Like a lot of other information professionals I am involved in a MOOC, one about storytelling. While it will explore mostly digital storytelling, we did start off at the beginning, with our own experiences of stories. One of the highpoints of this for me was the sharing of stories from different cultures. Everything from their favourite movies to stories told to them around the campfire.
One of our first tasks was to think of a story. Any story. No, not just any story. You have to be able to remember it fully without using wikipedia. That complicated one which was amazing but which you just cannot remember fully, that doesn’t count. Now tell it.
In ancient Ireland there was a man called Finnegas. He was looking for a magical fish in the rivers. A salmon. This salmon contained all the knowledge in the world. Finnegas had a young boy as a helper. No more than twelve or thirteen. Eventually Finnegas caught the salmon of knowledge and he built a fire to cook it. He left the salmon on a spit and went off to get some herbs to eat with it. He warned the boy not to touch the fish, that it was very important. The boy was a good lad. He took care of the fish while his master was away. After a while, the salmon began to cook on one side and to burn. The boy went to turn it on the spit but the hot flesh burnt his thumb where he grabbed it. Without thinking, he stuck his thumb in his mouth to cool it down. Immediately, the knowledge was transmitted from the salmon to the boy. When Finnegas returned he saw that the boy was changed and that the salmon was now like any other. The boy’s name was Fionn MacCumhaill and he grew up to be the leader of the legendary Irish warriors, Na Fianna. In the future, whenever he need to know the answer to something he would just suck his thumb and the answer would come.
What fascinated me most about this story was that Fionn became a hero by accident. He did not want the knowledge and it was his efforts to save the fish for his master which changed the course of the story. I like that sort of twist. I also liked the fact that his superpower (Sorry, I read too many comics when I was young) involved him engaging in very un-macho behaviour. The other aspect of this story which made an impression on me was the fact that there was not much background to it. Like a lot of Irish stories, back story is neither here nor there. Finnegas and Fionn always appear in an Ireland that is empty of other characters. It is like history is waiting for them to appear and then all the fun starts. This could be just that this story is from the oral tradition. They tend to neglect the interesting details that we take for granted in written histories, such as who was king at the time, what sort of trade model they had and all that complicated stuff that makes up life. The location of the story is usually a generic ideal Ireland full of rivers and campfires and mystical druids fishing all day. Sounds very relaxing. Of course, this is based on the story that I learned in primary school. The original texts may have been very much more detailed and were probably changed to engage under 12s. My recollection of the story of the Salmon of Knowledge is probably reflected through years of looking at primary school drawings.
As an added bonus here is my updated version.
It was an interesting exercise to do, to recall a story fully like that. With the amount of media growing all the time, it can be hard to do without the aid of an external memory device. What would your story be?