A few days after Christmas, my sister and I were sitting by the Christmas tree. All the house lights were on dim, snow was outside, lights were twinkling. We both had gotten a big old anthology. Her’s was on Russian children’s stories, mine was of British fairy tales.
She read out loud one from mine.
One about Jack and the Beanstalk, or Jack and the Giant. I don’t remember what the narrative was, I just remember my sister going:
My point: Why the heck are there so many version of “Jack”? There are eleven versions in this anthology alone (which is old and very shiny).
But why? Why are there so many of the same story? Do we need all of them?
Yes. Yes we do.
So, so many stories have been written. Countless, in different centuries, in different languages, in different countries. They are not all original. They carry shared themes, shared characters, shared story lines. Why add another to the pile? Why write yours, if someone else has already written it?
For the same reason we need all eleven versions of Jack and the Beanstalk.
Stories touch people in different ways. When a “type” of story is well used (journey of self-discover, boy meets girl-boy looses girl-boy gets girl, adventures to save the universe, etc.) that’s because it resonates widely. But the way in which the story is told, well, everyone wants something different. Everyone needs it told in a different way, just like math problems have to be explained differently for different people.
And also, people have different preferences.
You like cows? There’s a Jack and the Beanstalk for you. You like King Arthur? There’s one for you too.
Just some thoughts for the week.