FROM CAMPFIRE TO CLAY TABLETS AND SCROLLS
I have wanted to be a writer since I was 15 years old. Why?
Well, financial reward, for one thing. But even if I never gained a penny I would still write. For several years after beating my head against a brick wall, I chose not to write. But the desire—need—to write did not disappear. It simply smoldered without release. So I returned to writing. After several more years I started becoming published. By now I have had well over five dozen short stories, novellas, and one novel published.
I suspect that telling stories is as basic to mankind’s nature as is art, music and dance (I love music but am tone deaf, and have absolutely no rhythm).
When I look at the photographs of the painted caves of Spain and France, I wonder what motivated prehistoric men and/or women to paint such images. I wonder if these painters also told stories around campfires. How did the early storytellers make clear the meaning of gods, demons, monsters, and heroes? Who were their heroes and what adventures did they have? More, where did this spark of oral storytelling come from?
For example, when was the story or poem of the Sumerian god-king Gilgamesh, first told?
For Gilgamesh to make the leap from campfire stories to the written word, writing itself being a miraculous feat, to become “a poem of unparalleled antiquity, the first great heroic narrative of world literature”, to quote The Norton Anthology of Western Literature (W.W. Norton & Company, 2006) is an awesome, earthshaking achievement. Not only is Gilgamesh a literary achievement, but it also offers a glimpse of a world and a people newly emerged from prehistory.
That world and people are gone now, remembered only in the written word as inscribed on clay tablets.
No less important is Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey. Both are from the Greek (Achaean) “age of heroes.” The Iliad tells of two kingdoms that went to war over Helen, the woman whose face launched a thousand ships. The Odyssey tells of one of the Achaean heroes, a crafty king named Odysseus who thought of building a wooden horse filled with warriors as a means of gaining entry to Troy. After Troy burned it took him 10 years to return home.
The oral tradition of these two poems certainly predates their being written on papyrus and/or parchment.
I always wonder, what was the spark that led to oral storytelling around campfires? What was the spark from which descended Gilgamesh, The Iliad, and The Odyssey? What other prehistoric heroes, gods, and goddesses have we not heard of? Yes, from prehistoric stories told in a coarse, early proto-language to the Sumerian and Greek written poems, mankind has traveled far. For that we owe a great debt to those early storytellers and their imagination.
After reflecting on this heritage, I still cannot say why I want to tell stories
So, what compels you to tell stories?
“The Ferryman.” Ed. Mel Jacob. Melange Books.
BLURB: Sometimes even a servant of the gods may become curious and intrigued by other possibilities beyond their assigned role, which threatens to upset everything. Charon the Ferryman witnessed an act of love when a little girl offered him a song bird to pay for her grandfather’s shade to be ferried across the Styx. And the shade of a barbarian woman taught him that there was more than the underworld…
EXCERPT: Strong sunlight faded to a pale shadow of itself as if drained of life to create deep shadows along the sloping floor and the uneven walls of the long cavern entrance. Long, narrow stalactites hung from the cavern roof and stalagmites of various heights and thicknesses angled upward from the floor, resembling the scattered, uneven teeth of a monstrous dragon’s mouth. Flowstone along the widening cavern walls had once oozed onto the cavern floor to form rolling stone waves that became a wide, sandy beach to disappear into the shadows.
The cavern roof arched upward, lost to sight save for the pale tips of hanging stalactites. The scattered stalagmites marched into the rippling surface of dark waters. A thick gray mist coated the water that splashed onto the beach. The mist swirled into strange formations caused by a moaning, chilly wind that swept out of the darkness and up the long tunnel.
From deep within the darkness of the gigantic cavern came the ghostly notes of pipes and the echoing steady rhythmic beat of a drum. Torches along the beach burst into flickering life as their flames danced to the ghostly rhythm of the pipes.
The torchlight revealed pale shades, the spirits, of weeping men, women, and children, who shuffled through the sand along the edge of the waters of the River Styx. The river was one of the dark rivers of Hades, the underworld of the dead. The sunlight filtering into the cavern rippled with the shadows of weeping shades descending the length of the cavern entrance. A gilded figure with torch held high lit the way before them.
The music grew louder. A dark shape, lighter than the darkness, appeared in the distance. The gathering shades milled at the water’s edge and waited as the bow of a boat fitted with a bronze beak sliced through the misty waters. A large red eye rimmed in black decorated each side of the polished wood bow. On both sides of the bow square wooden boxes dangled bronze anchors. Behind that lay a narrow platform from a tall, narrow, wooden walkway rose into the chill air. An angled black bow sail and a large black square sail behind it strained with the moaning wind…
Stan Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, and a published photographer and photojournalist. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007) with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.
He has had two solo photographic exhibitions and curated a third. His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.
As of April 2014, after being in a 2-year Veterans Administration program for Homeless Veterans, Hampton is officially no longer a homeless Iraq War veteran.
In May 2014 he graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. A future goal is to study for a degree in archaeology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology (and also learning to paint). He is currently studying in a double major in Art and Creative Writing at University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
After over 14 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters.
Hampton can be found at:
Barnes and Noble
Dark Opus Press
Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing
Amazon.com Author Page
Amazon.com. UK Author Page
Goodreads Author Page