"The Storytelling Animal" by Jonathan Gothschall

  • Book: "The Storytelling Animal" by Jonathan Gothschall     
  • Pages: 272
  • Lesson: Learn the purpose of why humans tell stories
  • For: People that are interested in English, history, or psychology                          


Human beings are animals, and like all animals, they've evolved to become as strong and fit as possible. To survive, early humans had to find new methods of hunting and gathering food. Some humans developed tools such as daggers and spears to improve their success in hunting. Others learned to farm and produce crops.


But why did humans develop the ability to tell stories instead of continuing to focus all their energy on tasks that would lead to more food?

Wouldn’t it make more sense that early humans would spend as much time as possible gathering food, building shelter, and reproducing instead of spending time telling stories? So far, no scientist has found the ability of storytelling in any other animal species aside from humans.


So why do humans tell stories? This is the question writer Johnathan Gottschall answers in his book, “The Storytelling Animal.”


Gottschall says that people are addicted to stories, even when sleeping, the mind continues to tell stories in the form of a dream.

This is because humans have evolved to crave story. It allows listeners to simulate worlds so that they may live better in this one. Stories give pleasure and instructions to the audience. It is a device that helps people escape from the boredom and brutality of real life.


Stories can be used to teach the next generation by passing down critical information in an entertaining method. The audience enters the story as the protagonist and is able to learn from the character’s achievements and mistakes, without taking any action themselves.

Stories also help bond communities. Each country has its own folk tales, myths, and legends. Each religion has a story of its deity and how the world was created. Story is a form of social glue that brings people together around common values.


As with all great tools, there is a darker use for stories. Gottschall writes about how some religions have followers who become extremists because they believe in a certain story. Other individuals, like Hitler, used stories to spread propaganda throughout Germany and used his storytelling ability to convince an entire country that Jews were an inferior race.


While stories have evolved over the centuries, it still plays a large role in people’s lives. Stories can be found in books, movies, plays, newspapers, video games and more. As time goes on, the way stories are told will continue to change but the purpose of stories will not.


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