To throw shadows to the fire


To tell a story is to throw shadows to the fire. In that very instant, everything that the word reveals is consumed by silence. Only those who pray given their entire soul know the meaning of that burning, that fall of the word into the abyss.

Mia Couto, La confesión de la leona, from the Spanish translation by Rosa Martínez-Alfaro, Madrid: Alfaguara, 2016, pág. 79
Illustration based on a Buddhist image.

A story is the wind


“You know that I sit waiting for the !xoe-sho-!kui (the moon)*

to return for me,

to go back to my place,

listen to all the people’s stories,

when I visit them,

listen to the stories that they tell.

They listen to the stories of the people of the Flat, yes,

from the other side of the place,

this they do,

they listen to them.

When the other !xoe-sho-!kui (the sun) becomes a little warm,

I sit in the sun;

seated, I listen to the stories that come from afar,

stories that come from a distance.**

Then; I shall get hold of a story from them, yes,

because the stories float out from a distance.

When the other !xoe-sho-!kui is a little warm,

I feel that I must definitely go and visit;

to talk with them, my fellow men. […]

I must first sit a little, cool my arms;

that the fatigue may go out of them.

I do merely listen,

watching for a story that I want to hear;

I sit waiting for it to float into my ear.*** […]

I will go to sit at my place

to turn back (with my ears) to my feet’s heels,

on which I went, yes,

because I feel that a story is the wind:

it is wont to float along to another place”


* Literally, “the man of the place”, and later in this narrative is used to refer to the sun, and then to ||kabbo himself. Here it appears to be a kind of “praise name” for the moon.

** ||kabbo explains that a story is “like the wind, it comes from a far-off quarter, and we feel it.” (Note by Lucy Lloyd)

***||kabbo explains that when one has travelled along a road, and goes and sits down, one waits for a story to travel to one, following one along the same road. (Note by Lucy Lloyd)


(W. H. I. Bleek & L. C. Lloyd, Specimens of Bushman Folklore, London: George Allen, 1911, p. 299-305)
Illustration inspired by a knot of traditional Finnish design .

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.