I just finished Erin Morgenstern’s incredibly fascinating novel The Night Circus–the kind of book where you ache a little when the experience is over and where you actually miss the characters and the world the author drew you into. The Night Circus tells the tale of an enchanted circus, Le Cirque des Rêves, which becomes the contest venue for a pair of to-the-death dueling magicians, Celia and Marco. (Okay, so maybe you have to suspend disbelief a bit.)
At the end of the read, character Widget is asked by “the man in the grey suit” to state his purpose in life.
“I tell stories.”
“You tell stories?” the man asks, the piquing of his interest almost palpable.
“Stories, tales, bardic chronicles,” Widget says. “Whatever you care to call them…It’s not that important.”
“It is important,” the man in the grey suit interrupts. “Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and very ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift…There are many kinds of magic, after all.”
I love grey man’s answer–and wholeheartedly agree with his assessment of storytelling’s potential and power. I wrote my dissertation on the quirky topic of fiction as a way of knowing, as an alternative method for “conducting” qualitative research. So, yes, tales can not only take us into other worlds, but they can also change us, make us more empathetic, more understanding of “other.”