Why Are Stories So Important To Us? Part 2. By Dr Linda Berman.


48549448542_d0bff5b0cc_oLouis Charles Moeller – Spinning Yarns. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“We’re all made of stories. When they finally put us underground, the stories are what will go on. Not forever, perhaps, but for a time. It’s a kind of immortality, I suppose, bounded by limits, it’s true, but then so’s everything.”

Charles de Lint

  • Stories As Memory.

“But how could you live and have no story to tell?”
 Fyodor Dostoevsky

Stories are everywhere, and each day of our lives provides us with new stories. They remind us of the past, are relevant in the present, and also keep us connected to the future.

They will persist, passed down through the generations. What will also be preserved through our stories are examples of courage, strength and resilience, to inspire and support, a lasting message from the past.

There is almost an obligation to tell our children our ideas, values and experiences and to work at changing the world through stories.

Future generations can remember these stories and make them their own, taking from them the wisdom that fits their own needs and their own situation.

Crucially, many such stories can be revivified in the present and made relevant to today’s world.

“The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.”
Ursula K. Le Guin

“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.”
Shannon Alder

about 1470Paolo Uccello – Saint George and the Dragon [c.1470]Gandalf’s Gallery Flickr.

“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”
Muriel Rukeyser

  • Stories And Truth

Do stories have to be true to be effective? The answer is that they do not, for whether they are based on truth or imagination, good stories can fortify and energise us.

“Stories,” he’d said, his voice low and almost husky, “we are made up of stories. And even the ones that seem the most like lies can be our deepest hidden truths.”

Jane Yolen

Through metaphor and allegory, archetype, fable, myth and legend, we can learn valuable truths from fiction that may inspire and direct us in life.

“Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot.”

Neil Gaiman

“Some of these things are true and some of them lies. But they are all good stories.”
Hilary Mantel

Such symbolic stories deliver their message in an acceptable form, a little like dreams. 

By communicating indirectly, they help us visualise and understand difficult concepts that may be too raw to take on board were they expressed in a more direct, concrete manner.

“Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form.”

Jean Luc Godard

“The emotional brain is highly attuned to symbolic meanings and to the mode Freud called the ‘primary process’ – the messages of metaphor, story, myth, the arts.”

Daniel Goleman

  • Stories Help Us And They Give Us A Way To Help Others. 

“Stories are medicine. I have been taken with stories since I heard my first. They have such power; they do not require that we do, be, act, anything — we need only listen.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Cautionary tales, fables, mythological stories, fairy tales…. all these can offer  helpful lessons to use in our daily lives.


The Frog Prince. Illustration of the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale. Wikimedia Commons.

“Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide.”

Morgan Harper Nichols

6404354503_332b125c3d_oJames Jebusa Shannon – Jungle Tales (Contes de la Jungle) [1895]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

“Literature is about telling stories. Now, the gift of literature is that, in some lucky cases, reading a novel or a story makes the reader more curious, more open-minded. It may open a third eye in the middle of the reader’s forehead.”

Amos Oz

Older people often relate their stories to the young in order to demonstrate that tough life issues can be managed and endured.
Such inter-generational stories, like the passing down of recipes, tips and hints, traditions, songs and dance, create a bridge between the old and the young, a continuation, a perpetuation of cultural and familial customs.
We all need to feel a sense of belonging to history and culture, and through the oral tradition of telling stories, we can gain a feeling of rootedness.
We can thus be helped to forge our own identity, as stories can link us to our past and the people whose genes we continue to pass onto future generations.
They connect us to our heritage, and help us explain and understand who we are now.
Jacob Fürchtegott Dielmann. Grandmother’s Stories.1845. Wikimedia Commons.

“I’ll tell you right now, the doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is the door; if you have an old, old story, that is the door.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estés

“The reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories.”


imageGrandmother’s  Fairy Tale. Paul Wagner. (1852-1937.)Wikimedia Commons.

“These aren’t scars, these are stories.”

Nikita Gill.

“Everybody is a story. When I was a child, people sat around kitchen tables and told their stories. We don’t do that so much anymore. Sitting around the table telling stories is not just a way of passing time. It is the way the wisdom gets passed along. The stuff that helps us to live a life worth remembering.”
Rachel Remen

Stories ask questions, and they make us think. They show us different kinds of lives, different ways of thinking,  yet also connect us to other people as we recognise aspects of ourselves in them.

They help us to understand, relate to and empathise with, others’ feelings and points of view.

“Stories are memory aids, instruction manuals and moral compasses.”

Aleks Krotoski

  • Stories And Art: Every Picture Tells A Story

40035844970_ca9214af6d_oGuy Pène Du Bois – Suspense [1946]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.

22377794540_ecf544af45_oEdward Hopper. 1952. Hotel By A Railroad. Flickr.

“The best way to truly understand narrative art is to experience it.”
George Lucas

The two paintings above each represent a suspended moment in time, an instant in a visual story that we can, in our imaginations, presume existed before the moment in the paintings, and will exist afterwards.

Like all good stories, such narrative art sets us thinking, poses many questions, and gives us an intimate glimpse into other people’s lives, from different perspectives.

  • Our Lives Are Stories.

We all enter this world, participate in life and, finally, make our exit.

Our lives are a series of stories; from day to day we ‘collect’ new experiences which all form part of our history.

Those we leave behind have their memories of us and also the many narratives we have woven during our lives. These narratives shaped our identity and formed our own unique life story.

The stories that defined us will linger after we have gone, to be told and retold to future generations.

imageVan Gogh. Wheatfield With Lark. Wikimedia Commons.

“In the end, we’ll all become stories.”

Margaret Atwood.


If you have enjoyed my stories today, please follow my blog! Linda.

© Linda Berman.

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