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ReadThisThing (Dec 6th, 2017)

At first, [Andrea] Migliano wasn’t actually interested in storytelling. She wanted to know what qualities the Agta most value in their peers, given that they are nomadic and their camps continuously shift. So, her students asked 300 Agta to name the five people they’d most want to live with. They also asked the volunteers to nominate the strongest people they knew; the best hunters, fishers, and foragers; the ones whose opinions are most respected; and the ones with most medical knowledge. And finally, almost as an afterthought, they asked the volunteers to name the best storytellers. That, they assumed, was something relatively unimportant, and would make for an interesting contrast against the other more esteemed skills.

In fact, the Agta seemed to value storytelling above all else. Good storytellers were twice as likely to be named as ideal living companions as more pedestrian tale spinners, and storytelling acumen mattered far more all the other skills.

Among the nomadic Agta people of the Phillippines, cooperation and sharing are fundamental to their society. So it stands to reason that their culture would have numerous stories of the benefits of this kind of relationship (the sun and moon sharing duties in the sky, for instance). It also makes sense that the people who are best able to tell these stories — so key to the Agta way of life— would be community's most respected and influential leaders.

Read: The Desirability of Storytelling

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