Neuroscience illuminates the way stories affect us as we listen to them. But we have to turn to anthropology and history to understand how stories affect our lives and communities on a much grander scale.
Since the earliest days of oral storytelling, stories have helped to define, develop and preserve human life. A clear example is the Indigenous Australian ‘Dreamtime’ story of Tiddalik the Frog.
In the version told by the Gunnai Kurnai people of Gippsland, Tiddalik is a greedy frog who drinks all the water in the billabongs, rivers, and sea. Rather than punishing or outcasting the frog, all the local animals team up to make Tiddalik laugh, sending the water rushing back to where it belongs and helping the frog return to normal.
By telling and retelling Tiddalik’s story across the land for tens of thousands of years, communities to this day won't soon forget the preciousness of natural resources, the dangers of selfishness, and the power of working together towards a common goal.