was often the way myths were passed on from generation to generation.
Stories were told orally as well as written down. Many stories were told
through dance, music, plays, rituals and art.
were lucky enough to get an interview with a storyteller who uses the
tales of mythology to tell her own stories. Here is her interview:
long have you been telling stories? Officially, for the last ten
years. I started by getting into an organization called Toastmasters
International. I did a management presentation at Harris Corporation down
in Palm Bay, Florida. The vice president came up to me and said,
"You're pretty good at this presentation thing, you ought to get into
Toastmasters, which is a group that does professional public
speaking." It all started from there.
What was it like the
first time you told your stories in public? I teach storytelling. Most
people rate their fear of death lower than their fear of speaking in
public. Most people would rather DIE than be up here. I already had a
background from toastmaster's in giving presentations so by the time I was
I had a lot of preparation. The very time I got up in front of a group,
and for about a year, everything I did was scripted. Everything was
written down. Everything was important. It just seemed natural. It just
seemed right, so I didn't experience a lot of that nervousness that a lot
of people experience. For me, it was I was meant to do.
Why did you become a
storyteller? There is something about words and the power of words. I
had a college professor one time tell me I had a "flow" when it
came to words. I wasn't sure what he meant at the time. It's a kind of
inspiration that reaches in and flows through me. The words flow through
me in like a stream or river of words. And that flow of words flows out,
and if I do my job correctly you don't see me you see the images painted
by the words. That flow of words is what drives me as a storyteller. It's
almost like a living movie inside of me. People ask me how I remember all
my stories, because I do thousands and thousands of them. I can't tell you
exactly, because it's, like I told you, it's this inspiration that takes
over. And the power of words. I have told a family story from four
generations in my family from Florida and Georgia and I have had someone
in an assisted living community who hasn't spoken a word since they came
there, come up to me and start telling me their stories. I have seen tears
come to the eyes of someone who hears a story that they haven't heard
since they were a child. There is a real commonality of story and that is
another thing that drives me as a storyteller. If you can reach inside
someone and change them a little bit just by the power of words.
Do you relate your
stories about Greek Mythology to your own experiences or to the experience
of your audience? A little bit of both. One of the stories I do is
about Priam's daughter. Priam was the king of Troy. Four of Priam's
daughters were cursed. One of his daughters was the beautiful Helen, who
started the Trojan War. Three of them were cursed to become the Gorgans,
with hair like snakes. You don't hear about this unless you do a lot of
research in Greek Mythology. You think that the Gorgans simply existed.
They were three very beautiful women. There are times in our lives when we
face that kind of curse. This story is a good one when I do storytelling
to women's groups. This young woman was swept up and ravaged by Poseidon
and left up on the Temple at the Alter of Athena, because Poseidon and
Athena had an argument over the naming of the city that became Athens. He
wanted it to be Poseidia and because it became Athenia, he wanted to make
Athena angry so he takes this young girl and leaves her bloody and broken
on the altar. And to get back at him, instead of taking it out on Poseidon
because she is afraid he will sink her ships, she takes it out on the
young girl. There are times in our lives when everything seems to go
wrong. When one curse after another seems to fall on our heads. To me
that's an eternal message whether you are 6 or 60. We have to learn that
we can overcome those things and go on to become stronger people. So
that's kind of an example of how I relate it not only to my personal life,
when I was going through a time that I thought was the end of the world
and I felt much like how Medusa must have felt when they turned her into
this horrible creature. Every time she looked at someone, she turned him
or her into stone. Imagine going from this beautiful woman to this
horrible creature. Going through that kind of transformation only to come
out on the other side-and most people don't know this-when the hero came
and took the head of Medusa, the blood fell to the floor and rising from
the floor was Pegasus, the winged horse-a gift to the people. Of course,
there was also the monster called Chrysaor. In my story, Pegasus carries
her soul up into the stars and she becomes a constellation. So we are able
to overcome difficult times in life. I related it not only to my life,
because that terrible time lead to my meeting my husband and becoming the
storyteller that I am today. That would never have happened if I hadn't
gone through that tragedy. It kind of relates to personal experiences and
to the experiences of the audience.
Who is your favorite
mythological character and why?
That's a tough one. I think probably Demeter and Persephone. The story
of Persephone is such an incredible story and again it this is relating
personal experience and audience experience in real life. I went through a
very traumatic period with my daughter when she was a senior in high
school. It required me to do some difficult things. I had to changer her
high schools and let her move in with her father for about 6 months,
exactly the same amount of time that Demeter and Persephone were separated
when Hades came down and pulled her into the Underworld for six months.
She ate six pomegranate seeds, which is why she lives in the Underworld
for six months and on Earth for six months. In the six months she's on the
Earth, we have spring and summer. In the six months she's in the
Underworld we have fall and winter, because Demeter, who is the goddess of
spring, curses the Earth. Knowing what her mother's heart must have felt
like when she had to make that difficult choice, I think Demeter and
Persephone are my two favorites. That's why!
What is your favorite
mythological story and why? The Priam's daughter story is probably my
favorite, because it took me so long to put together. I had to do a lot of
research from probably a dozen different references to weave this story
together. There are variants to this story. One of them says that Priam's
daughter had the most beautiful hair and she dared challenge Athena by
telling her she was more beautiful than Athena and that is why she was
cursed to become a Gorgan. That to me was a little too easy (though it has
its own message). This idea of her being so beautiful that she went off by
herself because of the jealousy….Think about the prettiest girl in your
whole school. All the guys look at her and talk about how cute she is and
the women are all jealous. So it makes it difficult to be a beautiful
woman in the world sometimes. For her to take herself off to an island by
herself to have some peace and quiet, only to have Poseidon and Athena get
into this battle and cause her to meet a fate-a terrible and incredible
fate-to me that talks to us about life and what we go through in life and
those powerful times of transformation. Like the making of a great sword
where you plunge it into fire, beat on it for awhile, stick it into the
water, then back into the fire again. And when you are done, it is this
incredibly beautiful piece. To me that's a lot of what its about.
stories are complicated, what do you do to make them more understandable?
It depends on the audience and the age level of the audience that I am
telling the story to. Many times when I am working with a younger
audience, I will take a story and divide it into sections. I create a
starting point and go up so far and then I will stop. Then we will talk a
little bit about the story and I will make sure people are on track and
understand where the story is going. Then we move over into the next
section and I make sure they have a good grasp of the story before we move
onto the next section. We go through that to the next crisis and
resolution there. Then we move back again and I will stop, make sure
people understand where we are going before moving on.
Sometimes I will use what they call "storyteller's license" and
actually change the story in some places, because sometimes it just simply
needs to be a simpler story for people to really understand it. So I judge
it pretty much by the audience and the age levels and how much they know.
If I am presenting to an audience of Ph.D. level Greek Mythology experts,
you can bet I'm going to be shakin' in my shoes.
How do dolphins relate
to Greek Mythology? Well, the dolphins were sacred to the Greek
people. The center of the world at that time was the city of Delphi.
That's part of the Greek name for the dolphin. The story of Poseidon and
Amphetrite and the dolphin constellation being placed in the sky….they
felt that dolphins had a very unique and special place in society. They
recognized the intelligence and the, almost, superiority over all the
other creatures the dolphins had, so they gave them a unique place in
mythology and their history. If you look at your Greek sculpture, you will
see a lot of sculpture of dolphin's and also porpoise.
If a student wanted to
start studying Greek Mythology, where would be best place to start? In
terms of finding the materials? Of course, you can go online and type in
"Greek Mythology" and you'll immediately get 900 gillion
websites dealing with Greek Mythology, including the Bullfinch site which
has the entire text of all of the Bullfinch books with their version. I
like to go into bookstores and libraries and peruse their Greek Mythology
sections and find different versions of the story. I would suggest
starting with the shorter or simpler stories, like the Poseidon story.
That's one of the nice things about that story. It's the chunk of a larger
story, but it a small enough piece that you can really understand what the
message of the story is.
Sometimes mythology can
seem a little too "racy" or inappropriate for younger students.
What can parents and teachers do? I think the best thing you can do is
to research and understand as much as you can about Greek society and to
understand who the Greek people were. Quite often when I do a program
specifically on a specific culture, I bring large format posters with me
to show the country, I talk about the people, their belief system. I give
a little bit of a social studies or history lesson about who they were. I
think that is really, really important for this. Understanding the people
and what they believed. Sometimes, if people are of a different faith, it
can be difficult talking about gods and goddesses and that kind of thing.
I find the best thing is knowledge-as much knowledge as you can find about
the subject. Read the stories over before you just give them out. And you
can adjust that story. The story of Priam's daughter can be a very tricky
story because in it there is a great deal of violence done to this young
woman and how I handle that depends on the age-level and sophistication of
the audience. That is an important part of this. To read the stories over.
Modify them if you need to in order to make them acceptable for certain
have morals to their stories. What are some of the morals you have used in
some of the stories you tell? Again, the message in Priam's daughter
is, yes, you can go through difficult times in order to transcend and
become new people. That's part of what life is all about. So that is one
of the important moral lessons in this story. It is a very important life
lesson-or moral lesson. There is another story I do called Circe and
Scylla about the power of love. In the story, Circe, who is the sorceress,
sees this beautiful young woman who is a nymph, and becomes overcome by
jealousy. Its about jealously and its ability to tear people apart. This
happens all the time around us. Maybe you have gone through something
similar in your life. Perhaps you have a boyfriend and another girl comes
in and through jealousy tries to interfere in your relationship. What
Circe does is she actually goes down to the shore and pours a powerful
potion into the waves. When Scylla wades out into the sea and the waves
break over her, she scales rising up and she becomes this horrible sea
serpent and swims away. When the handsome young shepherd comes back down
the beach, he sees this happen to her and is just devastated because he
really loves her. He finds out that one year from this day, she will
return to this same place and once again be herself. He goes to that beach
every day for a year and waits for her. It's about hanging in there when
things get tough. It's about waiting through the tough times. She comes to
shore and she is a beautiful as she ever was. When the sun touches the
horizon, he takes her hand. She takes off and starts to run into the water
again. He runs down and takes her hand and they wade off into the sea
together and the curse takes them both. But for all time, throughout
eternity, they return to that same beach-once every year-and they once
again return to their human forms and celebrate their eternal love. It's
another morality lesson-life lesson-about love transcending the tough
times and the terrible times that sometimes take us away. Those are the
kinds of moral lessons that I like to use in my storytelling.
How do you adapt some of
the stories to your storytelling style? Lots of research. We have an
enormous library. I do lots of research to find that particular variant.
What I look for is uniqueness about a story. I look for versions that no
one has ever heard before. To me, that's the most important thing.
Ada Forney Facts
years. Located in Central Florida but travels to tell her stories.
Dolphins Be Free. Stories and Song by Ada and Jerry Forney.