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How Stories are told in Different Parts of the World – Part 1

For as long as man has tried to communicate with his fellow man, people have developed ways to relay information to one another as effectively as they can. And around the world for centuries different peoples have striven to get their stories and tales heard.

The interesting thing about all this is that we don’t all tell our stories the same way, and even if a tale is the same, each different culture and people will tell it differently. This has led to a host of practices and traditions that have been grown all over the world.


If you have ever been to Polynesia (New Zealand, Easter Island and Hawaii) then you have probably seen the Hula being performed. But have you ever considered that the dancers are not moving to a beat, and that they are dancing to a language? The hula dancers will actually chant whilst they dance, and without the chanting the dance loses its meaning and the story is lost. The hula relays tales about gods and mythology as well as other traditional stories.

Shadow Puppetry

Traditional Chinese and Southeast Asia shadow puppetry is all about telling stories, they relay old traditional tales that often include lessons about morals and detail specific old customs of the region and country. These puppet performances are regularly seen at social events such as religious festivals, weddings or birthdays. The paper or leather puppets are moved by long poles manipulated by the storytellers. And often these puppeteers are accompanied by musicians and singers relating the story.


Originating in the Lebanon is a form of rap-battle called Zajal. Now this popular form of poetry competition is practiced all over the UAE and the Middle East. The competition pits one poet against another, the first sings or speaks a stanza, often goading the opponent and then the other competitor responds using the same rhythmic meter. Zajal is popular in family get-togethers and most of the time is largely informal, with the family intently listening in at the battle of words. But it does also play a serious role in society by diffusing situations and to strengthen social bonds.


Cunto hails from Sicily and draws its influences from Greek theater, the storytelling is largely improvised and can be delivered either in song or by the spoken word. Traditionally Cunto is performed on a tiny wooden platform and often by a single individual. There are not many embellishments in Cunto with few props or effects. The main focus is on what is being relayed by the performer, who is known as a Cuntisti. Traditionally the tales told are about great heroes and their adventures, although they can also be about everyday life in Sicily.

All of these forms of storytelling are still frequently used today in the modern world. And they are ancient forms and ways of relating information and telling stories. From puppetry to dance, they basically do the same thing, they pass on tales of the past and sometimes of the present.

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