Sometimes, the less realistic a story is, the more powerful it is. As Joseph Campbell used to say, myth (and folk tales and fairy tales) reach down past our rationality and touch us in our unguarded places.
I used this in SAGE, my fantasy trilogy, to help a man fight a tyrant with a stranglehold on the people. Here’s a bit of how that went:
The Power of Story
excerpts from the SAGE trilogy
by Marian Allen
“I can do what I do,” said Farukh, spreading his hands, palms up,fingers curled, as if they held wonders. “I can tell stories. Stories with hidden meanings that will creep into the people’s minds and spirits. Stories whose meanings become more clear with time and thought and plainer speaking. Stories that grow from tales to legends to myths to truths to precedents and justifications.” His fists thumped against the table, real and incontestable.
Salali nodded eagerly and said, “And I can do what I do. I can listen.I can overhear gossip in the marketplace and in the kitchens where I sometimes sell my goods. I can gather information and bring it back to you.”
Farukh could spin his tales for hours, moving his listeners to tears of laughter or of pity. But always, before the end, would be a tale of unicorns.There was a unicorn (the gist of one story ran) who, frightened by a snake, escaped onto a mountain, where it lived in safety. Below, it saw the other animals grow wasted, as the serpent’s venom poisoned plant and water. The unicorn knew that one touch of its horn to anything would bring it back to health. But, in its terror, it had struck its horn against a rock to break it off, and the horn was lost. The unicorn turned its eyes away, but the cries of the dying animals filled its ears. At length, it descended, and stood before the serpent. The serpent struck, the unicorn died, and the other creatures tore their poisoner to bits in rage. Where the unicorn fell,the soil was sweet. Year by year, the sweetness spread, and ran with the rain into the rivers. At last the time came when all was wholesome once again.
It would have taken a duller mind than Sorcha’s not to see Layounna in that story, and herself in that unicorn.
Brina remembered a tale told by the storyteller, Farukh, involving a unicorn, a snake, and indirect deliverance. It would have taken a duller mind than Brina’s not to see Layounna in that story, and herself in that unicorn.
“They’re starting to speak of Landry as a tyrant and a usurper, using the tools I’ve given them to say it.” Farukh put his mug on the floor and spread his hands, using his fingers as lightning rods to draw his listeners’ attention to his face. “They start with my stories,” he said, in his market-place voice, “then make up their own. By talking in riddles they know the answers to, they can talk openly – and they do.”