Two ways of becoming a storyteller in Iran


[In Iran] [t]he steps a man takes to become a storyteller vary from person to person. […] The storyteller usually learns his craft from a master storyteller. As a student (shagerd), he takes lessons from a master (ostad) whom the student pays for lessons and for providing material. The master himself is a practicing storyteller. The student works alone with his teacher. The stress in training is on rote memorization of the material. The student is taught the literary work Shanama [the “Epic of the Kings”, by Ferdowsi, 940-1020 AD], line by line. […] In addition to the literary work, the student must also copy and learn the tumar, which he receives from his teacher. This tumar is a story outline in prose of the episodes making up the stories he will tell. The student also learns philosophy and religion, and poetry from poets other than Ferdowsi. The period of time of training varies from individual to individual. […]

A storyteller may enter his profession on his own without having gone through more rigorous training. He may simply be attracted by the craft of storytelling, go to hear a number of storytellers, learn from listening to them how the stories are told, pick up the literary work and memorize it, then go off on his own to practice his new trade.

Professional storytelling in Iran: Transmission and practice”, Iranian Studies, vol. 12, 1979, pp. 198-199

Illustration inspired by rock art paintings in Lesotho


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