Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.
Carl Sagan, chapter 1, Cosmos
There is very little that can match a good story. The variety of emotions a story can evoke are many, and the manner in which they fill our heart incomparable. Stories are drawn from truth even if they are not the whole truth themselves. Stories of love, joy, anger, hate, adventure give us internal references to touch base with. The Greeks knew it and even gave the after-feeling of experiencing a story a term. They called it catharsis and is drawn from the word cleansing. The listeners go through the experience of story-telling and by becoming involved with the story and characters come out of it feeling liberated and free. Such is the power of storytelling.
In a time where technology connects everyone, storytelling and the sort of stories we choose to read, listen and focus on become very important. The listener is often the curator, seeking stories that resonate with them.This makes it all the more important to seek stories of wisdom, sadness, upliftment and imagination. After all what are stories, but words strung together, sprinkled with magic?
The Great Storyteller with words by Ken Spillman and pictures by Manjari Chakravarti is such a story. These two wonderful story tellers come together in this beautiful picture book to gently remind readers what is truly important -
“The greatest gifts are stories, pictures, songs and play.”
Elephant, old of years and rich with wisdom is the forest story teller, recounting many of the events of years past. The animals of the forest love to gather every evening around the tree of life to listen together to elephant’s stories.
But everything must come to pass, and so does the life of the great story-teller who reminds his listeners to never stop imagining and telling stories. Among the listeners are Maya, Arun and Chi three tree swingers who loved to listen to the storyteller. They along with the other forest dwellers mourn the story-teller. Everything seems bleak and sad. Their grief and hopelessness make them helpless. Soon sadness eats into their life.
The story-teller’s words come back to them and using his words as a guide the three friends navigate the darkness and come back to the light. They light a spark when they start to share their stories with their friends. Pretty soon, everyone is full of stories that have sprung afresh and the forest is a happy place again. The story-teller is cherished, but more importantly his tradition of storytelling is revived. The chain of passing stories remains unbroken.
The author navigates the idea of death, loss, grief, imagination and rejuvenation with such ease and simplicity. Profound ideas are laid out quite simply for children.
Manjari Chakravarti’s art captures the many moods of the story. The pages go dark when the storyteller passes and are full of light and colour when the sadness passes. They help the young reader pause, linger and ponder.
Events and emotions are myriad and they all count equally the creators seem to say. But nothing is the end, they inform us, and we must move through the passage of time armed with our stories and imagination to live fully in the world. It is only our stories and creations we have to offer the world even after we are no longer there physically, just like the Great Storyteller and in them we live forever.