“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”
– Ibn Battuta
Tales of Adventure
Men are explorers. They have always travelled great distances, to discover the unknown, to go further, to lose themselves in order to find themselves [like a lot of tales tell]. Tales of travel are often idealized. After all, we explored our whole planet, from the bottoms of the deepest oceans, to the tops of the highest mountains, and beyond: the moon, our solar system. One could wonder where we will stop. But not all men travelled this much. Most of them could only dream of exotic coasts and encounters with incredible people. Those who travelled would share their experiences by telling what they saw. And if not, the ones remaining would travel in their imagination, to unexplored shores. Most people had never left their place of birth or maybe just went a few villages further. So, the tales of faraway countries and unexplored islands would allow them to travel a little in their minds and escape their daily routine.
However, not all journeys were done without sacrifices and trials. Some journeys were quests to find answers for troubled souls, some journeys were filled with sadness and hardship, with accounts of heart-breaking exiles. Some places will not welcome the weary traveller. Some travellers will never come back from those deadly journeys. A journey can be filled with wonder and discovery, but it can also be filled with challenges and danger. The main component of the journey is the unknown. The price may be high, and the reward is uncertain.
The theme of travel is one that is often found in tales. Travelling is often thought as an initiative journey that allows you to realise your potential, find answers, find yourself. Often, what you find is not what you had set out to find but it turns out to be exactly what you really needed to find. Tales of travels are not so much about the destination as they are about the journey and its challenges. Tales of travels such as Ulysses’ epopee “The Odyssey”, “Gulliver’s travels”, “Candide”, almost all of Jules Verne’s stories, etc. form these kinds of initiatory journey.
In French they say, “Les voyages forment la jeunesse”, basically meaning that travelling is a source of experiences that allows you to grow up, that travelling shapes the youngsters into adults. It is notoriously known that travel helps you find yourself, and nowadays travel has become the epitome of personal growth and finding oneself.
The Other, the unknown
Today, we have explored most of what is in reach but we are still learning to get to know the Other. Our world is undergoing huge changes in terms of concepts of nationality, ethnicity, or belonging to any kind of community really. We are having a hard time adapting to other cultures, it is hard to keep track of everyone and to understand their way of thinking.
One way that can help in understanding a culture, is to take a look at the way they perceive the world, especially through literature. During our childhood, our way of thinking it’s influenced by our parents, the culture around us, but also importantly by stories, tales.
To read a tale from somewhere else in the world can give us an insight into their beliefs, their values, their morals, their culture but also the way they perceive what is different from them. When mankind started discovering faraway worlds, a plethora of exotic tales and stories were written. People were craving adventure and something Else, something different. Today, we are still running after the unknown, the different, but our access is much more open, and we have to learn to really get to know the other. Tales from over the world can teach us about culture from over the world. A lot of them have influenced our vision of the world from a young age.
Adventures of Tales
Tellers are not the only ones who travelled a lot. With them, tales travelled from one country or culture to another, and they got transformed, mixed, retold, reinvented. With time, Tales have travelled as much if not more than their tellers. And today, we have this transnational corpus of tales that influenced each-others, that was transformed with time, that had multiple variations appearing in other countries. This is a form of international identity that we all share in our cultural background.
Everyone knows of the Brothers Grimm’s Tales, originating in Germany, that were retold and transformed so many times. Whenever thinking of oriental tales, one could not forget the “1001 Arabian nights”, from which Antoine Galland translated the famous tales of “Aladdin”, “Sinbad the sailor” or “Ali Baba and the forty thieves”. In France, the tales of Charles Perrault travelled the world as well. From Denmark, everyone knows the tales of Hans Christian Andersen (https://revue.leslibraires.ca/articles/sur-le-livre/les-contes-a-travers-le-monde).
A good portion of these very famous tales have recently been revisited and retold in another format by the famous Walt Disney. They now form a common childhood culture for a lot of children, even if few of them still listen to tales in the traditional way, and the original tales have often been adapted or modified.
The importance of Tales over the world
Tales of travels help children confront things that are different in a safe setting, it widens their perspective of the world and gives them an open mind. It helps them discover the Other and help them grow. It can also help the different pupils in the class to create a common culture and accept each other if they tell tales from their own culture. They could come from different countries, cultures or simply have specific regional or family traditions. Tales from different places will help them bridge differences.
- One activity could be to ask students to research traditional or family stories and tell them in class.
- It can also be interesting to hear different versions of the same story in different regions or countries, to look for differences or commonalities and try to find the causes.