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?