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Storytelling in E-learning – Lessons from Indian Mythology (Part-1)

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Storytelling in eLearning - Lessons from Indian Mythology

“Stories are the creative conversion of life itself, into a more powerful, clearer, and more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.” – Robert McKee

Are stories really suitable to train people? Do they have any value, such that learners are inspired? Or, are they are just used to entertain people? If stories are used in teaching, is it only applicable for children? Can it be used in designing eLearning courses? If so, how?

Importance of stories

Even though storytelling is an ancient art of teaching, it continues to live. Consider great Greece epics like Iliad, Roman epics like Aeneid and also the Indian epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata which taught us so much. Consider the Indian epics, written two thousand years back, to make people learn a better way of living, a right way to be followed, they permeates in every aspect of the Indian culture even today. What kept them alive from one generation to other is that the authors of these tales, spoke directly to the audience through their stories. They narrated the fundamental problems everyone faces in their daily life and showed how to overcome them in various situations. Finding solutions to the problems made the stories interesting, emotional and engaging to the listeners.

Let me demonstrate a small story from Indian mythology (with names changed for easy pronunciation).

Once there was a demon who was defeated by a king named Alfred. In order to save its life, the demon requested the king to listen to a story and answer a question. If the king gave a wrong answer, then the demon should be let loose. The king accepted.

The demon’s story went like this. Once upon a time there lived a king named George. He passed a law in his kingdom that no man can have more than one wife and cannot marry a married woman. If anyone found guilty he will be hanged.

There lived in that kingdom a young man named Thomas, the a son of a rich merchant. One day he saw a beautiful girl and decided to marry her. He went to her house and expressed his wish to the girl’s father. But the girl’s father replied that, his daughter is already engaged to another man. Thomas returned with a heavy heart and decided not to marry any other girl in his life. Hearing about Thomas, the girl also fell in love with him, but had to abide by her father and married another man, Daniel.

The honest girl informed about her love to her husband. Daniel being a kind hearted man allowed the girl to leave him and marry Thomas. The elated girl left her husband’s home and started her journey to Thomas’ place. On the way a thief accosted her and demanded her jewelry. The girl who was in the hurry told that she will give away her jewelry on her way back. Convinced of her honesty, the thief let her go.

Thomas listened to her and to the girl’s shock said that he would not marry a married woman and asked her to go back. On her way back, the disappointed girl was once again confronted by the thief who was waiting for her. Seeing her gloomy face, the thief asked what had happened. The girl narrated her story. He felt pity on her and said that she is very innocent and he would not steal her jewelry, and instead escorted her to Daniel’s house. After listening to his wife, Daniel said that he had given her a choice and she has chose to leave him. Now his doors were closed for her. The distressed girl ended her life.

The demon asked the king, Who is the person among the four characters who made a real sacrifice, without any selfish motive? Is that the girl or, the husband or, the lover or thief and why?

What’s your answer?

Whatever be your answer, you’ll know the king’s answer in my next blog along with some aspects on how to tell a story in eLearning. But the most important thing, are you convinced about the power of storytelling? Did it make you to think? Your thoughts are welcome!

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