Folklore Definitions and Examples

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Folklore Definitions and Examples

Folklore—Folklore is the renderings of a culture which have been passed down orally from generation to generation. It includes stories of many kinds and other pertinent information regarding a culture—folk recipes, remedies, etc. Folklore is relevant to children’s literature because the stories that were told as entertainments for adults in past centuries have been passed on to children. Written collections of folklore have been around for centuries—the two most famous from Europe would be Perrault’s Fairy Tales from 1697 and Grimm Brothers Household Tales from 1816. Today many of these stories and others from diverse cultures are retold and illustrated for children in picture books.

Myths—Myths are the stories of a culture that attempt to explain the natural world including that of human behavior. These are serious stories which cultures create to answer questions such as--why does the sun move across the sky every day? There are nature myths, creation myths and hero myths that appear in books for children. An example of a nature myth is the Greek story of Demeter and Persephone which explains the occurrence of the four seasons.

Epics and Tales of Legendary Heroes—Legendary heroes appear in all cultures and stories grow up around these heroes. For instance the stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is a valued set of stories which originated in England. The Greeks gave us heroes like Ulysses and the tale of his great Odyssey. Hero tales become epics when the stories begin to reflect the aspirations and beliefs of a culture. In this way they are not far removed from myths.

Fables—These are short, didactic stories which typically use animals to portray human behavior. They usually include a stated moral. The Hare and the Tortoise ends with the words—Slow and steady wins the race.

Folktales—A variety of types of stories which include trickster tales, pourquoi tales, cumulative tales,...
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