Before there were writers, there was oral history, stories about family, great deeds and tales of morality, which were shared at social gatherings and passed on from generation to generation, with embelishments added here and there, maybe. I say maybe as it is argued here, that oral history, comapred to written history had to be accurate, to keep a record of events and traditions, where as written work is subjective, being told in a way that suits the writer and the audience.

Today if you look up the term oral history it will lead you to records of social groups, families, societies, or particular events, that have been documented by interviewers. Creating a record of individual’s stories, that come together to act as a oral history. accounts acting as primary sources for historians, with people giving first hand accounts, of what it was like to live through particular periods, in this example, in Czech history.

Stories from the past are part of our culture, where I live in the North east of England there is the story of “The Lambton Worm” which might have been adapted form dragon stories, here the worm gobbles up children and ends up being slain by Lord Lambton and is said to be now wrapped around the hill fort Penshaw monument. This myth has been passed on through many generations, changing with retelling. Nusery rhymes and song games such as “Oranges and Lemons”, often have a political story behind them.”Goosey goosey gander” might refer to the percecution of Catholics in the Reformation. It mentions an old man who wouldn’t say his prayers .” So I took him by his left leg. And threw him down the stairs.”

Families have their own oral traditions, tales that get passed down, often these stories do not become written stories. Sometimes they are family secrets or just funny accounts. One I heard about my Great Granny recently, not so funny but shows the naivety of the times, is that my Great Granny was in the shower and she used a plastic bag for a shower cap. thank goodness she was OK. It sticks in the memory, because we can’t conceive now, that anybody would do this today. Tales that are often told, are how people in the family met. My Grandad and Granny met because she was in the Land army, in the war and he was a local farmer.

Writing Prompt
Think about stories your family pass down and that you might share with other members of your family.
Were there any funny stories? Stories of how people met? Did any of your family do interesting things? You might want to write about a family “scandal” or something you find interesting. You don’t neccessarily need to do any research, this is about what you know. If you want to ask your family, for more details that might add to the story, you can. Although the process of this, is telling a story of your family, not particularly how accurate it is.

Writing Task
Free write on two family stories. If you find you have more than two you want to write down, break them down further into, 1.beginning, 2. middle and 3.end. So you have a record and can work on them at your own pace.(15-20 minutes)

Look over your stories. Is there part of the tale where the outcome could be changed? When my Granny and Grandad met, Granny could have said no to marrying him. What else could have happened in your story ? Where the story forks, change direction, writing a different outcome. You might find that one idea has more than one fork. If so write up more than one, or choose the best of them.(15-20 minutes)

Make up and write your own family histories, with little or no facts in them. Try writing down a list of 10 and expand on one or two of the best ideas. 15-30 minutes).

Poetry prompt – Take elements of your family recolections and free write, pay attention to a particular day. Write about emotions, senses and think about details you can add. How has this memory impacted on you? 15-30 minutes.

Happy writing!


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