Eiland's Online English Materials

'The Storyteller' by Gary Zahradka
The Storyteller© Gary Zarahdka


Story Poetry has an old and varied history. Originally, stories and news of the day were passed orally, usually through a trained storyteller, or bard, whose livelihood was to go from town to town, disseminating information and gathering new stories to tell. In order to entertain the gathering audience and to increase tips, the storyteller often employed various methods. For example, stories were woven into song, poetic verse, which also helped the storyteller to remember the details of the story in various retellings. Story poems not only told the news of the day, but also retold regional and religious tales, sometimes with a moral intent, and others purely for entertainment. Biblical tales were popular, as were songs of adventure, romance and tragedy. The bard was a mixture of entertainer and newsman, each with his own flavor and penache, but standard plot lines were shared across Europe and even across cultures, including love found or lost, morality tales for children, tales of redemption and stories of villains and sinners justly punished.

Historically, Plato created stories specifically for children, often in verse, with a specific theory in mind. "Stories should provide models for children to imitate, and as ideas taken in at an early age become indelibly fixed, the creation of fables and legends for children, true or fictional, is to be strictly supervised" (Scolnicov). These tales were specifically designed to model and encourage appropriate cultural behavior, as well as to discourage inappropriate behaviors in both children and adults. This type of approach was also used consistently in the Bible and other religious texts as a way to both entertain as well as instruct the audience. As literature became published, the narrative poem became a part of standard children's literature, often telling rather long complicated stories of a quest or the many travails of a particular character. Later, this type of poetry was also used by authors such as Dr. Seuss, accompanied by pictures, to tell an entertaining story.


Saltman, Judith. The Riverside Anthology of Children's Literature, 6th ed. Houghton Mifflin, 1985.

Scolnicov, Samuel. "Plato (427-348 B.C.E.)." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. Ed. Paula S. Fass. Vol. 2. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 681-682. 3 vols. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Thomson Gale. Citrus College. 4 Sep. 2006 .

© T. T. Eiland, August, 2006
Last modified: September 14, 2006