Andy’s Favorite Quotes

Favorite Storytelling Quotations

“Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human manifestation.”
—Joseph Campbell

“It is more important to let a child’s imagination develop than it is to labor to inculcate in him or her some correct ethical point of view.”
—Padraic Colum

“(He) knew how to empty heaven, hell and purgatory, fairyland and earth to people his stories. He did not live in a shrunken world, but knew no less ample circumstances than did Homer himself.”
—W.B. Yeats, describing a traditional Irish storyteller in The Celtic Twilight

“To be a good storyteller one must be gloriously alive. It is not possible to kindle fresh fires from burned-out embers. I have noticed that the best of the traditional storytellers whom I have heard have been those who live close to the heart of things—to the earth, the sea, wind and weather. They have been those who knew solitude, silence. They have been given unbroken time in which to feel deeply, to reach constantly for understanding. They have come to know the power of the spoken word. These storytellers have been sailors and peasants, wanderers and fisherman.”
—Ruth Sawyer

“I believe that one of the principle ways in which we acquire, hold, and digest information, is via narrative — so I hope you will understand when the remarks I make begin with the first sentence of our childhood — that we all remember — the phrase: “Once upon a time.”
—Toni Morrison, from her Nobel Lecture

“The earliest storytellers were magi, seers, bards, griots, shamans.  They were, it would seem, old as time, and as terrifying to gaze upon as the mysteries with which they wrestled .. (they) helped the community live though one more darkness, with eyes wide open, and with hearts set alight.”
—Ben Okri, in A Way of Being Free

“But it is the storyteller who is important in this piece of reminiscence. What he told us was worthwhile then and there; but the way he told it was, to me, worthwhile ever since. For he showed me what the storyteller by choice, by profession, is. He is one speaking out of memory, out of more than memory-speaking out of a trust left to the memory of the one speaking. His has the rhythm of the voice that is eager to hold the listener’s attention at one point, to loosen it at another, and then to invigorate it to the award of a good ending…In my reading of stories that have appealed to young people, I learned that the writer must address his audience as if they had as much experience of the world as he had; he must not condescend to them…They must look at familiar things-a pot, a chair, a horse, a rosebush-with such interest that the things become a bit fabulous, they must look at them as children do. Ears should have a special endowment, too; he or she should hear what men, women and children say; his or her ears should be attuned to words that are lively, quaint, extravagant, mysterious.”
—Padraic Colum, in the introduction to The Stone of Victory

“…Storytelling does not require a degree in divinity, psychology, or folklore, nor does it require bardic lineage. It’s an art that thrives on respect for ancestors and a love of community. Imagination, humility, and wit come in handy. The art of telling calls for queenly reverence, heartily salted with Coyote irreverence. It craves Japanese grace and African understatement. It relishes Scottish pluck and Irish audacity. It flourishes with Russian verbosity, Mexican vitality, and Polynesian heat. Most of all, the art wants something authentic, a voice that will carry the ancestral song, turning a phrase, sketching a scene, drawing out a character without getting in its way.”
—Erica Helm Meade, in the introduction to The Moon in the Well

“Creative art is the power to be for a moment a flash of communication between God and man.”
–Ruth Sawyer, in The Way of the Storyteller

“It’s God talking to God about God.”
–Brother Blue (in answer to the question “Just what is storytelling to you?”)

“When you tell a story, you tell it to all creation. It’s cosmic. It never goes away.”
—Brother Blue

“Stories are our legacy. Stories survive the poison of hate and the bitterness of defeat and the drunkenness of victory. Stories are the truth we leave to guide our children. If we tell with wisdom and love, we can proudly pass on the collected wisdom of a thousand generations of humanity.”
—Bob Reiser

“Only the story can continue beyond the war and the warrior. The story outlives the sound of the war drum… The story is our escort. Without it we are blind… It is the thing that sets us apart from cattle…”
—Chinua Achebe, in Anthills of the Savannah

“Some stories are true that never happened.”
–Elie Wiesel

“The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best — and therefore never scrutinize or question.”
–Stephen Jay Gould

A Few More Quotations About Art in General

“The only measure of a work of art is from how deep a life does it spring.”
—AE (George Russell)

“The dimensions of a work of art are seldom realized by the author until the work is accomplished. It is like a flowering dream…The seed of the idea is developed by both labor and the unconscious, and the struggle that goes on between them.”
—Carson McCullers

“Narrative should flow as flows the brook down through the hills and the leafy woodlands…a brook that never goes straight for a minute, but goes and goes briskly, sometimes ungrammatically, and sometimes fetching a horseshoe of ¾ of a mile around and at the end of the circuit flowing within a yard of the path that it traversed an hour before; but always going and always following at least one law, always loyal to that law, the law of narrative, which has no law. Nothing to do but make the trip; the how of it is not important, so that the trip is made.”
—Mark Twain, Autobiography

“Writing is one thing and knowledge is another. Writing is the photographing of knowledge, but it is not knowledge itself. Knowledge is a light which is within man. It is the heritage of all the ancestors knew and have transmitted to us as seed, just as the mature baobab is contained in its seed.”
–Amadou Hampâté Bâ

“Poetry is ultimately mythology, the telling of stories of the soul. The old myths, the old gods, the old heroes have never died. They are only sleeping at the bottom of our minds, waiting for our call. We have need of them, for in their sum they epitomize the wisdom and experience of the race.”
—Stanley Kunitz

“Comedy has to be based on truth. You take the truth and you put a little curlicue at the end.”
—Sid Caesar

“Only those things are beautiful which are inspired by madness and written by reason.”
–Andre Gide, author, Nobel laureate (1869-1951)

“To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the making of bread.”
—James Baldwin

“May my silences become more accurate.”
–Theodore Roethke