“We are all, Despite Ourselves, Drenched in Narrative”


“Long, long ago, in a village far away…”

And so begins a story, that holds our attention all through dinner. Benjamin, my 8-year old, told a story that he’d heard at school, with such skill that I was on the edge of my seat, wide-eyed and crying at one point. Such heroism. Such love. He just waited patiently for me to stop blubbing and continued on to the climatic ending, at which I was breathless.

What an amazing story.

My love for this boy grew exponentially, if that is possible, with how much I already love him. Something inside my heart swelled as he so eloquently told this story. He has so many gifts already, and storytelling is such a powerful tool.

This morning I read, “The Told Story” chapter in Gail Sher’s beautiful book, “One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers.” She talks about children listening to the same story over and over again, with the same clenched blanket fear at the same spot every time, even though they know Goldilocks lives happily ever after in the end. The scary part remains scary, because it’s fun to get a rise out of ourselves like that, especially because we know how it ends, and we have confidence that it will all work out for the best.

“At each beginning there is the same dread. When it is over, they sigh with the same relief. The partial trance into which they fall, while safely suspended in a fantasy, rocks them to sleep.”

I love the telling and retelling of tales. Narnia is a perfect example for me of a story that takes on a life of its own, almost like holy literature, in that each time I read it, a different part stands out to me. A different knowledge sinks in, a different confidence is born, based on where I am in my own life and understanding. I still clutch at the tense parts, I still cry with relief or delight at the parts where Aslan whispers a soothing word.

I love that my children are taking these journeys with me into magical lands and mythical creatures, stories with bigger than life characters, and true to life lessons. Oh, we have such good talks around the table when a story is at the center of our conversation.

The photo of a mini fairy tale house seemed appropriate and is from here.

The title is a quote from Gail Sher.

Before leaving for work today, I was notified that this story is being Featured on BlogHer!

3 thoughts on ““We are all, Despite Ourselves, Drenched in Narrative”

  1. Beautiful! I love reading to my son and it is so sweet to be able to picture how it will result in him telling me stories someday through your description of your son.

  2. did you know what would start growing in your boys with the hours i have no doubt that you’ve spent reading to them? i can tell you that i did not. all these years later (and how on earth did those bedtime stories stack up to become years?) they it would seem that they are growing into storytellers in their own right, too. and they’ll do this in front of other people! in front of strangers! maybe it should have been an outcome i could have foreseen but i don’t think i’ve ever been one with much strength for predictions and the long-view.
    (narnia. we’ve done the first but audiobooked much of the balance of the series. we should revisit it. thank you, liesl!)

    1. Wendy! As I was reading your comment, a message popped up from BlogHer Editor, Jenna Hatfield, that this post is being featured on BlogHer today!

      Isn’t it amazing how our children respond to stories and grow into their own storytellers? It is truly lovely!

Leave a Reply