1:5 — How Evil Came into the World

Your task is to take the story about how evil comes into the world, the story King tells about the Witches’ convention in Chapter One of The Truth about Stories, and change it any way you want, except the ending. You can change to place, the people, the time – anything you want. But, your story must have the same moral – it must tell us how evil came into the world and how once a story is told, it cannot be taken back.

Team_SpiritStories are living things–and they are dangerous.  When evil came into the world, it was in the form of a story.  Every evening, the creatures of the world would gather together and share their daily stories.  The birds would tell stories of the sky and all the creatures they had spied on.  The bears would share their struggles to scavenge the ripest berries to prepare for winter.  The snakes would share their difficulties in finding warm rocks to fight the constant chill of their bodies.  The stories were all good and the creatures of the world were content.

One evening, a newcomer joined the gathering.  None of the creatures afterwards could recall exactly who it was, but all of them remembered the story that was told.  The newcomer shared a warning with the others.  A great and terrible creature had been sighted.  Hairless, clawless and without visible defenses, the creature should have been harmless, said the newcomer.  But this strange creature isn’t harmless, insisted the newcomer.  Beware, beware, beware.

The creatures at the gathering laughed.  If this new creature could not fight, it could not be so terrible.  We will attack its eyes, claimed the birds.  I will attack with my claws and teeth, chimed the bear.  I will coil my great body around it and constrict around its lungs, added the snake.  All the other creatures agreed and added their own strategies, until all of them felt confident that this new creature could do them no harm.

Laugh if you want, the newcomer warned, but they are coming.  They are cunning and cruel and full of fear.  Their eyes see only a dead, cold world.  They are deaf to the speech of other animals, deaf to the wind in the trees and the babbling brooks.  But worst of all, they fear.  They fear the world they cannot hear.  They destroy what they fear.  They destroy even themselves.  Beware, beware, beware. They are coming now.

All of the other creatures had grown silent and still.  We do not like your story, take it back.  Take it back.  Take it back.

But it is too late.  They are already coming.


I found this form of storytelling to be very difficult.  While I have crafted fiction frequently in the past, they have all been written storytelling; the Genesis version of events, with “rhetorical distance,” to use Thomas King’s example, as opposed to oral storytelling, involving a performance for an audience (22).  I researched other creation stories in trying to come up with my own (I also found what I think is the full version of Leslie Silko’s creation story, if anyone was curious).  I discovered one very important thing on this journey: I suck at oral storytelling.  It’s harder.  As an oral storyteller, you can’t just rely on your words to paint the picture–though I’m sure this helps.  You need to act, use different tones and voice, draw people in.  Even a short story like the one I wrote above involves a performance, or else my listeners lost their attention.  I’m not ashamed to say I researched for tips and tricks.  I was in over my head and needed to tell a good story at least once!  My endeavors led me places such as this, and I learned something crucial: there isn’t a lot of information of telling a story specifically orally.  Did anyone else try to research something similar in preparation and encounter the same result?

Works Cited

“Image.” Digital Painting.  Magic Jargon. Magic: The Gathering, 9 Sept 2006.  Web.  30 May 2016.

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

Silko, Leslie.  “[Long Time Ago].” First World Stories, n.d.  Web.  30 May 2016.

Ware, Tom.  “Tips From a Master Storyteller.”  The New Zealand Guild of Storytellers, n.d. Web 30 May 2016.


1:3–I didn’t know how culture worked.

Explain why the notion that cultures can be distinguished as either “oral culture” or “written culture” (19) is a mistaken understanding as to how culture works, according to Chamberlin and your reading of Courtney MacNeil’s article “Orality.

Them and Us.  The doodlers versus the babblers.  Civilization and barbarians.  The first part of Edward J. Chamberlin’s If This is Your Land, Where are Your Stories? Finding Common Ground discusses why the distinction between an “oral culture” and a “written culture” is a misconception.  In his attempt to bring the reader to this same understanding, he explains that

Human beings are often defined as animals who have language; so it is not surprising that the categories… first take shape along lines of language with the dismissal of a different language as either barbaric or so basic that it could not possibly accommodate civilized thoughts and feelings.  (13)

While sometimes this dismissal of cultures can take a more polite regard, it is no less harmful.  Some classify an oral culture as one whose majors forms of expression are in speech or performance.  This is considered to be more natural and connected with the world than writing and reading, which are “cultivated and complex” (19).  I admit that this was my own understanding before reading Chamberlin’s text; an easy-to-understand borderline of two separate ideas of culture that did not mix.  He points out that some of the most important rituals of the “civilized” or “doodlers” society–such as in baptisms, funerals, weddings or coronation–rely on words or ceremony conducted in a specific, performative manner using language that is archaic/outdated, or even another language altogether.

Perhaps one of the strongest defenses for Chamberlin’s position that there is no distinct line between an oral and a written culture are MacNeil’s points in her article “Orality.”  SJ-cyberspaceThanks to the realm of cyberspace, the supposed line between oral and written culture is even more indistinct.  If an oral culture is defined by its lack of substance and malleability, how do we define such categories as audio-recordings or sound-files which can now saturate the online world in a permanent way?  We cannot only store this form of oral culture, but re-play it in its exactness again and again, just as one could read and reread a written text.  In contrast, if written work is defined by its permanence or ability to endure the ages, how to we categorize the instant message or websites (like Wikipedia) that are left free to editorial change by the masses?

The aspect I find most interesting about the orality/literacy debate is that while many may have a strong association between literacy and civilization, for a long period of time literacy was accessible only for the privileged.  It is not until the invention of the printing press that literacy became more wide-spread and accessible to the masses.  Suddenly, millions of people became readers, and stories became public.  But what were they before?  To share their stories, they would have had to have been both a written and oral culture: one to read the written stories, and another, perhaps illiterate, to listen.  I wonder if, following its creation, the printing press could have been heralded or viewed as the end to orality.  However, it was quickly followed by the invention of the telephone to replace the telegraph, the radio, and the television to replace newspapers.  When you pause, it is easy to see that there is no distinct line, and that traditionally viewed literary and oral cultures dip into each others territory.

Works Cited

Chamberlin, Edward. If This is Your Land, Where are Your Stories? Finding Common Ground. AA. Knopf. Toronto. 2003. Print.

Coffee, Peter.  Image. Diginomica. Salesforce, 6 Mar. 2014. Web. 20 May 2016.

Hansen, Erin.  “Oral Traditions.”  Indigenous Foundations.  University of British Columbia, n.d. Web. 15 May 2016.

MacNeil, Courtney.  “Orality.” The Chicago School of Media Theory. Uchicagoedublogs, 2007. Web. 18 May 2016.

“Rite for the Baptism of One Child.”  Liturgical Texts.  The Catholic Liturgical Library, 1970.  Web.  20, May 2016.



Nice to meet you.

Hello classmates and fellow bloggers!  Welcome to my digital learning and interactions space.

PictureI am a storyteller; a writer.  I am a fourth year literature major at UBC.  This blog will be used to record my journey into ENGL 470A Canadian Studies. I am looking forward to the communication of classmates as we begin to explore the relationships between literature and storytelling in both its modern and historical aspects.  I am personally taking this course in the hopes of adding flesh to my bare-bones understanding of identity.  My own identity is limited to that of being Canadian–I do not know my ancestral history or their stories.  However, I was born on Canadian soil, and I believe I should know the stories surrounding the land I call my home.  This, and my claim to being a writer myself, has led to my interest in this particular course.

One aspect I find interesting, and hope to examine in this course, is the deviation in the methods of storytelling between European and Indigenous peoples.  Or, more specifically, written and oral documentation of history. Oral history, while being much more organic and malleable than written history, is far more fragile.  It seems of particular importance to examine this form of storytelling due to the threat Indigenous languages face.  This threat is not only of relevance to the preservation of stories and history, but to identity.  It is easy to interpret identity as something restricted to a past setting, and this mind-set has led to tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. In reality, history is an ongoing experience and has a lasting impact on shaping peoples lives and cultures that is still relevant today.  In order to interact and navigate with other cultures in Canada, we must first learn.

I look forward to a summer of insight and understanding with all of you!


Works Cited

Crey, Karrmen.  “Aboriginal Identity and the Classroom.”  Indigenous Foundations.  University of British Columbia, n.d. Web. 15 May 2016.

“Living Communities.” Image. Cross Curriculum Priorities. Working with Indigenous Australian Students, n.d. Web. 15 May 2016.

Luksic, N., Howell, T.  “Constitutional challenge looks to revive aboriginal languages.”  CBCNews: Aboriginal. CBCNews: Aboriginal, 10 April 2016.  Web.  15 May 2016.