Storytelling meets Humanities, Elements Within–Part 4 of 7 – countdown to The Big Why

This is the fourth of seven parts on disciplines/elements of Humanities that can be found in the Art of Storytelling. This is also a countdown to virtual “The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities” on Saturday, June 20, 2020 from 9:00am-10:30am MDT.

Storytelling meets Humanities, Elements Within:

  • Part 1 – Archaeology – REVEALED
  • Part 2 – Communication/Interpretation – REVEALED
  • Part 3 – Cultural Studies – REVEALED
  • Part 4 – Folklore/Folklife – TODAY
  • Part 5 – History
  • Part 6 – Languages/Linguistics
  • Part 7 – Philosophy/Ethics

Folklore is beliefs, customs, and stories of a community passed on orally from generation to generation. Folklife is the traditional patterns and behaviors for a particular community.

You bump into modern-day folklore all the time and can reflect on what that means for times past and for people around the world.

Consider these examples of folklore and folklife:

  • Poetry
  • Proverbs and Sayings
  • Songs and Music
  • Superstitions
  • Myths, Legends, and Epics
  • Folktales

Richard M. Dorson, author of Folklore and Folklife: An Introduction, taught that a folklorist needs to understand “literary uses of folklore,” explore “relationships of folklore to culture,” and finally delve into “historical validity of oral tradition.”

Many times, a storyteller could unintentionally place their modern-day meaning upon a story outside of their culture.

The Maori oral traditions have been analyzed by Western modes and contaminates the original intent for the past two decades. Joe Pere, a Tuhoe tribal scholar, said, “Our repositories are the people that we cling to; there is no deviation; whatever they’ve said, their word has been transmitted down to us.” He said that rather than specific techniques to drive the development of those repositories, they were a “sacred mission of transmitting information.” More of this can be explored in the book “Rethinking Oral History and Tradition” by Nepia Mahuika, published in 2019.

When not researched and developed in a proper manner, a storyteller is at risk of cultural misappropriation. The best blog series on this particular topic is by international storyteller Donna Washington with links to the following parts: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, and Part Five.

Now twist and turn some thinking to how that folklore can impact and influence the Western way of life. In “Africana Folklore: History and Challenges,” author Sw. Anand Prahlad said that “no other body of material has had more impact on the development of cultures in the western hemisphere than Africana folk traditions and, consequently, that this should lead to a highly developed field of study that complements other conventional academic areas.”

With “The Big Why Panel,” two of our panelists, Dr. Caroliese Frink Reed and Sheila Arnold, have degrees in African American studies and can confirm what Sw. Anand Prahlad stated.

So study what is “everyday” to you and the patterns that you hold important. Think of the stories that link to who you are as a person and how you heard those stories–from parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents.

We will be doing this 7-part Blog Series on Storytelling and connections with the Humanities as a countdown to our next adventure--join us on Saturday, June 20, 2020 from 9:00am-10:30am MDT from your computer- The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities. Our panelists, as pictured above, are: Dr. Caroliese Frink Reed, Sheila Arnold, Darci Tucker, and Brian “Fox” Ellis. We are grateful to funding from Utah Humanities.

See our 5-video playlist from the Story Crossroads Spectacular by clicking here.


Theme RevealTime to beat the drums and enjoy the anticipation of a 5th Story Crossroads theme reveal as part of the A to Z Blog Challenge ( that happens throughout the month of April. These are 26 postings for each of the letters of the alphabet (with rest on Sundays). This is our fifth year participating in this challenge.






THEME: Hope & Healing…folktales around the world that beat back viruses

No matter the contagion, pestilence, or curse, there would always be a way to succeed and be cured. Almost all stories have some level of “happily ever after,” where all returns to how it was…though a little wiser.

The medical field is constantly changing their approach to keep up with science and compassion.   Myths, legends, and folklore are always created as these miracles take place.

While many men receive accolades for advancing the medical field, do you know about the first female doctor whose name was recorded for us to know?  Do you know Merit Ptah who lived around 2,700 BC and hieroglyphs on her tomb call her “Chief Physician.”

Now compare Merit Ptah to Isis, goddess of life and magic and who healed many people with special protection of women and children.  Perhaps it is not surprising that both Merit Ptah and Isis come from Egypt.

Or have you heard of the ships of Jacques Cartier that were trapped in ice in 1536 near present-day Quebec City?  The crew got scurvy with flesh falling off and no one had any idea of what to do.  Then Cartier kidnapped two men with one known as Dom Agaya.  Despite the lack of trust, Dom Agaya made a concoction from a tree to boost the deficiency of the Vitamin C.  The crew wondered if this could be a poison but took it anyway.  Today, it is unknown what this “tree of life” was exactly though it is guessed to be white cedar or white spruce.  While Dom Agaya was released due to this miracle, Cartier later on kidnapped Dom Agaya as well as nine other people when the scurvy came back.  Scurvy did was a problem for sailors for more than 200 years, but stories about a “tree of life” sailed the seas.  Almost all cultures have “tree of life” stories and even today we attempt to protect the rainforests, knowing that the bark or roots or other parts of trees there provide cures to more than we can imagine.

Folktales take our imagination and then transform them into fascinating stories on how humans can defy death from any number of  would-be-deadly diseases and countless curses.

There are Apples of Alteration to Elixirs of Exuberance to Infertility Interdicted to Knock-out-of-the-park Kissing. 

Some of these seem obvious, though what about Loud Laughter, Omnipotent Ointment, Purging the Physique, and Troll Trophies.

What?  Did we write “Troll Trophies”?  We sure did.

And More Surprises!

While you enjoy this blog, Story Crossroads has year-round offerings including the culminating Festival on May 13, 2020 (and how exactly that will actually look like is still up in the air due to the COVID-19…but we will figure out something).  Our latest plan can be found here:

We thank our funders such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Utah Division of Arts and Museums, the Western States Arts Federation, Utah Humanities, the City of Murray, the South Jordan Arts Council, the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts, and many other individuals. Join us in the support by attending or donating or both! (Click here to go directly to donation page.)

We also have year-round events such as the monthly house concerts and the 5th Annual Story Crossroads Festival that will be on May 13, 2020.