June 2018 “Re-Authoring Futures” Conference in Hamburg
August 2018 Storytelling course at the Leibniz University in Hanover
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What can we learn from “1001 Nights”?

One of the most wonderful ways to get to know different cultural circles and discover values transported in the stories is listening to and reading myths, fairy tales and legends from around the world. Diving into the magic worlds of stories can be an eye opener and an invitation to share observations on values and on cultural soul and even some cultural roots of the current narratives. That is why I would love to invite you to read a short story about one of the most influential female storytellers, Scheherazade.

Instead of reading a text, you might enjoy watching this amazing story told by the ballet dancers from the Mariinsky ballet, Igor Kolb and Jiyeon Ryu, the only foreigner in the Ensemble in 2007. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1aFrAV3d1o Enjoy the beautiful music by Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov.

Scheherazade was telling stories to her newly wed powerful spouse during 1001 Nights not only to delay her execution but also to influence him to re-narrate his own story. The ruler, who has been convinced that every single woman he marries must die after the wedding night, changed. Why? When Scheherazade married the ruler and attracted his attention with a great story on their wedding night she did not end the story and made the groom wait until the next night to hear the end. That same night she started telling a new story and played with his curiosity until the next dawn. That way she kept telling him stories every single night 1001 times in a row. She took a great risk and changed the course of history with her narrative approach and… made the sultan a better human being.


Learning points:

  • Curiosity and openness to new stories are the keys to learning
  • With well-designed stories, you can make your readers reflect on their own stories and initiate change by making them ask themselves why they are convinced they act in the proper way. That way they may start to question their world of obviousness.
  • Interactive storytelling, for instance sharing stories with an open-end so that the story listener/story reader has got time to think about (and even create) the end of the story leverages the possibility to discover the wisdom of the narrative and memorize it better way.
  • With your stories you invite people to set on a journey, during which they will not only detect new cultures (and new thinking patterns and new approaches) but also discover their own cultural values and their own expectations. Accordingly to Jerome Bruner every story develops the “landscape of action” and the “landscape of consciousness”- the element of human intention. That explains why the readers not only digest the struggles of the protagonists but also reflect on their own approach towards the presented story. (Bruner, J. ACTUAL MINDS, POSSIBLE WORLDS. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986.)
  • Self-reflection and gaining knowledge on different cultural perspectives can lead to intercultural sensitivity development and the will to build bridges connecting cultures. Thanks to sharing “values based stories” people can develop flexibility and adapt their own behavior patterns to new surroundings, show compassion and act with empathy. All that results in personal development and can flourish in shaping a flexible mindset.

The details on the neuroscience research on storytelling and story sharing can be found in the blog: How does storytelling affect the brain?

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