Culture is not innate, it is learned from the moment of birth until the last draw of breath. It changes, layer upon layer like the ice under your feet, generation after generation, because the children you speak to will inevitably build on and alter what they have heard. And so it falls to us to inspire them, with stories of our deeds and occasionally of our failings. Failings are just as important, mind you, but great deeds are motivating in nature. The child watching you with wide eyes craves someone to aspire to be. Tell them of a good role model.Every culture which has a storytelling tradition of any kind uses it to do several things: teach their children morality, sometimes scare them off from doing something dangerous*, impart cultural values, and entertain the audience. A good storyteller manages to do all of this at once and use the fourth quality to allow the other three to escape notice. Informal storytelling is distinct from Khe'drakha poetry in that anyone can engage in it. While formal poems are devoted to great historical figures and the gods, informal tales are often about the speaker, members of the speaker's clan, or local spirits with which they are familiar. Usually they are about great deeds but can often be about mistakes, fumbles, or humbling events, especially if the tale is meant to point out correct behavior with, say, a local spirit (or in some cases, a god). Stories also often serve as pneumonic devices, especially when the audience is a group of children who still do not have a full grasp on the Collective Knowledge and how to utilize it. *Many stories about dangerous things and places are also often used for Legend Tripping, the practice of venturing forth to find these places or things, often among adolescents to demonstrate courage. The practice may also be done by adults for purposes of seeking out the paranormal, although this is less common.
Storytelling stretches back into the mists of antiquity, and is at least as old as Khe'drakha poetry. From the earliest Migrations, adults told tales to pass the time, especially to the younger children and the pups as they all trekked along. The stories were used as a way of marking time since leaving the Ice Flats, but only rarely were about the locations they passed on the route. A good number were and are about the Snow Pup Migration, however, and more about the rest of them and their father. The religious among them also tell stories of the gods based both on mythology and on relevant personal experiences. This serves the function of communicating to the younger generation about the gods in a way that makes the information accessible, because it is often outside the scope of the Collective Knowledge. There exists in modern times a notion that certain adults (namely ranked officers) have a specific obligation to tell stories to children, although the origin of this notion is lost to time. One school of thought holds that this evolved out of a combination of military leaders proudly recounting their assorted deeds, or particular failings that they learned from to become better at their jobs, and a very, very longstanding obligation adults have to children (the latter being not quite good at looking after themselves). Another school of thought suggests there might be an element of peer pressure, or pressure from clan elders, on the matter, something along the lines of "Tell the kids about your hunt last month." In any case, the notion evolved and gained such a foothold in popular Stenza consciousness that it is almost a de facto duty of officers. A branch of storytelling among peers also exists, which seems to have evolved out of boasting around a round of drinks. These stories often take on a different flavor, as they tend toward being about specific and often exaggerated accomplishments. The common trend by far is for the teller's Blood Siblings to challenge them to back up their claims in some way, such as a demonstration of skill. When taking place early enough in the year, this is generally a prelude to Courtship Rituals, but a general attitude of "prove it" is appropriate any time of year.
Components and tools
Any genre of tale is fair game, although they seem to fall into a few broad categories: