Danish Language Blog

Telling Stories Anew Posted by on Jan 25, 2012 in Culture

2012 may not be the age of H.C. Andersen or Karen Blixen, but storytelling is a as vibrant as ever in Denmark. This concludes yesterday’s interview with the modern storyteller Helle.

❞ There was a time when people had no pleasures. The whole life was only work, food, digestion, sleep. They fell asleep after great toil and wake up to the same thing. And their minds were consumed by loneliness. Then one day comes an eagle who kills people unless they accept the Gift of Celebration. A man does this, and people watch as their lives unfold and become bright and exiting. By telling about themselves and their doings, people make their lives enjoyable.

Who do you tell your stories to? 

It varies a lot. Right now I’m doing storytelling at an ældrehøjskole (senior high school*), where I’m tackling a novel. It’s called Bogtyven (The Book Thief) and is about a girl during the Second World War. She’s surviving all these terrible things… My audience have the same age as the girl. I’ve also been doing storytelling at parish houses and at private parties.

Do you know all of your stories by heart?

Yes, I do. You don’t read anything aloud. I once told a tale by H.C. Andersen, but then I worked on it and developed my own way of telling it. I remember it because language and gestures are interconnected. You’ve got to have the same feeling in your body.

What does it take to become a skilled storyteller?

There are many paths. Some have it as a family tradition. Some tell because they are teachers or preachers and want to employ the skill in their everyday lives. Some just love storytelling… Some people have a hard time finding material. So we read and read all kinds of stuff. You look for stories which you feel are about yourself.

What is the best thing about being a storyteller?

If you’re into life stories, you have to reflect on your own experiences. During the adaptation process you become aware what actually happened. For instance, I had a little story about swimming… Everyone could swim – save myself! My father and mother had never taught it to me. Still, I plunged in, and thought I was going to drown…

Having told that story a couple of times, I now understand that it was at that exact time I decided that my parents didn’t have to know everything about me! And then I made my aunt teach me how to swim. It is like that with a lot of stories – you discover why you’re so interested in the things  that interest you! And once you’ve got that sensation, telling stories is nothing but a pleasure…


* The Danish concept of højskole is hard to translate, and high school doesn’t quit describe this kind of school, which is based on elective courses with no final exams…

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About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.