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Just Seven Stories

I heard that analysers suggest there are only about seven original stories in the world, and that all other stories are dirivitives of these or combinations. Do you think this is true? I certainly can't dispute it, I've tried thinking of original stories and I can't. I've even managed to draw undeniable parrallels between the recent cult publication 'Harry Potter' and the legend of Hercules.

I can't think of a single story with something that I haven't already heard in it.

If this is the case, why is it that I still enjoy books so much? What do you think compells people to read even thought they've heard it all before?
If you've looked at recent Man Booker prize winners, then I think you'll see many more than 7 original stories :p. Some of the books are sooooo random.

Actually, there probably are 7 fundamental themes that crop up continually in stories. I was thinking of the book 'The Life Of Pi', can't remember who it's by, but without writing any spoilers, it's really really random. But then it has all the themes you'd expect to find in just about any fictional text...just under a different guise.
It all depends upon whom you ask. I've heard seven, 12, and 20.

Even so, thinking of an "original story" is not the problem: thinking of an original way to tell another story is.

One way you might get some ideas is to see how some successful other adaptations have been handled. For example, compare the following (using movies, as well, here):
  • Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet - the movie Love Story and the play West Side Story
  • Shakespeare's King Lear - the movie Ran
  • Shakespeare's Macbeth - the movie Throne of Blood
  • Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness - the movie Apocalypse Now
  • L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - Philip José Farmer's A Barnstormer in Oz
  • Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - Fred Saberhagen's The Frankenstein Papers
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula - Fred Saberhagen's The Dracula Tape and An Old Friend of the Family
  • Dracula along with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes - Fred Saberhagen's The Holmes/Dracula File

Some of those are adaptations of exactly the same story, while others just use the concepts and characters of the original. Either way, they are great examples of original ways of using something that already exists, while still making it one's own.
I've heard a few different numbers suggested too but yeah I think there probably are underlying themes that get repeated over and over again. Once you try to take that theory further and actually pin it down with a number it gets harder to back it up. You could spend several lifetimes trying to classify every story.

Even so, thinking of an "original story" is not the problem: thinking of an original way to tell another story is.

I agree. I also think there's a need to retell stories in original ways. To reinterpret and recombine the elements of old stories in order to make them relevant in a new place and time.
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