The campfire, long bright, begins to dim. The excitement of the early songs and fellowship slowly gives way to slower music, more serious interactions. Finally, the fire reduced to a glow of darting ashes, red with the heat of the fire that was, the storyteller rises. The story he tells is one that he had no witness to, and in his first lines he says so, tracing the story back through a friend who knew someone who heard the story from someone... who knew. The stories were incredible tales of feats hardly within the imagination, never mind the physical grasp, of other men.
The council/camp fire has long been one of the most common storytelling settings. The stories may have been the legends and mythologies of ancient or tribal cultures or the horror stories more common to modern culture, but the place where they most often and most effectively were told was the fireside. The most reasonable explanation for this is natural selection. Day was a time for work with little time left for the luxury of legend. In contrast, night provided enforced relaxation. Fire provided light to see by and heat to warm by. It was not light enough to work, but it provided an attractive relaxed atmosphere, one conducive to fellowship and storytelling.
There is experimental evidence, however, that indicates that the campfire
may have been more than an attractive setting for storytelling. It may also
have been an important factor in the success of the story, in the persuasiveness
of the story. If so, the choice of the fire for such activity may not have been
a product of what could and couldn't be done at night so much as what the fire
could do for the story. Ancient campfire mythologies provided their peoples
at once with a natural history, religion, an explanation of the world and a
standard for social order. The campfire, in this setting, may have acted as
a distraction, diverting the wandering mind from mentally counter-arguing with
the story and thereby giving the story, the tribal mythology, more persuasive
Foulger, Davis A. (2005). Introduction. From
the Hypermedia Edition
of Foulger, Davis A. (1977). Distraction and Dissonance: A model of the persuasive
process. Master's Thesis. University of Central Florida.
Retrieved from http://foulger.info/davis/mastersThesis/chapter1.htm.