Storytelling is the act of speaking aloud (not reading) stories to listeners. Storytelling happens everyday. It is how humans communicate information. Storytelling is the most natural way in which we organize information, facts, and events in our life so that we can relate them to other people. We "storify."
Traditional storytellers often tell folktales. Folktales are stories that have been around for sometimes centuries and have been passed on orally through an spoken tradition rather than through written word. Many of these folktales have be recorded in print by ethnologists and folklorists. Two famous "preservers" of folktales are Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm - The Grimm Brothers - whose work is found in the book, The Complete Grimm Fairy Tales. We still have an oral tradition. Jokes for example, we always tell and repeat jokes aloud - we never read them to someone.
Storytellers who tell folktales are often called Revivalist Storytellers. They revive lost or forgotten folktales by re-telling them orally to a live audience. One of the best books of all time about the art of storytelling is: The Way of the Storyteller by Ruth Sawyer. For anyone interested in Storytelling, the first thing they should do is read Sawyer's book. Revivalists learn stories from other storytellers and especially from printed material. By telling the stories again they breath new life into what, on the printed page, is flat and lifeless. This is a noble art form, keeping these stories alive, in the manner in which they are meant to be: spoken out loud. Folktales are best told aloud, not read silently from the page.
One great general collection of folktales is: Favorite Folktales from Around the World compiled by Jane Yolen. There are many many collections available. Look for the publisher Pantheon, it is a reliable source. Also there is a new re-writing/interpretation of the Grimm Fairy tales compiled by Philip Pullman author of the Golden Compass youth book series.
Storytelling is most often associated with children's entertainment, "that children attend to stories is a mark of their humanity, not a measure of some imagined intellectual limitation." (p.8 Livo & Rietz, Storytelling Process and Practice). People envision children sitting down in front of a storyteller at a school or library - this does still happen, but storytelling is for people of all ages in a variety of settings and circumstances.
Today Live Oral Storytelling is enjoying great popularity (FINALLY!) Unlike ten years before there are now numerous venues throughout the United States hosting live oral storytelling events. These events focus on an individual's personal story. True stories told from one's life experience. These events are dynamic, sometimes cathartic, help build a sense of community, and are always entertaining. One person tells their story on stage, but many in the audience will find "it's their story too." In Olympia, WA StoryOly provides this opportunity.
There are also many storytelling radio shows, podcasts, and live national broadcasts that highlight the PERSONAL, true story, as opposed to the folktale. They celebrate the real human experience, add music, and broadcast them nationwide. Such as: This American Life, The Moth Radio Hour, and Snap Judgment.
Check out the Olympia, WA. podcast: OlympiaPopRocks to hear stories from StoryOly.
Elizabeth has created multiple solo storytelling shows in this vein.
See where Elizabeth has told stories here.