The old man was the last in a long, proud line of storytellers, the art being passed done from father to son, uncle to nephew, generation after generation after generation. Women too were tellers of stories, though their tradition was different. Their stories of pain and pressure, of hope and happiness, of light and dark were shared behind closed doors, usually in the vicinity of the kitchen, or when they gathered to weave. Story telling lifted the drudgery, and helped the women of old come to life, secrets whispered from the grave, their memories held, shared, treasured.
There is a saying in Marrakech that “when a storyteller dies, a library burns.
The old man’s son was too feeble minded to hold the stories in his heart or head. His brother – long gone – had had no sons. There was no one to follow him.
His walk lost some of its former assurance. His steps were less sure. Yet all that changed as he stepped into the cafe. Men, young men, made way for him, and led him to the place of honour, the storyteller’s chair.
Silence fell. The waiters softly threw down their towels. Even the clock seemed to pause for breath.
The storyteller began.
“There was once a young storyteller who had learnt the art of storytelling fro his father, who had learnt it from his father. The young man learned the craft of holding a story I his heart, in his head and in his hand. He relished words, savouring them, and of helping the characters come alive. He sat here -where I sit today – evening after evening a conduit of cautionary tales, of exhilarating adventures, and best of all those Arabian tales from the desert.
Years passed and the young storyteller’s storytelling became so powerful that the listeners could feel the heat of the fire of the desert, experience the terror of the night and were freed to become part of the story, crying softly at the joy of the birth of a lamb and heaving a collective sigh of relief when tragedy was averted.
Then the storyteller reached his twilight years. He had no successor, no son, no nephew to whom he could pass on the tradition”, he continued. “There is a saying in Marrakech that “when a storyteller dies, a library burns.” And he wept, the crowd with him
There is a saying in Marrakech that “when a storyteller dies, a library burns ” a young voice whispered, “unless the storytellers tales are passed heart to heart to another, unless the storyteller bequeaths the tales to another, his kin, the library burns”. Taking a deep breath the storyteller’s granddaughter stepped forward, and sat at his feet, ready to learn his art.