Storytelling and Cultural Traditions

Storytelling and Cultural Traditions

Storytelling is as old as culture. Many societies have long-established storytelling traditions. The stories, and performances thereof, function to entertain as well as educate.


3 - 12


Anthropology, Sociology, Geography, Human Geography, Religion, Social Studies, Ancient Civilizations, Storytelling

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Every culture likes to tell stories. Storytelling helps people continue their traditions.

You don't need a book to tell a story. Oral storytelling is telling a story with just your voice and your body. Here are some examples of storytelling in different cultures. Not all of these stories are true. For these stories, truth is less important than bringing people together.

Choctaw Storytelling
The Choctaw are a Native American tribe. They have been telling stories for a long time. Some of the stories are about where the Choctaw people came from. One story says they came from a big hill called a mound. A different story says they traveled east to where they live now. Other Choctaw stories are about history and life lessons. Many of these stories use animal characters.

Native Hawaiian Storytelling
Native Hawaiians have also told stories for a very long time. One story is about the first Hawaiian. The story says this person was born from a vegetable called a taro. Other stories are about traveling the ocean.

Hawaiian storytelling also uses songs and dance. For example, hula tells a story through dance. The stories help teach Hawaiian children about behavior and tradition.

Western African Storytelling
Many people in Africa listen to storytellers after dinner. The storyteller entertains and educates people. Some of the most famous stories are about a clever spider named Anansi.

Storytellers in west Africa are called griots. They also sometimes study history and sing songs.

There used to be schools where people could learn how to be a griot. Both men and women can be griots.

The Jewish People and the Passover Seder
Passover is an important Jewish holiday. It celebrates the story of the Jews' escape from slavery in Egypt. The escape is called the Exodus. One of the Passover traditions is called a seder. Jews eat a big meal and retell the story of the Exodus during the seder. The youngest child asks a question to begin the story. The story also explains the Passover traditions. This story of Exodus is written down in the Jewish holy book, the Torah. The same story is also told in the Old Testament of the Christian holy book, the Bible.

Irish Storytelling
The seanchai were Irish storytellers. They used to travel to villages. They brought with them news and told the old stories. Many of the stories were about kings and heroes.

People are becoming interested in storytelling again. People want to spend time together. Stories can help people come together.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Clint Parks
Last Updated

April 22, 2024

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