It might just be the “world’s oldest pastime.”

Imagine the earliest humans, sitting around the fire, recounting details from that day’s hunt—or explaining how the sun and stars hang weightless in the sky.

Long before the written word became our preferred method for passing information from one generation to the next, the told story kept the myths and legends of our forefathers alive. And it did so for thousands of years.

I suspect that, even in those days, the most artful and dynamic storytellers were revered for the tales they shared. After all, they were the ones responsible for capturing the imaginations of future storytellers—and inspiring them to pass that legacy along through time.

But over the years, with the invention of the written word, the told story became less of a necessity. Instead, it became an artform.

Obscure as it may seem today, this artform still has its place…

And that place is Northeast Tennessee.

This region embraces storytelling as a crucial part of our culture—so much so, that we are home to the National Storytelling Center in Jonesborough. And we treasure those masterful storytellers (and “yarn-spinners”) who can inspire our imaginations and capture our hearts in a matter of minutes.

Northeast Tennessee’s love affair with storytelling all began in 1973, when Jimmy Neil Smith and a local group of students held the very first Storytelling Festival—sharing the rich oral traditions from atop haywagon stages. Now, nearly 40 years later, the event has grown into the annual International Storytelling Festival, bringing in tens of thousands of listeners every October.


But if you want to hear some great stories, you don’t have to wait until fall. The spirit of Storytelling springs to life in May with “Storytelling Live!” With matinee performances Tuesdays through Saturdays, Storytelling Live! features 26 of the best storytellers in the world, and it’s guaranteed to make you laugh, make you cry, and make your imagination run wild.

We’re excited about the 11th Season of Storytelling Live! It’s an unforgettable experience your whole family will enjoy.

Learn more about the International Storytelling Center

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