The important thing is to keep the feeling the story has


In the new book I have included some very old stories which I wrote from memory, the way I heard them a long time ago. Memory is tricky – memory for certain facts or details is probably more imaginative than anything, but the important thing is to keep the feeling the story has. I never forget that: the feeling one has of the story is what you must strive to bring forth faithfully.

Leslie Marmon Silko (from the Pueblo of Laguna, in Nuevo México) in a 1979 letter to the poet James Wright, in L. M. Silko and J. Wright, The Delicacy and Strength of Lace, edited by Anne Wright, Saint Paul, Minnesota: Graywolf Press, pp. 69-70
Illustration inspired by an Andean drawing

Truth, lies and dreams


To be a self, one must also be nothing. To know oneself, one must be able to know nothing. The asomnics know the world continuously and immediately, with no empty time, no room for selfhood. Having no dreams, they tell no stories and so have no use for language. Without language, they have no lies. Thus they have no future. They live here,  now, perfectly in touch. They live in pure fact. But  they can’t live in truth, because the way to truth, says the philosophers, is through lies and dreams.

Ursula K. LeGuin, “Wake Island”, Changing Planes, New York: Harcourt, 2003, pp. 164-165

Illustration inspired by an Inuit drawing

One kind of bribery in particular


From the childhood memoirs of Egyptian writer Taha Hussein (1899-1973), who went blind when he was three years old:

One kind of bribery in particular he found most entertaining and diverting and it caused him to neglect his duty shamefully. This kind was of stories, tales and books. If any pupil could tell him a story or buy him a volume from the man who travelled round the villages hawking books, or could recite to him an episode of the story of ‘Alzir Salim’ or ‘Abu Zaid’, he might be sure of anything he wished in the way of favour, companionship and partiality.

Taha Hussein, An Egyptian Chilhood: The Autobiography of Taha Hussein, translated by E. H. Paxton, London: George Routledge & Sons, 1932, p. 57
Illustration inspired by an ancient Andean textile

Making up


As a small child [Edith Wharton] had a curious practice of what she called ‘making up.’ Before she could read she would sit for hours with a book in her lap and pretend she was reading a story from it. The blacker and denser the print the better. She would walk up and down rapidly and enter into a sort of ecstasy of spoken composition; once her mother tried to take down what she was saying but couldn’t keep up. When a child came to pay a call, she asked her mother to ‘entertain that little girl for me. I’ve got to make up.’ Later, when she learned to read, her delving into real texts continued to parallel these obsessive inventions.

Edmund White, “The House of Edith”, New York Review of Books, 26 April, 2007, p. 39
Illustration inspired by the credits of the TV series Game of Thrones

A definition of fairy tale

Dragon serpiente

Fairy tale: indicating to us the possibility of impossible occurrences under possible or impossible conditions. (Goethe)

 Translated by W. Mieder in “Fairy tale allusions in modern German aphorisms”, in D. Haase (ed.), The Reception of Grimms’ Fairy Tales: Responses, Reactions, Revisions, Detroit: Wayne University Press, 1993, p. 150.
Illustration based on a mix animal from the imaginary of the ancient world.

The tale is, you know, like a young sapling.


The tale is, you know, like a young sapling. It grows, develops, you prune it, graft it, clean it, it will grow leaves, twigs and fruits. A new life develops, like that of humans as well. Who knows what it will be? This is how the tale is. Once I began a tale about a young lady, that she found a box. She picked it up, looked what is inside, she opened it. It was a dragon. He grabbed her and took her. What happened after: I told it for a week. This is how the tale goes: as we want it, only it has to have a basis, afterwards anything can be added. (Reflections of Hungarian storyteller Ferenc Czapár, fisherman).

Linda Dégh,  Narratives in Society: A Performer-Centered Study of Narration, Helsinki, Academia Scientarum Fennica, Folklore Fellows Communications no 255. pág. 44. 1995.
Illustration inspired by the art of the Maya culture.