Yes, of course, some people tell stories one way, some another. Perhaps it is because people sometimes separate for a while and still go on telling stories. But in all these stories about the old time, people use different words and names for the same things. There are many different ways to talk. Different people just have different minds.
!Unn /obe, storyteller of the Ju/’hoansi, in the Kalahari; Megan Biesele, Women Like Meat: The Folklore and Foraging Ideology of the Kalahari Ju/’hoan, Johannesburg: Witswatersrand University Press, 1993, p. 66
Illustration inspired by a drawing of a turtle from the Mimbres Culture
‘We are stories.’ It’s a notion so simple even a child could understand it. Would that it ended there. But we are stories within stories. Stories within stories within stories. We recede endlessly, framed and reframed, until we are unreadable to ourselves.
Ivan Vladislavic, 101 Detectives: Stories, Cape Town: Umuzi, 2015, p. 147
Illustration inspired by a traditional drawing from Rwanda
The Nyanga epic is not a text performed only at certain times or on highly esoteric ceremonial occasions. There is nothing secret about it; it is to be heard and enjoyed by all the people. Normally a chief or headman or simply the senior of a local descent group, in order to entertain his people and guests, would invite the bard to perform a few episodes of the epic in the evening, around the men’s hut in the middle of the village. Large crowds of people, male and female, young and old, would come to listen or rather to be participant auditors. […] The interesting point is that the narrator would never recite the entire story in immediate sequence, but would intermittently perform various selected passages of it. Mr. Ruerke, whose epic is presented here, repeatedly asserted that never before had he performed the whole story within a continuous span of days.
Daniel Biebuyck and Kahomb C. Mattene, The Mwindo Epic from the Banyanga (Congo Republic), Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969, pp. 13-14
Illustration inspired by shamanic instrument from Indonesia
The nvet songs we sing [those that are within the epics] are composed by people. For example, if something happens to you, good or bad, you can compose a song that tells about that. Epics are not made up or composed. Epics come from the other side of life [that is, from the world of the dead]. Only a mbom nvet, an old mbom nvet like myself, can bring epics from the other side of life. And the little singers, the small fry, take advantage of this and tell the epics that others like myself bring from the other side of life. That is, the things that have happened, those haven’t yet happened and those that have already happened. But I don’t perform all my epics. I perform something, something, something. Because if I unfolded a big epic here, before dawn we would all be tied [as imprisoned criminals]. That’s why I play good and smooth epics.
From an nvet epic song by Eyí Moan Ndong, in Ramón Sales Encinas, Eyom Ndong, el buscaproblemas y Mondú Messeng: epopeyas de Eyí Moan Ndong, Barcelona: CEIBA, 2007, p. 118
Illustration inspired by traditional folk motifs