Doris Lessing on storytellers as myth-makers: “Our heritage of stories began in fire, magic, the spirit world”

By Elke Wetzig (elya) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

From Doris Lessing’s lecture in acceptance of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature:

We are a jaded lot, we in our threatened world. We are good for irony and even cynicism. Some words and ideas we hardly use, so worn out have they become. But we may want to restore some words that have lost their potency.

We have a treasure-house of literature, going back to the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans. It is all there, this wealth of literature, to be discovered again and again by whoever is lucky enough to come upon it. A treasure. Suppose it did not exist. How impoverished, how empty we would be.

We own a legacy of languages, poems, histories, and it is not one that will ever be exhausted. It is there, always.

We have a bequest of stories, tales from the old storytellers, some of whose names we know, but some not. The storytellers go back and back, to a clearing in the forest where a great fire burns, and the old shamans dance and sing, for our heritage of stories began in fire, magic, the spirit world. And that is where it is held, today.

Ask any modern storyteller and they will say there is always a moment when they are touched with fire, with what we like to call inspiration, and this goes back and back to the beginning of our race, to the great winds that shaped us and our world.

The storyteller is deep inside every one of us. The story-maker is always with us. Let us suppose our world is ravaged by war, by the horrors that we all of us easily imagine. Let us suppose floods wash through our cities, the seas rise. But the storyteller will be there, for it is our imaginations which shape us, keep us, create us -for good and for ill. It is our stories that will recreate us, when we are torn, hurt, even destroyed. It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix, that represents us at our best, and at our most creative.

Complete lecture: “On Not Winning the Nobel Prize

Image by Elke Wetzig (elya) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

About Matt Cardin

Teeming Brain founder and editor Matt Cardin is the author of DARK AWAKENINGS, DIVINATIONS OF THE DEEP, A COURSE IN DEMONIC CREATIVITY: A WRITER'S GUIDE TO THE INNER GENIUS, and the forthcoming TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN. He is also the editor of BORN TO FEAR: INTERVIEWS WITH THOMAS LIGOTTI and the academic encyclopedias MUMMIES AROUND THE WORLD and GHOSTS, SPIRITS, AND PSYCHICS: THE PARANORMAL FROM ALCHEMY TO ZOMBIES.

Posted on July 13, 2013, in Writing & Creativity and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. ” The storytellers go back and back, to a clearing in the forest where a great fire burns, and the old shamans dance and sing, for our heritage of stories began in fire, magic, the spirit world.”

    That line gives me shivers. Also makes me want to put on my fantasy writer hat for the day. Shamans, magic, the spirit world – enticing topics for an agnostic. <3

    • The easiest way to hug those shivery numinous presences is the self-loss. This is the way Korean shamans initiate. The famous anthroplogical theory of this kind of thing was Marcel Mauss’ book The Gift . Offering at a shrine, offering your soul, haunts the received to bestow back what is rightfully your’s . … solitary self loss is not for the feint of heart though.

  2. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s son,

    http://youtu.be/gZdqFkDXogM

    I found this today on youtube. I relate to this a lot. After the first world war, the whole position of humanity changed, the churches had no answer for it. But the survival of the soul still mattered a tremendous amount. Thankfully the soul does indeed survive after death, and you need to get proof of it yourself, never rest until you know, and never trust or believe anything you are told until you do. He says he hates the word spiritualism and prefers the word survivalism.

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