When I started storytelling I did a workshop with the American storyteller Harriet Mason who sadly died soon after she arrived home. One thing that she said stayed with me during my storytelling career – ‘if you can’t say what your story is about in one, or maybe 2, words, then you don’t know the story’. I found that discerning the one word or theme that encapsulates a story to be a useful thing to do when preparing it for telling. I was often surprised by the themes hidden within seemingly simple stories.
Recently I have been reflecting on the nature of stories in the light the epic rescue of the 13 soccer players in Thailand. Like many others, I have been absorbed in the story and overwhelmed by its hugeness. I have been considering it as ‘story’ rather than ‘news’, if I can make that distinction. From the perspective of a storyteller, this is a story overflowing witharchetypes -
• Lost boys, and adventure
• Heroes risking their lives
• Desperate mothers and fathers
• Frog(men) – now renamed as seals
• Hundreds of helpers
• Storytellers (media)
• Witnesses - from all over the world
• Water, and rain, and more water
• Air, lots of air
• Fast running currents
• Warriors (soldiers)
• Dark – total blackness, and light
• Guides; experts
• Letters and messages
• A mini submarine
• Death, life, induced sleep
• Priests, religious rituals, prayers, meditation
• Doctors, helicopters, nurses, ambulances
• Promises and vows
• A princess (according to Thai legend the mountain range was the body of a reclining princess)
• And the King of Thailand*.
The range of emotions we have witnessed, or imagined,includes everything from deep fear, dread and grief to ecstatic jubilation.
So where do you start to work out what the story is about?The value of life, the inevitability of death, love, rebirth, survival, being lost, risk-taking, heroism, international collaboration. All of the above, and more. I think the themes highlighted depends on which group of heroes you focus on, and there is a surfeit of heroes to choose from. It will be interesting to see what Hollywood makes of it.
For me, I’m still overwhelmed by the wonder of it all. One word to encapsulate it all? I can’t find it, not yet anyway.
* Not an exhaustive list!