To set the stage - I had a booth at the Pet Expo, which was held last Saturday to raise money for the Animal Protective League (http://www.apl-shelter.org/). This was a joint effort with the APL and Mid-West Family Broadcasting (http://www.alice.fm/). The Expo was held in the Exposition Building on the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
The whole thing was very well organized (if chilly), and hosted not only animal-oriented vendors, but a whole floor of adoptable pets. It was also an opportunity for whole families to come - this included their four-legged family members.
As mentioned, the vendors were mainly animal-oriented, which led to a polite quip, made by one attendee, of, "I'm sure pets really enjoy stories."
Which led to a nice discussion on the uses of storytelling; along with the fact that I was more than happy that the booth fee helped out the APL.
More importantly it allowed me to gather several concepts together in my explanation. The main one being that storytelling helps build empathy - whether for animal or human.
Of course there are many stories told from animals' point of view, and then there are others where animals are helpers. This later theme runs through many cultures' folklore, particularly with the hero or heroine proving their worth by their kindness to animals, or the elderly.
A good example of this type of story is the Grimm's Fairy Tale, "The Queen Bee." (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2591/2591-h/2591-h.htm#link2H_4_0040).
The basics of this story go along this line....
Once there was a king who had three sons, with the youngest being rather weakly, and the king sends out the elder two sons to seek their fortune. Finally he allows the youngest to go after them, which does not please the older two boys.
Along the way the youngest is able to protect an ant hill, a bee hive, and a flock of ducks from his brothers. In turn the ants, the bees, and the ducks aid the youngest when he is given three tasks, which he must complete in order to keep from being turned to stone like his brothers. And thanks to the insects and ducks the youngest not only saves his brothers, but wins them all brides.
Within the fluidity of the old tales animal, plant, and human flow between one another - with all being worthy of kindness. These stories were reminders to both the children and the adults in ages past, and still have validity today.
I am a Springfield, IL based storyteller with a fascination for how folklore travels, and for history.