What do children’s nursery rhymes, medieval morality plays and allegorical art all have in common? They have all been used as means of passing on information before the advent of more technical approaches, such as cheap printing, enabled broad literacy. Storytelling is a means of passing on information that can still be found around the world. Here, the generations pass on information through learning by rote, a means of codifying this information. The general forms of this are through:

Before the age of general literacy, a means of getting information through to people was required, and travelling players in mystery and morality plays ensured that morality and religious messages were promulgated. Nursery rhymes and folk songs ensured that basic information - for example, political (“Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary”) or basic educational (“One, Two, Buckle My Shoe”) - would be passed down from one generation to another. Many folk songs are based around sex education (“The Nutting Girl”), couched in terms that kept them innocuous to those who should not understand them. In many tribal cultures, the equivalent of a shaman has the responsibility of collating and passing on information, covering the history of the tribe and the knowledge of herbal medicines through storytelling.

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