Folklore: Myths, Legends, Fables, and Folktales

Folklore: Myths, Legends, Fables, and Folktales

Folklore: Myths, Folktales, Legends, and Fables Folklore can be defined as all the traditions, customs, and stories that are passed along by word of mouth in a culture. Folk means ordinary people

and lore means knowledge. Folklore not only means the stories of a group of people, but also their arts and crafts, dances, games, superstitions, proverbs, holidays, songs, and so on.

The stories of folklore have their beginnings in spoken language also called the oral tradition. Often they were passed along generation to generation by storytellers, and the stories

went through changes as they were told, taking on the storytellers own personal touches, personality, and exaggerations, etc. Folklore is collected and written down only after they have been told for many years,

perhaps even centuries. Purpose of the stories: 1. The stories help keep the past alive. 2. Introduce young people to the history, beliefs, and religion of their society. 3. The stories teach moral lessons and illustrate qualities that are valued by the society, such as kindness and courage. They also warn against negative qualities, like greed and foolishness.

Very often the same stories appear in different cultures. Similarities in these stories point to values that many cultures hold in common. Folklore can be grouped into four major categories: 1. folk tales (includes fairy

tales as a subcategory) 2. fables 3. legends 4. myths Myths are stories that answer and explain basic questions about the world, gods, and natural occurrences.

Myth characteristics: 1. Characterization is very important; traits are revealed through appearance, actions, words, and what others think of them 2. Deal with aspects of human life: jealousy, love, death, ambition 3. Deal with gods and goddesses, and lesser deities as well as humans 4. Gods and goddesses have human emotions and extraordinary powers 5. Themes and symbols are still important in

western culture today Examples of Myths: Echo and Narcissus, The Origin of the Seasons, Orpheus, the Great Musician. Creation Myths Definition: At the foundation of nearly every culture is a creation myth that explains how the wonders of the earth

came to be. Why are they important? These myths have an immense influence on people's frame of reference. They influence the way people think about the world and their place in relation to their surroundings. Despite geographical differences, all creation myths share some common elements. Similarities seen in Creation Myths

1. Many creation myths begin with the birth of the earth. 2. According to some myths, animals and people lived together peacefully until some sin separated them or a god took that peace away. 3. A supreme being is usually found in all creation myths; this being(s) trigger a chain of events that create the earth; sometimes there are two beings. 4. Not all creation myths begin on earth; some cultures believe life started above or below the earth.

As you read each of these Creation Myths, note the common elements shared in all. Most important is the element of ARCHETYPES. Examples: Japanese Creation Myth Iroquois Creation Myth Aborigine Creation Myth African Bushman Myth Hebrew Creation Myth

Archetypes? Archetypes are symbols, images, or patterns that appear in myths, literature, and visual arts throughout all cultures. They have universal meanings and show how all humans, despite our differences, are really very similar. Common Archetype Characters

Pearson Archetypal System Female Archetype: Earth Mother, Old Hag, Great Mother, Temptress, Mother Goddess, Female Hero (princess or maiden), Damsel in distress (passive female hero) Ruler/leader: role model/ peacemaker Hero: Epic hero Antihero: reluctant hero Sage: Wise man/ Mentor/ Soothsayer/ Guide Trickster Villain

Caregiver: supporter/advisor/ advocate/ nurturer/ altruist Innocent: idealist/ traditionalist/ optimist/cheerleader Jester: entertainer, wise fool, holy fool, wit Eight Archetypal storylines 1. Cinderella - Unrecognized virtue at last recognized. It's the same story as the Tortoise and the Hare. Cinderella doesn't have to be a girl, nor does it even have to be a love story. What is essential is that the good is despised, but is recognized in the end, something that we all want to believe.

2. Achilles - The Fatal Flaw, that is the groundwork for practically all classical tragedy, although it can be made comedy too, as in the old standard Aldwych farce. Lennox Robinson's The Whiteheaded Boy is the Fatal Flaw In reverse. 3. Faust- The Debt that Must be Paid, the fate that catches up with all of us sooner or later. This is found in all its purity as the chase in O'Neill's The Emperor Jones. And in a completely different mood, what else

is the Cherry Orchard? 4. Tristan - that standard triangular plot of two women and one man, or two men and one woman. The Constant Nymph, or almost any French farce. 5. Circe - The Spider and the Fly. Othello. The Barretts of Wimpole Street, if you want to change the sex. And if you don't believe me about Othello (the real plot of which is not the triangle and only

incidentally jealousy) try casting it with a good Desdemona but a poor Iago. 6. Romeo and Juliet - Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy either finds or does not find Girl: it doesn't matter which. 7. Orpheus - The Gift taken Away. This may take two forms: either the tragedy of the loss itself, as in Juno and the Paycock, or it may be about the search that follows the loss, as in Jason and the Golden Fleece. 8. The Hero Who Cannot Be Kept Down. The best

example of this is that splendid play Harvey, made into a film with James Stewart. These plots can be presented in so many different forms (tragedy, comedy, farce, whodunit) and they can be inverted. but they still form the basis of all good writing. The fault with many contemporary plays is simply that they do not have a plot. Archetypal Story Patterns Hero overcomes great obstacles and gets home or wins

A magician who helps make dreams come true A jester who brings out the fun in a situation The story of good verses evil The quest for knowledge of self The journey home Hero saves damsel in distress Star-crossed lovers Most often traced archetypal pattern: is that of the quest (or search) by the protagonist (or hero), who must leave her/his home, travel

into unfamiliar territory, meet a guide, endure dangerous situations and adventures, reach the object of her/his quest, gain important new knowledge, and return home with that knowledge to share with others. Where have we seen this pattern? Where else have you seen this patternthink movies, other books, etc? What do Archetypal patterns do for

readers? Archetypal patterns and characters help us recognize story lines and character traits faster when we are aware of them. These patterns and characters become a way of how we perceive the world around us and the people around us. Motif

The literary device motif is any element, subject, idea or concept that is constantly present through the entire body of literatureone piece of literature. (like one story) Using a motif refers to the repetition of a specific theme dominating a literary work. Motifs are very noticeable and play a significant role in defining the nature of the story, the course of events and the very fabric of the literary piece. Example Motifs

Clothing Seasons Colors

Paradise Apparent death Supernatural Adversaries Supernatural Helpers Extraordinary Animals Magical Objects Magical Powers Magical Transformations Deep Sleeps Witches Wishes

Trickery Consequences of Greed Beautiful Princess Floods

Importance of Threes Illness Flowers/plants The Beauty and the Beast The Temptation The Returning Soldier The (Victorious) Underdog The Bewitching Woman The Damsel in Distress The Wicked Ogre

Struggle of the Poor/Rich The Journey of Escape The Lost The Miracle Journey from Innocence to Awareness Sacrificial Friend/ Savior The Inward Struggle Motifs from Romeo and Juliet The lover versus the warrior (romeo/tybolt) Comedy vs drama (mercutio/tybolt)

Dreamer vs realist (Rom. And Jul. Vs both houses) Happy and sad (party scene/death scene) Difference between Motif and Archetype? A Motif can be traced throughout one literary work; An Archetype can be a pattern or symbol that can be traced beyond one work to a greater body of literature, movies, art,

etc. Folk tales A short, simple story told for entertainment and to teach values and morals important to the culture it comes from. Folk tales characteristics: 1. Characters are ordinary humans or animals that

act like humans; often the humans are peasants or of the lower class and they have better values than the richer class 2. Time ordered structure 3. Repetition of words, phrases, themes, or situations 4. Simple grammar 5. Concrete vocabulary 6. Characters embody abstract values: greed, patience, etc.

7. Themes and issues are relevant for all ages 8. Characters have standard physical characteristics (princessbeautiful, etc) 9. Some have magical features (fairy tales are a subcategory of folk tales) 10. Most cultures have trickster talesa person or animal that outwits the others in the story Examples of folk tales: Why Mosquitoes Buzz in Peoples

Ears, Lazy Peter and the Three Cornered Hat, Pumpkin Seed and the Snake. The Ten Fingers of Sedna Legend a story about a person, event, or place, that may have some basis in historical fact.

Legend characteristics: 1. Characters are usually Larger than life 2. Details tend to become exaggerated over time 3. Characters qualities are reflective of values, attitudes, and beliefs of the culture 4. Often include elements of magic and the supernatural Examples of Legends:

Paul Bunyan, Beowulf King Arthur, Pecos Bill Fable a very short tale that illustrates a clear, often direct morala principle of right or wrong behavior.

Fable characteristics: 1. Characters are often animals with human characteristics 2. Moral or lesson follows the story, usually in one sentence or simple summary Examples of fables: The Fox and the Crow, The Lion and the Statue

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