Ethnic Enterprises

Telling Tales

by Daniel Evanishen

First Published in the Summer, 1999 issue of Contact, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, British Columbia Newsletter

Storytelling is an art that is in sad neglect these days. In the old days, people constantly told stories and folk tales, but these days, not many people even know the stories any more. In the past in Ukraine, people told folk tales as a normal part of their lives. For the most part, the parents in any given family were away working in the fields, and the children were left in the care of Baba and Dido, who told stories to the children to entertain and teach them. These stories served to teach the children most of what they knew of the world. They learned how to behave, how to get along with other people, and why certain things in nature occurred. They also learned about their culture, their traditions, and the values of their society. Of course, it was not only the children who heard the folk tales. Most people never left the area of the village in which they were born, and, not being able to read, they learned most of what they knew of the outside world from wandering storytellers.

These storytellers traveled to many places and heard many stories, which they adapted for their audience at home, which partly explains why we find similar stories in many different cultures. The storytellers were important and highly-regarded individuals, and their arrival was always a cause for joy. Often the entire village would gather to hear the stories and the news. My project is to collect all the Ukrainian folk tales in Canada and retell them in English, so that the children of today can finally hear or read the stories. Most often, the children have never heard the tales, and this project will give them a direct link to their culture. Folk tales are important, as they tell us much of who we are and where we come from. How important is it to understand these things? As a wise person once said, "If you know where you have come from, you have a better chance of knowing where you are going."