Drawing From Storytelling Traditions

Salman Rushdie

Lesson time 16:57 min

Explore influential forms of traditional storytelling, including the “Frame Story” represented in Arabian Nights, global mythology, and India’s rich history of oral storytelling.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Myths Across Cultures · Drawing From Myth: The Ground Beneath Her Feet · Case Study: The Arabian Nights · Learn From the Techniques of The Arabian Nights · Learn Strategies From Oral Storytellers · Add a Storyteller to Your Story


SALMAN RUSHDIE: Morning now dawned, and Sheherazade broke off from what she had been allowed to say. "What a good, pleasant, delightful, and sweet story this is," exclaimed Dunyazad, at which Sheherazade told her, "How can this compare with what I shall tell you this coming night? If I am still alive and the king spares me." "My God," the king said to himself. "I am not going to kill her until I hear the rest of this remarkable story." And so, they spent the rest of the time embracing one another until the sun had fully risen. [MUSIC PLAYING] You know, you may well find that you want to look at very old stories in order to learn how to tell a new one. And in all cultures, we have a kind of storehouse of those stories, you know, that we call myths, you know. In some cases, these myths are the leftovers of religions that people no longer believe in. You know, once upon a time, the Greek myths were the texts of the Greek religion. And these gods were real gods as far as people were concerned. What's left now are these wonderful narratives. And these narratives have endured for thousands of years. And they haven't endured by accident. You know, they endure because they contain so much truth, you know, and often, they're just kind of amazing stories. One of the characteristics of all these ancient stories is that they're-- even if they're stories about gods-- is that they're truthful about human beings because, frankly, the gods could be greedy. They can be vengeful. They can be sexually aggressive. They can have many human faults. And then they can have virtues. You know, they can have a kind of nobility or kindness or sweetness, you know. And so, through these stories, we see ourselves in a kind of enlarged form, you know. And it can help us think about ourselves at our own scale. [MUSIC PLAYING] I was writing a rock and roll novel. I was writing a novel, "The Ground Beneath Her Feet," which is about rock and roll singers. And the thing that showed me how to write it, in a way, was an ancient story from the Greek myths, the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, and the story about him falling in love with somebody who dies because of a snakebite and following her beyond death, following her into the underworld, to try and retrieve her from the arms of death. My story is also about-- it's called "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" because the woman in question is killed by an earthquake. Literally, the ground opens beneath her feet. And it's about the man who is so obsessed with her that he can't stop loving her, even though she's dead. And it seemed to me that there, in that-- the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, you can tell it in 100 words or less, you know. And that's one of the things that's interesting about the great myths, is that they're very, very condensed. They're like little compressed balls of energy, you know. And you start unpacking them, and they can explode and give you all sorts of possibilities. So in that case, h...

About the Instructor

To the delight of readers across the globe, Salman Rushdie’s genre-defying novels have brought surreal and magical realms to life for decades. Now the Booker Prize–winning author teaches you the art and craft of storytelling. Learn how to draw from your own experiences to build vivid worlds, authentic characters, and complex plots. There are extraordinary stories that only you can write—start sharing them.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Salman Rushdie

Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie teaches you his techniques for crafting believable characters, vivid worlds, and spellbinding stories.

Explore the Class
Sign Up