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In Defence of Storytelling

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"Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons, 'twas our right
(used or misused). The right has not decayed.
We make still by the law in which we're made."

A stock Aesop, affirming the usefulness and importance of story-telling. This can be done by having a story accomplish some useful end, but more often it is simply a matter of making the story-tellers the good guys and those who oppose story-telling the villains. Probably due to the fact that Most Writers Are Writers.

This trope is about how it's good to create stories. Compare "Reading Is Cool" Aesop, which is about how it's good to read stories. See also The Power of Language, about the medium stories are often told through.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Studio Ghibli film Whisper of the Heart, the main character goes through a period of personal growth as she pursues her writing at the expense of her school work.

    Comic Books 
  • The Worlds' End story arc of The Sandman (1989) (issues 51-56) is composed of a series of stories told by stranded travelers at an inn positioned between realities, an inverted Canterbury Tales. They have a framing story, which is eventually revealed to be one told by its narrator to a bartender. The next-to-last issue of the arc, "Cerements", has a story within a story itself...meaning there's five layers of storytelling going on at once. One of the characters, the narrator's friend, says she has no stories, and attempts to deconstruct the others told along Freudian lines. She decides to stay at the inn when everyone goes on their respective ways, implicitly abandoning her former life for one that will someday be a story worth telling.
  • This is one of the many possible readings of Loki: Agent of Asgard ("Warning: Your reading of the text affects the text. Use your power wisely." It's very, very meta), where Loki successfully changes by retelling their own story and claiming the title of God of Stories to escape the stigma attached to their original God of Lies one.

  • The movie Big Fish. It's more about how a fake interesting life is better than boring old reality, but it fits in there.
  • This is the Baron's overall point in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. He knows that what he's telling people is patently ridiculous, but it's more interesting than boring old reality.
  • In the 1952 Danny Kaye movie Hans Christian Andersen, the title character is run out of town for his story-telling. He goes to Copenhagen, where he makes it big, and is eventually welcomed home with open arms! The movie also provides at least one example of how story-telling can be useful: When Andersen meets a boy who feels insecure about his shaved head, he cheers him up with the story of "The Ugly Duckling".
  • Similarly, in the 1962 movie The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, the brothers are mocked for collecting folk tales. In the end, they are vindicated when the stories they publish become much more popular than the more "serious" work they do.
  • In the 1967 musical adaptation of Doctor Dolittle, Matthew's first song, to Tom, praises the doctor for his inventiveness and love of story-telling. He later sings a song to Emma where he defends the doctor's whimsy, explaining that the world truly is a wonderful place, but that it takes someone with a healthy imagination to see it.
  • This is seen in Secondhand Lions with Garth telling young Walter about him and his brother Hub and their adventures in Africa. When Walter asks Hub if it's true, and how his mother tells so many lies he doesn't know what to believe anymore, Hub tells him if he wants to believe in it to believe. Later, when Walter's mother shows up with a private investigator ( or so he claims) telling him Hub and Garth were actually bank robbers, Walter chooses to believe the stories. Years later, his faith is vindicated when he meets the grandson of the sheik who was the villain of those stories.

  • This trope is at least Older Than Steam. As The Thousand and One Nights showed us, a well-told story can save one thousand innocent lives (including your own), massively improve the life conditions in your country, and help you marry into the royal family.
  • Salman Rushdie's children's novel Haroun and the Sea Of Stories has two villains with very different attitudes towards stories. One insists that all stories are pointless, while the other believes they can be very useful - as tools of propaganda. Unusually, this novel provides an example of a story being put to a realistic, practical use. At the end, Rashid tells the (true but fantastic-sounding) story of his and Haroun's adventures. The people who hear it are so inspired that they rise up and run a corrupt politician out of town.
  • In The Neverending Story, Fantasia is sick because humans have stopped coming there (i.e. dreaming and telling stories). However we're told that this is also making the human world sick. The job of those who travel to Fantasia is not merely to save it from destruction, but to "make both worlds well".
  • One of the characters of the Alvin Maker series is an itinerant storyteller who often defends the art.
  • In Voyage of the Basset, one of the Main Characters, Professor Aisling, is taunted by a fellow academic to defend why mythology is important. He ends up responding that in order to do things like science, the mind must be kept open and given ideas, and mythology is a way to do that.
  • The underlying Aesop for Aunt Dimity and the Lost Prince: an imaginative little girl makes up stories about actual people she meets, and Lori takes her stories seriously enough to investigate, which permits all the happy results of the book Lady Barbara and Mikhail being reunited after so many decades, Skeaping Manor getting a sponsor and a proper security system, Bree meeting her favourite author and finding a bit of purpose in her new life, Tiffany and her children getting out of the city and discovering joy in life among others.
  • The importance of stories and legends to the human condition is a frequent theme in the Discworld series. Hogfather is probably the biggest example; the denouement has Death explicitly spell out how concepts like truth and justice are just as made-up as things like the Hogfather and the Tooth Fairy, but believing in "little lies" like fairy tales and nursery stories trains us to make "big lies" a reality.
    You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?

    Live-Action TV 
  • Inverted in Chernobyl. Valery Legasov's opening monologue casts "stories" as a poor substitute for "truth", and one must carefully consider who is telling and controlling a narrative. As the show unfolds, the danger of accepting a comfortable story over a frightening truth is demonstrated, how one can be lulled into a false sense of security by simply casting a hero and a villain, and how this can obscure deep systemic flaws that will allow a disaster to be repeated. (Craig Mazin, the writer, acknowledged the inherent irony of writing a story about the danger of stories in the companion podcast.)
  • Home Economics: In "Emergency Preparedness Kit, $129.99", Tom, a novelist by trade, feels like he's useless in a crisis when a power outage traps them in Connor's home. But when the kids' mobile devices go dead, he tells them a story based on the day's events to calm them down, making them realize that his abilities as a storyteller are valued.

  • J. R. R. Tolkien was once famously challenged on this issue by his friend C. S. Lewis. He responded in classic Tolkien fashion by writing a poem, entitled "Mythopoeia". In it he affirms that story-telling is not merely defensible, but a divine right.

  • In the play, The Harbinger, the title character's books and stories are represented as the one ray of hope in a city full of darkness and misery.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age II: Varric is a professional storyteller, as well as the Character Narrator of the story, who obviously embellishes many parts of it. In-story, he lampshades how important a well-told story is, stating that "History is just the best stories, the ones that last".

    Visual Novels 
  • Discussed with the protagonist and title character of Melody. Melody likes older music (from the protagonist's age set) because the artist(s) used to arrange album tracks in order to tell a story. Newer artists don’t do this.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: Vic (who is acting as the Lemony Narrator) wraps up Season 14 (an anthology season written by a myriad of guest writers) with a speech about the need for stories and encouraging viewers to create their own.
    As long as there's stories, there needs to be storytellers. And that, is where you come in. Tell your story, dude or dudettes! It could be one in a billion others, but it'll be yours. Make it about the Reds. Make it about the Blues. Heck, make it about some other group of soldiers that no one ever heard about until you told them! Show us villains that tell themselves they're heroes. Build entire worlds brick by brick! Teach the galaxy about friendship! But whatever you do, don't. Stop. Because a universe without stories... well, that's just empty space, amigo.

    Web Original 
  • One recurring subplot in the SCP Foundation is the study of pataphysics, or the Foundation's observations of how we, as readers and writers, shape the near-infinite number of realms in their world. Though initially played for existential horror as the Foundation realizes the authors and their audience are willingly subjecting them to cruel fates and a broken universe that's seemingly always living on borrowed time, they later come to understand that regardless of the outcome, their world quite literally cannot exist without someone to put pen to paper in our world. This develops into their modern pataphysics research, and they eventually discover that there is good in the authors' storywriting — there are an infinite number of stories, and while that means an infinite number of Downer Endings, it also means a wellspring of infinite hope. Moral of the story: Telling whatever stories you like is cool, and being told otherwise sucks as long as you aren't harming any one of your own.