Finally, almost as an afterthought, they asked the volunteers to name the best storytellers.
Good storytellers were twice as likely to be named as ideal living companions as more pedestrian tale spinners, and storytelling acumen mattered far more all the other skills.
Migliano says, “If you live in a more cooperative camp, perhaps you have more time and you just tell more fun stories.” But if that’s true, she adds, it wouldn’t explain why so many of the actual stories feature leitmotifs of cooperation, rather than other happy and positive themes.
Skilled Agta storytellers are more likely to receive gifts, and they’re not only more desirable as living companions-but also as mates. All of Migliano’s results hinge on the Agta accurately naming the best storytellers in their midst.
Did they? Could they just have named people they were close to, or venerated celebrities who sprang readily to mind? Wouldn’t that explain both the fecundity and desirability of these supposed storytelling Jedi? Migliano thinks not.
“Stories also contain valuable cultural knowledge, and accomplished storytellers are repositories of this knowledge,” she notes.