These are kind of out of nowhere in the sense that these are my notes on re-reading Harold Scheub's work on oral narrative structures, and performance. They have pretty much shaped the way I think of the fantastic in narrative and how it functions, and by extension how those "electric moments" when the real and the fantastic push against each to create a charged metaphorical experience in the moment of the performance (and perhaps in my context as writer, in the creation of the text.) So...they are messy, but they challenge my thinking and awareness every time I go back and read Scheub.
Notes from Harold Scheub's Story -- a really clear and detailed understanding of how story in the oral traditions become a focal point for harmonizing the different, idiosyncratic experiences and histories of the members of an audience. These are performances, and the meanings of the tale, from didactic to metaphorical occur in the performance as a reaction to the images and the aesthetic patterning of the tale to create a surface narrative from conflict to resolution while meaning is generated in the layering of emotionally evocative and metaphorical imagery. Within the performance the audience has a personal encounter with what is both familiar in the narrative and what can be interpreted and reinterpreted throughout the listener's life. (c.f. the child who hears the story, the young woman engaged in puberty rights, the new mother, wife or co-wife, the older woman who is telling the story to audiences of mixed ages or just her peers.)
Story is a combination of image and emotions, narrative movement, of form or patterning, the layering of imagery that results in story. The images are pulled from the inherited cache of emotionally evocative images which are paired with contemporary, more realistic images and their interaction in the story create a flashpoint. It is not in the suspension of disbelief that enables meaning but in the moment of tension in the pairing ("electric opposition") of the contemporary realistic images with the fantastic, ancient images which contain the deepest dreams, hopes, fears, nightmares of a world experience.
The storyteller organizes the images and the narrative from a surface movement from conflict to resolution, while at the same time patterning the emotionally evocative images into tropes that allow the audience to discover the nature of the relationship and its significance and meaning. The prinicpal objective of the fantastic imagery is a poetic reorganization of the real -- and by the contrast to provide a new layer of meaning in the real.
Fantastic images provide a world of connections, of transformations, of metaphorical relations between the real and marvelous, and because many are inherited from a shared historical past, they will also fragments of history, ancient traditions that are reconstituted in a new way for contemporary understanding. Supernatural villians & helpers become manifestations of the struggle occuring with the protagonist. The fantastic elements are not an end into themselves, as a means to push the story towards the metaphorical. It becomes the engine of change bringing the audience out to where uncertainity exists and then back to the familiar. The power of the tale is not one that emerges with a glimmering metaphor -- the tale itself is a metaphor and that is its power.
Fantasy tales are a form of reasoning, a way of looking at events in the context of emotion.The combination of the fantasy and the real in the stories provides a new measure of the real world. The blending of the two, not just fantasy alone is important because without the mooring of the real world, the fantasy would be dull -- fantasy breaks our world into artificial pieces and as the storteller combines the images of reality with the introduction of fantasy, reality finds itself within a fantastic context forcing our thinking about those matter into new modes.