Storytelling around the World
Folktales, Narrative Rituals, and Oral Traditions
by Jelena Čvorović and Kathryn Coe
March 2022, 283pp, 7x10
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-7294-5
$97, £72, 84€, A132
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-7295-2
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Our distant ancestors not only told stories, they used art and ritual to make those stories come alive. The stories they told, the art they created, and the rituals they performed continue to fascinate generations of their descendants.

This book provides students, instructors, and lay-readers with a cross-cultural understanding of storytelling as an art form that has existed for centuries, from the first spoken and sung stories to those that are drawn and performed today.

This book serves as an indispensable resource for students and scholars interested in storytelling and in multicultural approaches to the arts. By taking an evolutionary approach, this book begins with a discussion of origin stories and continues through history to stories of the 21st century. The text not only engages the stories themselves, it also explains how individuals from all disciplines, from doctors and lawyers to priests and journalists, use stories to focus their readers’ and listeners’ attention and influence them.

This text addresses stories and storytelling across both time (thousands of years) and geography, including in-depth descriptions of storytelling practices occurring in more than 40 different cultures around the world. Part I consists of thematic essays, exploring such topics as the history of storytelling, common elements across cultures, different media, lessons stories teach us, and storytelling today. Part II looks at more than 40 different cultures, with entries following the same outline: Overview, Storytellers: Who Tell the Stories, and When, Creation Mythologies, Teaching Tales and Values, and Cultural Preservation. Several tales/tale excerpts accompany each entry.


  • Describes the earliest evidence of storytelling, which dates back thousands of years, and discusses how we can learn about our ancestors and their lives and concerns going all the way back to the stories depicted in the cave art they left behind
  • Discusses how the content of stories has changed over time, influenced by such things as the development of agriculture, the establishment of the first urban centers, the invention of the printing press, widespread literacy, the industrial revolution, and scientific discoveries
  • Explains how our response to storytelling—why stories interest us and why we continue to tell and listen to stories—is an inheritance from our ancient ancestors
  • Investigates storytelling practices from more than 40 different culture groups around the world
  • Incorporates text and translations of original stories told across cultures, almost verbatim, for thousands of years
Jelena Čvorović, PhD anthropology, is Principal Research Fellow at the Institute of Ethnography, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. She is the author of Roast Chicken and other Gypsy Stories and has published on religion, kinship, traditions, and health.

Kathryn Coe was emeritus professor in the social and behavioral sciences department in the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI. Her doctoral degree was in cultural anthropology and evolutionary biology, and she published widely on culture, health, storytelling, and art. She was the author of The Ancestress Hypothesis.
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