What Are Poems That Tell Stories Called?

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Poems that tell stories are called narrative poems. There are several types of narrative poems, which include idyll, epic, ballad and lay. Narrative poems have existed for thousands of years and have served many purposes, including capturing the heroic actions of great leaders, such as King Arthur and Odysseus, and even setting the scene as the opening for television shows like "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air."

Narrative poetry is used to capture the essence of people and places around the world. Within the broader category of narrative poems, different types of narrative poems serve different purposes. Historically, idylls were used to paint a literary picture of rural scenes and pastoral settings. Idylls arrived around the third century B.C., and were short and simple poems that revolved around life in the countryside. Idylls typically glorified country life and focused primarily on landscapes and natural settings instead of prominent people.

Epic poems arose during the times of ancient Greece. These narrative poems are much longer than idylls, and essentially function as short biographies of great leaders. Epic poems tell the stories of gods and goddesses and rely heavily on the influences of mythology. Two of the most popular epic narrative poems are the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey," written by Homer. The "Iliad" tells the story of the Greek god Achilles and the Trojan War while the "Odyssey" follows Odysseus's journey in life after the Trojan War ends.