The first story

They say — Which suddenly makes me wonder, how many of the world’s stories start with, ‘They say’?  A number rivaled only by ‘Once upon a time,’ I’m sure — Anyway, they say the oldest extant story is the Epic of Gilgamesh, which was based on a series of poems about a 27th century BC king collected onto a dozen 7th century BC clay tablets.

That’s the first preserved written story, but what came before?  I bet the first story was a lie.

I say this not because I’m a terrible cynic (although maybe I am), but because it seems a natural evolution, both for humans as a species and as individuals.  There evidence that the higher primates — chimps & gorillas — have the ability to dissemble, and anybody who’s ever hung out with a kid knows the skill is developed early in life. 

One of the first stories I remember telling to my mother went like this: “My sister bit me!  (That part was true.)  I was just sitting there and then she bit me!”  What it lacks in deep motivation and character development (it was developed as a series, you know) it makes up for in action and pacing.

But if you imagine the first storyteller as a Cro-Magnon man sitting around the campfire after the hunt, and you consider that statistically most predators’ hunts end in failure, then probably the first story was ‘the one that got away.’

What’s the first story you remember telling or hearing?


2 thoughts on “The first story

  1. I’m afraid my memory doesn’t go much before the age of 10. However, I do remember the first “whopper” I told that got me in huge trouble and grounded for a month. I very much wanted to visit a friend after school and my mother didn’t like me to do that because it required taking the bus and then someone would have to come pick me up. With 6 kids at the time (it was 9 later), one car, and a mother who didn’t drive it was a pain.

    Anyway, I first forged a note from my mother to the bus driver to allow me to get on the bus. When I got to my friends, I told her mother that I was allowed to stay. (Now here is where one has to ask if I have any grip on reality.) Then I called my mother on the phone to tell her I had arrived safely at my friends house and thanked her for letting me go!

    Ah hum, who knows what I was thinking? Needless to say the story didn’t fly nor my confidence (bravado). An aunt came to pick me up. My father had one of those heart-to-heart talks with me that made me feel like I had turned the entire world into an evil place, and I was grounded for a month. Maybe that’s why I write fiction now. I can’t get in trouble … too much.

  2. Ha. In your head, you had no doubt created a story that your mother would be grateful for your thoughtful call home. You can imagine the story going through HER head.


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