Why tell stories?

Why tell stories? One of the challenges faced by storytellers for centuries has been to justify the creation of fiction.  For example, Plato is famous for banning poets from his Republic for being liars.  1001 Nights is banned by conservative Muslim governments because it is a celebrated fiction that represents Allah, demons, magic, sex, drunkenness, and other matters.  The challenge is: what purpose do these stories serve?  Within the context of the narrative frame, what functions do the stories fulfill?  If we apply Sidney’s famous claim in his Defense of Poesy, how do these stories both teach and entertain?  Scholars often see the tales as a systematic re-education program for a mad king. 

What lessons do they teach?  Our own editor comments that The Tale of the Ox and Donkey and The Tale of the Merchant and His Wife, told by the Vizier to Shahrazad, are both irrelevant and unpersuasive.”  Do you agree?  Why or why not?  What purposes do YOU think poetry, storytelling, or fiction-making serve?

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