Peter Brodeur - aka "Bearded Turtle" - says he never set out to be a storyteller. But back in the 1990s, while he was working at the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner, he started telling stories and soon realized he had found his life's work.Encouraged by Native American storytellers, Peter uses storytelling to help preserve an oral tradition that is 10,000 years old. As a Mic Mac elder once said to him, "A story is only a story if it is told."Peter, who lives in Elkins, a small village within the town of New London, has recently begun to tell personal or family stories, like the ones his father would tell sitting around the table after supper. He has shared his stories at festivals and pow-wows as well as at schools and libraries and any other venue that will let him tell. How many stories does he know? "Impossible to count," he says.Peter is a founding member and vice president of the New Hampshire Storytelling Alliance and a member of the League for the Advancement of New England Storytellers and the Central New Hampshire Storytelling Guild.Why is it important to keep the storytelling tradition alive? Storytelling is truth; storytelling is connection. It shows us who we are, where we came from and where we're going, and it shows us that we're not doing it alone.How far back does storytelling go? It goes back to the first caveman who came back after a hunt and grunted, "Hey guys, wait till you hear what just happened to me."How long have you been telling stories? All my life. As the youngest of five I used it to get attention. I remember telling people I came from Mars where I ate peanut butter and poodle sandwiches and had a girlfriend named Mary who had green hair and red eyes. But I started professionally in the 1990s.What can be learned from stories? I was telling stories at a school once and one of the younger children asked if a story I had told was true and, before I could answer, one of the second graders pointed to his head and said, "It may not be true here, but it's true here," as he pointed to his heart. I think that's what can be learned - real truth is found in the heart, not the brain.Were you told stories as a child? My father was a great storyteller, what I call a "kitchen table" storyteller. He told about growing up and about his days in the Navy. My older brother sometimes told me stories, too. I really can't remember a time that stories weren't part of my life.Why not write them instead of saying them? Words on a page are cold and static, whereas the spoken word is alive and flowing. Besides, it's hard to do character voices in print.Do you ever tell a story the same way twice? Never exactly. It's not a recitation. The audience has a big influence on how I tell a story. A good teller invites the audience into the story, and once they are in they change it.Do you worry that - in this media age - storytelling will become a lost art? Not when I see the young people learning to tell. We may be hidden, but we're not lost.
This article appears in the November 2011 issue of New Hampshire Magazine