley. He desired to see where the golden path lead. He needed to know what was hidden at the ends of the world.

message in a bottle 3

Message in a Bottle

One gloomy, rainy day when he was wishing for something, but he didn’t know what, he saw a curious thing. A new thing, something he had never seen before. He saw an object floating and shimmering in the waves.

For the first time in a long time, he smiled and laughed. He grabbed the girl’s hand and pulled her down the stairs. He dragged her towards the end of the beach, as he pointed with his other hand towards the new and the unknown.

His heart pounded as he reached down to pick up the bottle, but the girl warned him not to touch it. She told him it didn’t belong. She tried to pick it up and throw it into the ocean, so it could return to where it had come, but he pushed her hand away.

He grabbed the bottle and lifted it. He examined the strange and exotic object. Shaking the bottle he could hear liquid splashing around. He uncorked it, and peered inside. The most wonderful aroma wafted out. It smelled like lavender and chocolate. For just a second a different smell escaped – a sour smell of rot and decay. But it quickly disappeared, and the luscious aroma returned.

The elixir smelled intoxicating. He lifted the bottle to his lips, and took a long drink. Twitching and moaning he fell to the ground.  His legs flailed and his fists beat the sand. He had a vision. In it, a man came to him and said, “I have a story to tell you”. The man told him about a world full of broken concrete, and crying children. The boy could see himself standing in a place filled with blood and body parts strewn around. He even saw his sweet companion lying still and broken with vacant eyes.

The boy gasped, and sat up. Looking first one direction and then another, he breathed out when he saw that the man was gone. He found himself back on the beach. The girl sat beside him, holding his hand. When he looked at her the terrible vision returned, and all he saw were her dead eyes. The vision receded when she hugged him, but it didn’t completely disappear. For the first time in his life he was afraid.

He wanted to put the liquid back into the bottle. He wanted to unknow all that death and destruction. He wanted to unsee all those horrible images. But it was too late. He now knew. He knew those evil things were out there, and he knew those heinous things were inside him.

Crying, the girl shook his shoulder, and begged him to tell her what had happened. He did. He told her everything he heard, saw, and felt. Now she knew too.

Once a story is experienced, it becomes a part of you.

Once a story is told, it cannot be unsaid, because now it has been released into the world.

Be careful of the stories you tell yourself and others. But most especially, be careful of what stories you listen to, because they create your world.

 

My experience of what I discovered about story telling:

In this assignment we were to read Thomas King’s version of Leslie Silko’s story, from her book Ceremony; it is a story about how evil first came into the world (King 9 -10). I found a WordPress website, The Abysmal: Nothing’s Better, which discusses Thomas King‘s The Truth About Stories : a Native Narrative from the Massey Lecture Series, and includes links to the lectures. In this website, there is a reprint of Leslie Silko’s story from Ceremony, in its entirety.

I memorized, and told my story to several of my friends, and all of my family. I found that each time I told my story, it changed in subtle ways from the previous version, yet the overall story and meaning remained the same.  Often I found it difficult to tell my story from beginning to end without interruption. I received feedback from everyone I told my story to, and I found that different people had different reactions, but almost everyone felt the story had a moral to it. Several people felt it was an archetypal story, similar in many ways to Adam and Eve combined with Pandora’s Box.

For myself I found the experience of telling the story very different from having my audience read the story. When you hand your story off, the person takes it and reads it. This makes it a solitary event. First you are alone when you write it, and then they are alone when they read. However, when you tell someone your story, it becomes a social event, and everyone in the group becomes a participant and is connected through the story. The other factor that makes telling a story to an audience very different from having them read it, is the very act of storytelling. When the words are read, they are as they are written. However, when the words are spoken, a whole slew of additional factors influence the meaning and the experience. Even something as simple as what words are emphasized can drastically change the meaning. This link from Factinator  gives examples of how the meaning of a sentence can drastically change depending on where the emphasis or where the punctuation is placed. Through the process of writing this story, and reciting it for an audience, I came to realize the importance of language itself. It is through language that each of us creates our reality, and as a result, it really is true that the stories we hear, even if they are the stories we tell ourselves, create our world.

 

Works cited:

Khawaja, Zainab. “‘I Never Said She Stole My Money’ Has 7 Different Meanings”. Factinator. 28 Feb 2014. Web. 30 May 2016.

King, Thomas. The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. CBC Massey Lectures. 2003.  Lecture.

The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2003. Print.

Marloeshi. Message in a Bottle. n.d. Digital Image. Deviant Art. Web. 26 May 2016

The Abysmal: Nothing’s Better. “The Truth About Stories”. WordPress. 02 July 2012. Web. 30 May 2016.

Weebly. “Musical and Literary Archetypes” Weebly. n.d. Web 30 May 2016.

 

10 thoughts on “How Evil Came Into The World

  1. Hi Linda! I LOVED your story, after reading your I felt like if this story had been a book I would have wanted to read this book! Maybe because I listened to your story orally, I enjoyed it so much. Your thoughts on written vs oral story telling put a lot of things in perspective for me. I didn’t think of writing or reading a story as a solitary event, even though this seems obvious. I always enjoy listening to audiobooks, but I know some people would much rather read the book, it could be because they enjoy that solitude. It might depend on each individual what form of story telling they prefer. Though when listening to your story it was easy to feel like I was in the atmosphere where the story was taking place and I think that might have to do with the way your voices adapted to each line and emotion. But I had also felt the same thing when I read your story because I think if you are persuaded by your story and are a good writer than your story will have the same influence and effect on people. I have begun to see storytelling not just as telling someone, but something that involves two individuals the storyteller and the listener, it depends, an oral story can have two different effects on the individuals and the written story can have completely different effects on the individuals. I was wondering which way of storytelling did you enjoy more? Or did you think you were able to get the full effect of the story across?

    • Thank you Mariam! I am glad you enjoyed my story. You bring up an important point about the difference between the written story and the oral story. As to answering your question regarding this assignment, I enjoyed telling my story, and I felt that I was able to connect better with my audience when I told them the story rather than handing them a piece of paper to read. However, I really feel that the effectiveness of an oral story depends on the storyteller, and the story itself. If the storyteller is not easy to listen to, or if the story is not interesting, then the listener’s mind will wander, and they will miss the story. However if the storyteller is gifted, and the story is riveting, then the listener will be totally involved in the story. If the story is written, then the only factor that is important to the reader, is the quality of the writing. As to your point about getting the full effect of the story across, then I feel this is much easier to do with an oral story than it is with a written story. I feel this because, with a written story there is just the words and the story. However with an oral story there is so much more involved. There is the words of course, but there is also the setting, the tonality, the word emphasis, and the hand gestures. All of these factors add to the meaning and interpretation of the story.

      Take care,

      Linda

  2. Thanks for your story, Linda! I also added an audio link on my page because I had found that writing it seemed to limit it somehow.

    I really appreciated how you described how you felt in telling the story versus writing it. I wonder if you feel, like I do, that telling a story orally has more power somehow than telling it through writing. I feel that in telling a story orally, you are brought together with the listener through a common space where you can share the experience of the story in a more powerful way. I also feel that I recall stories I’ve heard more readily than ones I have read. However, our society seems to place a higher value on the written word. I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on this strange dichotomy or whether you feel differently?

    Janine

    • Janine

      Thank you Janine for your response.

      I did listen to your audio story, and I really enjoyed listing to you telling your story. I feel that telling a story, versus reading it definitely adds to the overall story. However, I also feel that the skill and ability of the storyteller has a huge impact on how the story is perceived (and I felt you did a great job with your story). As to your question about responding to oral stories versus written stories, I feel that if someone is standing in front of you, and they are telling a story, it has more impact and meaning than reading the story. However if you are only listening to a story, as in only the audio portion is available, then I really feel it depends on the person listening to the story. Some individuals respond really well when they hear a story, others need to read it as well as hear it to understand and comprehend what is being said. It really depends on the reader or listener’s learning style. Please see this link for information on the seven different learning styles. http://www.learning-styles-online.com/overview/ However there is an additional factor that you brought up, and that is the value placed on the written word over an oral story. It seems to me that Western society places a higher value in the written word. Thomas King reinforces this point numerous times over the course of his 5 Massey Lectures.
      Take care, Linda

  3. Hi Linda,

    Thanks for presenting your story in audio – the experience is much richer than just reading it. I was quite immersed in the plot, and caught the foreshadows of danger and harm. The allusion to the waste and woe created by humans is resonating. It provokes the reader to think about the simple and pastoral life vs. that of the industrialized.

    The story is most powerful during the “push and pull” between the vision and the girl. The reader may have a preferred outcome, but that changes nothing. Once a story is told, it can’t be rescinded.

    You demonstrate the potency of spoken words in telling of this intriguing story. I’m wondering – do you still experience the suspense and exciting when telling it for the third or fifth time?

    – John

    • Thank you John,

      I am glad you were able to experience listening to my story as well as reading it. Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful comments about my story. As for your question, I found that each time I told my story, I was able to tell it with more confidence. As a result I felt I was able to improve the story with each telling, and I was able to continue to experience, both for myself, as well as for my audience, the suspense and excitement of the story.

      Take care,

      Linda

  4. Hello Linda,

    I really enjoyed reading your story. I thought your retelling was very creative and vivid. I particularly enjoyed the link you included at the end about emphasis and punctuation. With oral storytelling, you can easily place the emphasis with your voice and gestures. However, when someone is recording a story to perhaps transcribe it later in an attempt to share or preserve it, the subtle placement of emphasis could easily become overlooked or misinterpreted. As the link demonstrates, this can be particularly disastrous to the overall meaning. Do you think this could be a problem if an outsider who is new to someone else’s stories was attempting to digitally record and document oral stories to later transcribe them?
    I look forward to your thoughts,
    Gillian

    • Gillian

      Thank you Gillian for your kind words about my story, and I am glad you enjoyed the experience. I agree with your observation, that the placement of the emphasis can be lost or overlooked on an oral story. For example when I was speaking my story, I placed scorn into my voice (on some of these words) during my story, when I said “He was not satisfied with frolicking birds, or playing with the flora or fauna within their valley.” However, when I listened to my story, I did not hear any scorn on the aforementioned words. So yes, I do think it could be a problem for outsiders to distinguish the true the meaning of oral stories, if they are trying to transcribe and digitize them. I think this is particularly true when the outsider doing the transcribing is not familiar with the nuances of the language or the intricacy of the culture they are transcribing from.

      Take care,

      Linda

  5. Hi Linda,
    I really enjoyed your story, and your analysis that the words used Do create our world. “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will never hurt us,” is something kids know is untrue, even as they chant it; it’s their way of trying to call back the effect of an insult on them,and call back the story about them. But in their attempt, they are also unwittingly telling their tormentors that they have struck a successful blow.
    I was also really struck by your comment that we have to be careful what stories we tell ourselves. As someone who is a mother, and who will be teaching secondary English and ELL, I think a great deal about how to facilitate communication, but I’ve spent less time thinking about self-communication, the stories my students and my son may be telling themselves. Negative, abusive self-talk is, I think, a terrible evil afflicting our youth today, and I think it is a contributing factor in the huge rise in youth suicide. I think being a willing listener, and by addressing the issue of the self-fulfilling power of language is definitely something responsible, caring adults and teachers need to address. Do you think if First Nations youth had an outlet for telling their stories, and willing, witnessing listeners, the suicide rate could be lowered? Thanks for the great reminder about how powerful language is.
    ~ Claudia

    • Thank you Claudia for your kind comments and insightful observations. I definitely feel that something needs to be done to lower the rate of suicide within First Nations communities. Additionally, I feel it is important for people to feel heard. Language too, is an important component of communication. I read an article from Tyee that reinforces just how important it is to reclaim Indigenous languages. The article talks about how saving language equals saving lives. This is backed-up by research done in 2007 by an associate professor of psychology, Christopher Lalonde, and his colleagues at the University of Victoria. They studied 150 First Nations communities in British Columbia, and discovered that in communities where the native language was spoken by at least half of the community, the suicide rates dropped to zero. However when there was little or no connection to their language, those communities experienced suicide rates six times higher than the national average. I encourage you to read the article for full details. The article can be found at: http://m.thetyee.ca/Culture/2016/02/04/Reclaim-Indigenous-Language/ The tie between language and suicide is an important and relevant insight considering the number of First Nations communities in Canada that have declared a state of emergency due to the number of suicides.

      Take care,

      Linda

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