Our Identity is Rooted in the Stories we Tell and we are Told

Giovanna Conforto, Creative Director of the Italian Storytelling Center, reports on the Italian contribution to the International Storytelling Festival of Mahasarakham in Thailand. The meeting highlights the role of storytelling to shape identity.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej really loved stories and used to include them in his public speeches. He mentioned so many stories that now they are recorded into two books. He applied stories as a tool to explain complex matters. Once, to tell that he had failed to gain relevant information from a Ministry, he told a Thai version of “A la fiera dell’Est”.

In honor of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the Thai University of Mahasarakham hosts the storytelling meeting “Ethnic Diversities in Folktales”. Speakers come from all over the world, but topics recur. Our identity is linked to the stories we tell and we are told.

It is interesting to hear that almost very population seem to have stories about floods, cataclysms and repopulation. Personally, I was particularly touched by the story reported by the Cambodian professor Rachan Nillawanapha. In his story, only two people survive to the disaster, a grandmother and a dog. They get married and have human and dog children in equal share till the point they populate the village again.

As Italian, we brought in a Roman story, the rape of the Sabin women. We tell how long it took for the Sabin population to organize the defense against the Roman. And we highlight the role of Ersilia, maybe Romolo’s wife, that stopped the war, by telling warriors that, after the rape, they had become relatives and it was time for them to live in peace and work together as a prosperous and unique population.

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