Seven is one of those universally significant numbers that can be seen as an earmark of sorts, a marker for something of great importance. The number itself is readily sprinkled throughout our lives, from seven days in the week, to the “Seven Deadly Sins” to seven distinct notes in our musical scale. There are also the Seven Ages of Man, the seven Chakras, and of course, seven years of bad luck.
In the creation of our myths and legends, it has long been thought that there are only a certain number of types of stories that can be told. Again, the number seven has appeared. Identified by various people, these types, or plots, have included the following categories:
1. Overcoming the Monster
2. Rags to Riches
3. The Quest
4. Voyage and Return
7. Rags to Riches
There are others who argue that these types are instead:
1. Man against Man
2. Man against Nature
3. Man against Himself
4. Man against God
5. Man against Society
6. Man caught in the middle
7. Man and Woman (http://lenwilson.us/seven-stories/)
Yet still, there are others who identify them as:
1. Cinderella—Unrecognized Virtue at Last Recognized.
2. Achilles—the Fatal Flaw
3. Faust—The Debt that Must Be Paid
4. Tristan—Standard Love Triangle
5. Tristan—The Spider and the Fly
6. Romeo and Juliet – Boy and Girl
7. Orpheus—The Gift Taken Away
(This author also recognizes an eighth one, The Hero Who Cannot Be Kept Down)
In any case, the idea of a limited number of plots that encompasses the entire breadth and depth of human experiences is interesting. From one perspective, it suggests to us that everything we say, do, and experience, can be boiled down into a simple handful of explanations and reasons. It says that perhaps our own story, no matter the impact upon us, is a common one, one that has been told before, and will be told again. It speaks of boredom, of commonality, and a predictable blandness of the human experience, a gray coverlet thrown over the rainbow.
From another perspective, however, we see a very different picture. What these seven categories show is not blandness, but the commonalities. It shows the features we all share in this vibrant rainbow of humanity all over the world. The story we hear from India may indeed be very like the story told in the United States, the tale that is told in Japan is readily recognized and appreciated by those in Africa. It’s these stories and tales, and the common thread that winds through them that links us one to another, individual to individual and community to community. It’s these very same stories, bound within that common thread that spans time and space and touches us across the barriers of culture and language. It’s these same stories that allow us to communicate with each other, to understand one another, to share in each other’s joy and sorrow, victory and defeat.
The culmination of stories worldwide give to us a picture of who we are as humans living this very human experience, and in that picture, shows the common threads that bind us all together in a common Story, the Human Adventure itself.
So these Seven Stories, whatever they are called, do tell a tale. It tells our tale. It tells our story. It tells of our trials and tribulations, our victories and defeats, our hopes and dreams, our joys and sorrows. It has told that story since the very first tale, thousands of years ago. And the story goes on. And in that telling, through you, through me, through the different guises of custom and culture, we still recognize ourselves, and we recognize each other. Through the telling of the Seven Stories, we see the One Story, the Story of Us.
Mark Husk is a sometimes teacher, sometimes student, and sometimes poet living in Fairmont WV with his cat, his hiking boots, and his favorite cast iron skillet. He is on the Executive Board of Seven Stories. His poems and other writings can be found at http://newmystics.com/lit/MarkHusk.html