Oral tradition is one of the oldest forms of historical record keeping.
As thousands walked through the Budweiser Snow Sculpture International Championships this week, they may not have even realized they were getting a history lesson. But they were.
Storytelling can take on many forms, and is seen in speech, song, dance, ballads and chants. It is one of the oldest and most revered forms of preserving a cultural history, preserving the history of a people by incorporating facts into story. Nearly every culture in the world, and throughout known human history, has participated in some form of oral tradition, or oral history, and the storytellers have been regarded as socially valuable, important individuals.
Russia’s team presented us with “Immortal Spirit of Antiquity,” a piece featuring the iconic Olympic flame. Fire itself is an element found around the globe in the oldest of stories, as it is often the source of warmth and the center of the camp or home. Storytellers throughout history have built their traditions and passed their lineage while encircling the fire.
“Fight” from the Mongolian team may be this year’s most obvious acknowledgement of history and tradition. The depicted image, that of two warriors on horseback battling a three headed monster, is a legendary tale, one possibly born from the discoveries of fossilized Protoceratops skeletons found in that area.[i]
Not all of the sculptures represented oral history, however. The Great Britain team produced a replica for “Hunky Punks,” carvings of “grotesque beasts,” which can be found on stone church towers in West Somerset. The originals date back to the Gothic architectural period from 1450-1550 CE.
This incredible art form, creating massive sculptures from the fine grains of snow and ice, has grown to be a favorite local tradition as well as a competition with international appeal. The artists themselves, the teams that come together from all corners of our globe, are our storytellers. They carry on the tradition that is as old as man; telling the stories of their ancestors with creativity and grace.
[i] Allen A. Debus. Preshistoric Monsters: The Real and Imagined Creatures of the Past That We Love to Fear. McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina, 2010, p15.