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Re-Inventing Storytelling

The hero turns into a vampire, a friend turns out to be a ghost, a palace is actually a cemetery. The twists in tales can bring about a total change in perception. This can happen with a sudden reversal of character, reversal of fortune, or reversal of motive in a script, and the end of the story changes.

The nursery rhymes, bedtime stories and mythology all create folklore wisdom, that gets entrenched in personalities.

Jack and Jill went up the hill

To fetch a pail of water

Jack fell down, and broke his crown

And Jill came tumbling after.

Up Jack got, And home did trot As fast as he could caper. Went to bed, to mend his head With vinegar and brown paper.

Smart Alecs have raised a lot of questions on this nursery rhyme, which we used to memorize mindlessly in childhood.

  • Water is normally available in a well, pond or river. Why go up the hill?

  • What was the relationship between Jack and Jill?

  • Were they human? How could a head be mended with vinegar and brown paper?

  • Do vinegar and brown paper have some other connotations?

  • Why did he not bother about Jill, or help her after the fall? Did she survive?

The link of the poem to French history (King Louise XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, who were beheaded) was available at a click of the mouse.

(Time: 1 minute)

Placing brown paper soaked in vinegar on the head, was indeed a therapeutic practice followed in those days, to cure a headache. It was a mild ending, to cover the brutality of the actual story, and we got carried away with it.

Wish we had this click facility to decode the stories that keep replaying in our heads. They continue to be repeated and misinterpreted in society, through us.


In the 1950s, a young man lost his wife at the age of 32, and shouldered the responsibility of being a single parent to three young daughters, in a conservative township. I am sure he was scared and insecure, beneath the calm exterior of a regular meditator. The first story extended to his motherless daughters, was that of a widow in the family, who was found to be pregnant. It led to an ‘honor killing’ within the thick walls, of the huge mansion of the feudal lords. The impressionable girls were scared and scarred for life. They looked at the elders in the family, with a sense of fear and trepidation, and had no companion to share.

I wish they had asked uncomfortable questions. If the women in that day and age, did not step out of the ‘palace of honor’, who was responsible for the impregnation? Was that guy killed or punished? The father would have got a foretaste of his future responsibilities, and would perhaps, have changed his parenting style. They did not, and the story lived in their psyche for long, leading to repressed personalities. Women who live in fear of being punished for another’s crime, without being given a hearing, do not complain or protest. Their presence on the scene of crime, is flung back at them, as an allegation of ‘crossing boundary lines’. This is responsible for many of the social evils, and crimes against women that we witness today.

Why is mythology still relevant?

  • It is rooted in our heritage, to tell us where we came from.

  • The half-truths or myths are used to convey moral lessons.

  • We all love a good story.

Love and embellish the story, for sure, till it starts affecting life adversely. Who can justify riots based on racial prejudice, or the exploitation of certain sectors of the population , in the name of tradition? Who can justify turning oneself into a mental wreck, because of an idealistic story running in our head, which did not reach the desired end?


The script for the future is deceptively simple.

  • Identify the conflicts.

  • Identify the baddies.

  • Revisit the emotional outbursts, and separate fact from fiction.

  • Is a recurrence likely?

  • If yes, what are the steps taken for prevention?

  • If no, check where do you stand today.

  • If you do not trust the baddie, you will not allow him or her to enter your life again. Now, where is the conflict?

  • We secretly hope to see the baddie suffer. If they are so far away, that we will never receive a confirmation of their misfortune, how does it help?

  • If they are not so far away, and you can do something to vent it out (without landing in jail, or making a sorry spectacle of yourself) do it. Do it, tear the pages and close the story.

Now, determine cause and effect of each incident, and see where your responsibility lies.


BUT…. as Lloyd Shefsky, Professor of Kellog’s School of Management says,

It’s like playing chess versus playing three-dimensional chess: You have this overlay of emotional rules over a very scientific or logical set of business rules, and the likelihood that both sets of rules are going to blend easily is pretty remote.

The Ego defines our psychological identity, just as the dimensions of the body define our physical existence. Unfortunately, Ego develops an awareness of its existence, only when the boundary lines are pushed. The defensive reaction for protecting itself can lead to a lot of negativity. Neediness in relationships, insecurity, resentment and revenge all stem from this premise.

An awareness of the boundary lines (before an external attack) and the willingness to stretch it a little, to accommodate another’s point of view, can give us a whole new perspective on every story that we come across.

Jack and Jill will no longer be innocent beings, who met with an unfortunate accident. The hapless widow will no longer be seen as a generic ‘sinner’ to be punished. The heroes you worship may not appear to be all virtuous. The people you so dearly love, are no longer spotless and stainless, but you know the person beneath the spots and stains. You know your role in cleaning the spots and stains.

You know where responsibility is to be fixed.

This article was originally written by Reena Saxena on Medium and LinkedIn in 2016.

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