How did you first decide to write Sacred Stories?
I wanted my grandchildren to have some knowledge of major world religions and the basic stories they're founded upon, so I searched for a book that would tell the stories simply and without bias. When I couldn't find one, I decided to write it myself. That became Sacred Stories
, a book not only for my own family but for the many people I encountered who said they weren't familiar with the stories of these religions and were eager to know more about them.
During your research for this book, did you learn anything new about these stories/traditions that surprised you?
I learned more than I ever expected. I hadn't realized that every faith has a version of the Golden Rule, for example, or that the core values in most religions are strikingly similar. Careful readings of the best translations I could find uncovered surprises. Even "Noah's Ark," a story I'd heard since childhood, held a new-to-me detail. How many people know that when God placed a post-flood rainbow in the sky it was as a reminder to himself
to never send such a flood again? That's a twist I found surprising and rather appealing, a glimpse of a God who is powerful but also very personal.
Oral traditions are often thought of as a thing of the past. Where do you think oral traditions are going in the future?
Oral traditions aren't going away, they are merely changing with the times. They've moved from myths and legends told around ancient campfires to printed books and digital chips, and still there is a hunger for the magic and meaning of a voice-told story. Joseph Bruchac, the noted Native American storyteller, says, "If we imagine that technology can take the place of the living human presence experienced through oral tradition, then we diminish ourselves and forget the true power of stories." "Tell me a story" is a phrase that will be with us for a long time to come.
How do these traditional stories relate to modern children?
These ancient stories, which form the spiritual beliefs of millions of people, have stood the test of time. Whether they're learned as a matter of faith, historical legend, or intriguing tales from others' beliefs, they hold a fascination for children (and adults, too) of all ages. Modern kids understand and relate to these stories in different ways, according to their maturity levels, from the fun of talking animals to the subtler, metaphorical aspects that express the human spirit.
What do you hope today’s children will take away after reading this book?
My hope is that they will have an understanding and tolerance for the diversity of religious beliefs in the world, along with a recognition of all they have in common. They will also be aware of the origins of the many religion-based references in our culture—"good Samaritan," "Mecca," "karma," and scores of others. The Parents and Teachers Guide
that accompanies Sacred Stories
is particularly useful in enriching the lessons and underlying messages in the stories.