Telling stories, especially to children, is an ancient tradition which most likely was developed soon after early people first learned to talk rather than grunt. I can imagine a scene around a campfire in front of a cave entrance. Darkness has fallen and spits of mastodon meat are angled over the fire. The flickering light of the fire casts moving shadows over an old crone’s weathered and gap-toothed face; she may be forty years old. Children are gathered around her, listening intently.
The primordial story-teller begins a tale:
Children of the tribe, there once was a cave much like this one, but deep inside it lived an evil teratorn who had been excluded from its tribe for stealing carrion. This monster bird lurked back in the cave, waiting for a child to walk by. The bird would swoop out of the cave and peck out their eyes, then… I’ll just say those children never came home again.
When the crone uttered the word “swoop” the children all started and the younger ones wailed in fear; images had been created in their minds.
The long era of the spoken folk-tale never ended completely, but it was gradually supplanted by the advent of illustrated books. Of course now most tales are enhanced with moving images; movies, TV shows, etc. Story-telling has become a profitable business. As an example, consider the Toy Story series, as well as other Pixar productions. Those movies are so popular because they have solid and intriguing story-lines. The brilliant animation doesn’t hurt, either!
When I was growing up during the 1960s the story options weren’t so plentiful but there were enough good books and movies available to inflame and develop my imagination. I think that good stories well-told help develop a child’s imaginative faculties. A major influence on my imagination were the books of Theodor Geisel, Dr. Suess. The artwork was brilliant and surreal, and Dr. Suess was also a master story-teller.
I happened across a web-page by Chris Sims describing and illustrating an early Theodor Geisel newspaper comic strip from the mid-1930s. Wonderful illustrations in the inimitable Dr.Suess style:
Here’s the first strip in the series, which only lasted for a year: