“Humans live in landscapes of make-believe. We spin fantasies. We devour novels, films, and plays. Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives. Yet the world of story has long remained an undiscovered and unmapped country. It’s easy to say that humans are “wired” for story, but why?”
Jonathan Gottschall offers the first unified theory of storytelling. He argues that stories help us navigate life’s complex social problems—just as flight simulators prepare pilots for difficult situations. storytelling has evolved, like other behaviors, to ensure our survival.
Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and evolutionary biology, Gottschall tells us what it means to be a storytelling animal. Did you know that the more absorbed you are in a story, the more it changes your behavior? That all children act out the same kinds of stories, whether they grow up in a slum or a suburb? That people who read more fiction are more empathetic?
Of course, our story instinct has a darker side. It makes us vulnerable to conspiracy theories, advertisements, and narratives about ourselves that are more “truthy” than true. National myths can also be terribly dangerous: Hitler’s ambitions were partly fueled by a story.
But as Gottschall shows stories can also change the world for the better. Most successful stories are moral—they teach us how to live, whether explicitly or implicitly, and bind us together around common values. We know we are master shapers of story. The Storytelling Animal finally reveals how stories shape us.
Enter the circle with me and listen to the deep voice of story.
NOK KAEOW – THE BIRD WEAVER
“In the ancient time there lived a man who loved the forest. He knew that the trees were sacred and often when walking there he spoke to them softly. One day while wandering there he spotted a woman wearing a pasin of such beautiful colours. As happens in such tales they fell in love and were married.
Their wooden house was on the edge of a village and every week the woman would journey to the market to take the cloth she had woven. People from far and wide marvelled at the colour and quality of the cloth. But the man noticed that his love was getting weaker and weaker, thinner and thinner. One night he woke and found that his wife no longer lay beside him. He went to the open window and there in the moonlight in the forest clearing he saw a small bird plucking feathers from her plumage and weaving them into the cloth.
The man’s heart was heavy for he knew what he must do. The next morning the man went with the woman deep into the forest.
“Here we must part,” he said.
“No. No,” the woman cried.
Then she realised that her husband had seen her. They parted with great sorrow for it was not easy to let each other go.
But after some months a beautiful coloured bird appeared at the man’s house with some seed in her mouth. The man planted the seed and from it grew a wild mulberry tree. Silkworm came to feed on the tree and in that way wild silk was formed. At night the bird weaver spun the thread into beautiful yarns. So it was that the man and bird lived in harmony and happiness.”
This stunning Thai bird could soon become extinct due to the palm oil industry.
This is a Gurney’s pitta, Pitta gurneyi, an endangered species that was believed to be extinct until several pairs were rediscovered in 1986. At that time, it was thought to be the rarest bird species on earth. Currently, it is estimated that there are perhaps 10 pairs of Gurney’s pittas at Khao Nor Chuchi in Thailand (other Thai populations are probably extinct). Fortunately, another, larger, population was recently discovered in southern Tenasserim, Myanmar/Burma. For this reason, this species was downlisted as endangered.
Gurney’s pitta is a terrestrial passerine that lives in lowland semi-evergreen forests with undergrowth containing Salacca palms, where it nests. These moist tropical forests are found on flat terrain, and are close to water or have water flowing through them. Tragically, their forest’s topological features and location are perfect for palm oil, rubber, and coffee plantations. Much of the remaining nearby area is heavily settled. Since the locals are actively seeking ways to improve the quality of their lives by exploiting the land for economic gain, it is probable that the pitta’s last few strongholds will be cleared suddenly and rapidly, with predictable consequences for this iconic species.
Gurney’s pitta is impossible to confuse with any other species in the area. The adult male’s iridescent blue cap and tail, warm rufous upperparts and black-and-yellow underparts are distinctive. The female is less dramatically coloured, lacking the brilliant iridescent blue cap and tail. She has a buffy-yellow head and nape, the sides of her head are black, her throat is buffy-white, her underparts are buffy-yellow with darker bars and her tail is grey-blue.
You can watch a video of this beautiful bird here:
Gurney’s pitta consumes slugs, insects, and earthworms, which is searches for in leaf litter. They also eat snails and small frogs. Here’s a video of an adult male Gurney’s pitta poking around in leaf litter in Khao Noi Chuchi in Krabi, Thailand:
Gurney’s pitta is one of 32 medium-sized songbirds that is placed into Pittidae, the pitta family. The pittas are all very similar in body shape, size and in their habits, although each species is distinctly marked. The family originated in tropical Asia and Australasia, and a few species are found in Africa. The continued existence of many pitta species is threatened by deforestation.
The story above is a Thai version of “The Crane’s Wife”
If you have enjoyed reading you can subscribe above or comment below. My dream is to blog a million stories! Help me get there!
Just as the Guerney’s Pitta is endangered so is the story. We are being deforested and destoried but together we can restory the world. If you have a story you would like to share please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading. Without you there would be no story.