The Secret of All Story-Telling: Anagnorisis and Peripateia


There was once a college professor named Stradivarius Wigwam who assigned his students a paper on the secret of good story-telling according to Aristotle.  As the students handed in their papers defining anagnorisis as removal of ignorance and peripateia as a reversal of fortune, the professor realized that he had wasted his life teaching ungrateful idiots and wandered out into the world to seek his fortune.


Former Professor Wigwam camped out under a bridge where he met a Hindoo Swami named Chandrananda (the bliss of the wheel) who explained to him that in the Hindoo epics the key to story-telling was nested stories.  Professor Wigwam asked him for an example of such a nested story and he told the following example.


Before I donned ochre robes I was in love with the daughter of a rich poppy merchant who would sit on the verand of their great house every day in a swing sipping chamlee juice, and she asked me to tell her a story and I did.


The Young Swami’s Story

There was once a king who asked Vishnu to understand the secret of Maya.  Very well said Vishnu, wash your face in this basin.  The king put his face in the basin.  Straightaway he was the leader of a tribe of low cast hill people who were attacking the capital city.  He set the city on fire, but his attack was repulsed.  The leaders of the city set dogs and ogres on his trail, and also rakshasas.  They pursued him to a foreign land where he disguised himself as a peddler of mirrors.  He became wealthy and married the daughter of the king.    The king died and he became king himself.  Then one day his city was burned by a pack of low cast hill people.  He fled the city.  He was captured by Rakshasas.  The Rakshasas dragged him to the ocean and threw him in.  As the waves closed over his head he opened his eyes.  A moment had past and his face lifted from the basin.  “Now you understand” said Vishnu “The secret of my Maya.”


But needless to say these stories only entertained the daughter of the rich poppy merchant for a summer.  One day the young man came to see her and he was told brusquely that she was gone – she had crossed the ocean and married a Sri Lankan.  Distraught, he renounced the world and donned ochre robes and studied the scriptures in an hermitage.  And when his own master died he traveled to America to preach, but he came upon hard times and sought shelter in the overpass of a bridge.


The swami told the professor the story whereupon he returned to his job and walked into the lecture room and the students were still writing their papers on the secret of story-telling which was anagnorisis (the removal of ignorance) and periptaeia (the reversal of fortune).  He collected the blue-books, put a trash-can on his desk, desposited the bluebooks therein, borrowed a cigarette lighter and burned them while the students watched.  “Now you understand the secret of story-telling.” Said the Professor.  “You all get an A.”


One thought on “The Secret of All Story-Telling: Anagnorisis and Peripateia

  1. Norman Felchle says:

    That was cool as heck.
    You made me feel clever for getting a thing you were clever enough to communicate to me in a way that made me feel clever.

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