A lot of stories begin “Once upon a time.” Many of them are fairy tales, meaning stories made up either for explanation or to pass history on in a pre-literary world.
In most cases they’re so old that their origins are almost impossible to trace. We know only two things. First, the stories were deadly serious, and passed down as a form of oral tradition. Second, there are variations of the same stories all over the world, in almost every culture regardless of location or geographical barriers (such as oceans).
Nursery rhymes are a little simpler, since most of them are relatively recent in regards to human history. Most of what we know as nursery rhymes are songs or rhymes passed down in oral form to teach children their history.
As writers we do something similar—take the familiar, the known, and translate it into the fantastic. It would be quite entertaining to see some of today’s “classics” 1000 years from now if we went back to oral story telling, the tales so different that their origins would be barely discernible even to those who know the stories by heart. And yet, I have no doubt that many of those stories would still be around, in some form.
The habit of telling stories, whether in oral form or on paper, is as old as the first language. Just as in every other culture throughout time, there are born story tellers among us.
Regardless of the manner—oral around the fire, written by hand and passed to friends and family, electronic or printed on paper, it’s still storytelling. It’s an integral part of the human experience, and not likely to go away any time soon.
Once upon a time, someone had something to say. It’s that simple.