Friday, September 21, 2007

Oral Tradition

This week in fourth grade library classes we talked about oral tradition within a society, cultural group or family, as an introduction to the Iroquois story called "The Boy Who Lived With the Bears." I shared with classes a family story from my own childhood, one my father often told to relatives because he thought it was very funny; I didn't think so at the time! His little daughter (I) would walk around and around the block on a tall pair of red stilts, competing with herself as to how many times she could circle the neighborhood until she literally fell off the stilts from fatigue, skinning her elbows! He was not mean about it; it must have been a curious, comical sight and I never hurt myself at all seriously. But the story did become part of our family's oral tradition!

Scholar and storyteller Joseph Bruchac has put in written story form many tales from American Indian oral tradition. Himself Abenaki, he is dedicated to preserving and disseminating elements of cultures and communities he sees too fast disappearing. He is a prolific writer, as both a reteller of stories from oral tradition and a creator of original fiction. "The Boy Who Lived With the Bears" is one of six Iroquois stories in the book of the same name, containing themes characteristic of Native American society: respect for elders, protection of family, connection with the natural world.