Crack throu the keekin gless: the story o stories an thair importance

Stories is a important pairt o the human ken. Awbody sees an hears stories aw ower the place ilka day, in ilka society: whither it’s in beuks, in lessons or juist in ilkaday crack, stories is pairt o aw wir lifes.1 Sae whit gars stories sae important for human society?

Ae thing spells daes for us is that thay forder wir uiss o imaigination by garrin us think an imaigine the chairacters, the plot an the settin o story. An imaigination is a gey an human skeel, a capacity that ither ainimals cannae uise like we can. Wir capacity tae imaigine the futur is ane o the raisons we maunt tae pit ower sae lang in Eastern Africa, an expand intae ither continents.

Creativity is sel-like, an connectit wi, imaigination: thay are baith verra human capacities that del intae the various possibílities o life. Creativity is a brawly important aspect o narrative.2 An creativity is forby ane o the weys tae actualise wir ettles in life. Sel-actualisation is ane o the psychological needs identified by Maslow. This is partícularly important for bairns’ psychological development whaur the need for imaiginative play is a indicator o success efter; in partícular, Nobel Prize winners dae mair creative play whan thay war weans.

Sel-development is fordert by stories, acause thay provide a wey o expressin unconscious desires an fears an a structur.3 The structur o stories is in the form o linear thocht. It is a realistic representation o time, a variable on whilk wir lifes is based.

Stories can be weys o haunlin emotions.4 It can forby whiles be a better wey o haunlin emotion than giein labels tae emotions.5 Thay can gie the readers, or hearers, a connection, whither personal or emotional, wi the author or wi the chairacters.

Stories can touch fowk emotionally, inspecially throu the chairacters: fowk can identify wi the chairacters or plot an compare that wi thair ain experience; fowk can unnerstaund the situation the chairacters is in an empathise wi thaim; we can appreciate the importance o the ideas set out in the story; we can unnerstaund the warld better wi the metaphors present, ideas, chairacters.

This can be a wey o connectin wi ither fowk, aftentimes wi fowk ye’v niver met, ye niver will, an whiles even fowk ye niver can meet, acause o the fact thay war tae the fore afore ye war born, or afore ye kent thay existit. Acause fowk can identify wi the chairacters, thay can hae therapeutic vailue. Stories can be forby weys o takkin wi an approbatin pairts o yersel.6

Stories gies meanin tae wir lifes7 an mak sense o wir lifes.8 This includes giein meanin tae the bygane times o wir lifes:9 it gies a narrative tae wir lifes, giein us a wey tae unnerstaund life. Deed, the feck o human knawledge is based on stories.10 Wir ideas o the past is shapit by the stories that relate tae it. Wir memories even can be shapit by wir stories anent thaim.11

Stories upsteirs us intae upbiggin wir empathy, maisttimes subconscious like: for tae unnerstaund the chairacters, the decísions thay tak, thair craves an the situations in whilk thay find thairsels, we need tae uise wir empathy. An this empathy skeels can then transpose on intae real life.

Stories reflect real life12 can conteen compares wi ither stories. Thay can even conteen allegories. Allegories can be interpret as bein basically story-lang similes.13 Sae that is even mair complex compare’t wi reality.

Similes an metaphors is signíficant pairts o the wark o language as it eiks mair meanins tae a wird. It forby allous us tae mak comparisons acqueish different aspects o wir reality, tae unnerstaund ae thing in terms o anither. In partícular, metaphors allous us tae see abstract ideas in terms o comparisons tae less abstract, mair concrete ideas.

Whan A wis a bairn, A uised tae think that scarraes wis wannecessar an that scarraes isnae leal tae the meanin o wirds. Thir days, A realise that it’s a signíficant, even peremptor, pairt o language. Whit gart me chynge ma mynd wis inspecially efter readin anent Conceptual Metaphors, a concep detailt in Woman, Fire and Dangerous Things by George Lakoff.14 Sae, hinderly, we can see that the feck o the wirds we uise in ony leid haes metaphors biggit intae thaim. Sicweys is symbolism an metaphor a major pairt o ony leid.

Stories, inspecially the maist epic lingelies, is lang and detailt expressions o thocht. An sae we can say thay are ensaumples o complete an complex discourse.

As staps intae the warld o fiction, stories can be weys o takkin fowk on carrants, on vaiges, on ferds, tae places an times thay hae niver been tae. Whiles, the anerly wey o pittin yersel intae the place o a partícular warld, inspecially, is tae read a beuk on it.

Stories can be weys tae pit forrit ideas, even ideas that isnae possible or even plausible, at least at the time o writin. For ensaumple, thare mony ideas that wis in science fiction novels afore it wis adoptit intae real life situations.

Stories (inspecially legends, whit the Shetlanders cry ‘stoil’) can be retellt wi variations. This allous for thare practically bein a complouther o multiple vyces ower hunneryears, outthrou history.

Tales that haes been modified ower the hunneryears, but is aye variants o the same tale, can be clessified: thare is the Aarne–Thompson clessification sýstem for tales that can be consultit here.

Stories help us wi wir memory: stories is a memorable wey tae learn life lessons on the tane haund, an history an facts on the tither.15

Stories afttimes plays a muckle pairt in mnemonics an ither memory techniques. Acause o wir nature, us humans unnerstaund things better whan thay are in story form. It haes even been said that wir memories haes thair springheid in story form.16

Sae, in sum, we can say that stories is important for human society as it appluises us wi lang, linear expression o thocht for us tae haunle emotions an gie us meanin. An this helps us forder wir imaigination, memory an personality. It is forby a wey tae pit forrit ideas, that can be skared wi ithers.

James McDonaldJames McDonald is a Scots polyglot steyin in Réunion. He is keen on different leids, inspecially local leids, an thair forderin, whether it’s Scots, Gaelic, Réunion Creole or ither leids. He wirks in schuils, helpin bairns wi thair hamewirk an giein chess lessons. Ye can contact him on jmcd89 [AT] googlemail [DOT] com.


For tips on readin Scots, alang wi a glossar o common wirds, see our cutty guide (written in English).

Scots English
afttimes frequently, oft-times
anent about
appluise make available to
approbatin accepting, validating
carrant an expedition
complouther a mixture
del delve, dig
ferd a journey, voyage
forby besides, in addition
gart compelled, made
hinderly eventually
lingelie a long-winded story, sermon, speech
maunt managed, succeeded in
on the tane haund on the one hand
peremptor imperative
scarrae a figure of speech, a metaphor
sicweys thus
skare share
spell a tale, story
springheid source, origin
upbiggin building up
upsteir stir up, rouse, incite
wannecessar (or unnecessar) unnecessary
whiles sometimes
  1. János László, The Science of Stories: An Introduction to Narrative Psychology (Routledge, 2008), 2
  2. The Science of Stories: An Introduction to Narrative Psychology, 3
  3. The Science of Stories: An Introduction to Narrative Psychology, 10
  4. The Science of Stories: An Introduction to Narrative Psychology, 9
  5. Margot Sunderland, Using Story Telling as a Therapeutic Tool with Children (Taylor & Francis, 2017)
  6. Kedar Nath Dwivedi, The Therapeutic Use of Stories (Routledge, 2006), 16
  7. Jodi O’Brien, The Production of Reality: Essays and Readings on Social Interaction (Pine Forge Press, 2006)
  8. The Science of Stories: An Introduction to Narrative Psychology, 3
  9. Michael Erben, Biography and Education: A Reader (Routledge, 2005)
  10. The Science of Stories: An Introduction to Narrative Psychology, 7
  11. The Science of Stories: An Introduction to Narrative Psychology, 8
  12. The Science of Stories: An Introduction to Narrative Psychology, 3
  13. The Story-Shaped World: Fiction and Metaphysics: Some Variations on a Theme, Brian Wicker (Bloomsbury, 1975, 2013)
  14. George Lakoff, Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things (University of Chicago Press, 2008)
  15. János László, The Science of Stories: An Introduction to Narrative Psychology (Routledge, 2008), 2
  16. The Therapeutic Use of Stories, 22

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