Folklore in America: Tales, Songs, Superstitions, Proverbs, Riddles, Games, Folk Drama and Folk Festivals

Folklore in America: Tales, Songs, Superstitions, Proverbs, Riddles, Games, Folk Drama and Folk Festivals

Folklore in America: Tales, Songs, Superstitions, Proverbs, Riddles, Games, Folk Drama and Folk Festivals

Folklore in America: Tales, Songs, Superstitions, Proverbs, Riddles, Games, Folk Drama and Folk Festivals

Excerpt

The word folktale is not clearly defined in English usage. Rather, it has always been a general term referring to the many types of traditional narrative known to the folk. Men of all kinds have told tales as far back as we can see into history, and they have told tales of all sorts. When they have known how to write, they have written the tales down; when they were unable to write, they passed them on by word of mouth. Tales in written and oral tradition reflect an incessant interchange of material and ideas, and many forms of narrative have come into being. Thus, most folklorists think in terms of the various kinds of folktale and have developed reasonably precise definitions for myth, legend, tall tale, Märchen , and so forth.

Primitive myth, when strictly defined, is religious and deals with the creating and ordering of the universe and with an earlier order in which present world conditions were being established. Such myths are still known to the Indians, but had been generally discarded by the Europeans long before they came to this country. More common in the United States are legends dealing with lives and events that are supposed to have taken place in the present order, after present world conditions had been established. Legends are believed by the teller and serve an historical purpose. They differ from the Märchen or "fairy tales" which are fictional and take place in a never-never-land and from the tall tales which are meant to be preposterous and spoof the listener. There are also a great number of tales in which rabbits, spiders, foxes, and other ani-

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