If I’m visiting a school and telling stories for year 7 and above, I quite often include an urban legend…. using one of the few oral storytelling traditions still alive and well. When I finish, young people will quite often say they plan to tell it to their friends.
As you probably know, these are the ‘sleepover stories’, always supposedly true, usually gory, scary or shocking.
I normally leave it for the five minutes at the end of a session- after all the ‘proper’ stories, the Greek myths and traditional folktales. Those always go down well but nothing can match the intense silence which descends on the group when I start to tell an urban legend. Nothing can follow it… except another urban legend.
They exist in many forms of course… They have been written down everywhere, formed the plots of horror films and shared endlessly on social media.
Although much of the power is lost when you film it, I’ve made my own versions. ( Click here to see– I’m using a popular format for story- sharing: YouTube videogame playthrough.)
These may seem obviously fabricated but their power is immense and real. Fans and gamers can take them very seriously, they can be genuinely scared of them… and recently I was shocked to see that the idea of the slender man has even been implicated in a tragic real-life teen attack.
So the great ancient myths, gods, legends and characters of the traditional stories have survived the ages, smoothed by hundreds, maybe thousands of years of storytellers tongues. They have tremendous elegance, faultless structure, universal relevance… they continue to be treasured and needed, shared and referenced…They are the Titans. The urban myths are scabby little cockroaches that just keep popping up even though no one really values them.
I love them.
(If you want to find out more about my Minecraft storytelling, you can find me on YouTube here. If you want to hear me chatting on for ages about Minecraft and storytelling, here is a podcast done with the lovely ManicPixieDreamcast!)