Folktales

folktale

folktale, general term for any of numerous varieties of traditional narrative. The telling of stories appears to be a cultural universal, common to primitive and complex societies alike. Even the forms folktales take are demonstrably similar from culture to culture, and comparative studies of themes and narrative techniques have been successful in showing these relationships. Among the foremost folklorists of the 19th cent. were Oskar Dähnhardt in Germany, S. O. Addy in England, Paul Sébillot in France, and Y. M. Sokolov in Russia. Major 20th-century scholars in the field include Franz Boas, Richard Chase, Marie Campbell, and Stith Thompson. Folklorists make distinctions among the categories of folktales. Legends and traditions are narratives of an explanatory nature concerning creation and tribal beginnings, supernatural beings, and quasi-historical figures (e.g., King Arthur, Lady Godiva). These stories are related as fact and concern a specific time and place. Fairy tales are entirely fictional and often begin with such formulas as "Once upon a time …" and "In a certain country there lived … ." Popular examples recount the supernatural adventures and mishaps of youngest daughters, transformed princes, mermaids, and wood fairies and elves (e.g., Cinderella, Rumplestiltskin, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Hansel and Gretel). Animal tales abound in every culture; most of them are clearly anthropomorphic, the animals assuming human personalities. Such tales are classified according to three subdivisions: the etiological tale, or tale concerning origins (e.g., Great Hare of the Native North Americans); the fable pointing to a moral (Aesop's fables); and the beast epic (e.g., Reynard the Fox; see bestiary). Myths, which are more difficult to define satisfactorily, treat happenings of a long-ago time; they generally concern the adventures of gods, giants, heroes, nymphs, satyrs, and villains, as well as etiological themes. See also mythology; monsters and imaginary beasts in folklore; elf; fairy; goblin; gremlin; troll.

Bibliography

See S. Thompson, The Folktale (1946); V. O. Binner, American Folktales (1966) and International Folktales (1967); R. M. Dorson, America in Legend (1974); H. Courlander, A Treasury of African Folklore (1975), A Treasury of Afro-American Folklore (1976), and The Tiger's Whisker and Other Tales from Asia and the Pacific (1995); A. Clarkson and G. B. Cross, World Folktales (1984).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Folktale
Stith Thompson.
Dryden Press, 1946
Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales
Jack Zipes.
University Press of Kentucky, 2002 (Revised edition)
Sitting at the Feet of the Past: Retelling the North American Folktale for Children
Gary D. Schmidt; Donald R. Hettinga.
Greenwood Press, 1992
Myths, Legends, and Folktales of America: An Anthology
David Leeming; Jake Page.
Oxford University Press, 1999
The Black Cloth: A Collection of African Folktales
Bernard Binlin Dadié; Karen C. Hatch.
University of Massachusetts Press, 1987
Folktales of the Jews
Dov Noy; Leonard J. Schramm.
Jewish Publication Society, vol.1, 2006
Librarian’s tip: This is volume 1. Volume 2 is also on Questia.
Traditional Chinese Folktales: An Anthology
Yin-Lien C. Chin; Yetta S. Center; Mildred Ross; Lu Wang.
North Castle Books, 1996
Irish Fairy and Folk Tales
W. B. Yeats.
Modern Library
A Treasury of Southern Folklore: Stories, Ballads, Traditions, and Folkways of the People of the South
B. A. Botkin.
Crown, 1949
The Adventures of Molly Whuppie and Other Appalachian Folktales
Anne Shelby.
University of North Carolina Press, 2007
Kentucky Folktales: Revealing Stories, Truths, and Outright Lies
Mary Hamilton.
University Press of Kentucky, 2012
The Folk-Tales of Burma: An Introduction
Gerry Abbott; Khin Thant Han.
Brill, 2000
The Dancing Palm Tree and Other Nigerian Folktales
Barbara K. Walker.
Texas Tech University Press, 1990
What Happened to the Heroines in Folktales? an Analysis by Gender of a Multicultural Sample of Published Folktales Collected from Storytellers
Ragan, Kathleen.
Marvels & Tales, Vol. 23, No. 2, July 1, 2009
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Folktales in the Middle Grades
Gilstrap, Robert L.; Evens, Doris.
Childhood Education, Vol. 73, No. 1, Fall 1996
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Atrophization of Minority Languages: Indigenous Folktales to the Rescue
Babalola, Emmanuel Taiwo; Onanuga, Paul Ayodele.
International Journal of Linguistics, Vol. 4, No. 1, March 1, 2012
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
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