FOLKTALES, MYTHS,
AND LEGENDS
Folklore and Traditional Literature
Folklore consists of a people group (or
“folk”) and all of its accumulated facts
(“lore”) including: traditional customs,
beliefs, knowledge, values, and
attitudes of the ordinary people.
Folk + Lore = Folklore
A folk's lore is communicated by word
of mouth until it is transcribed (written
down); this is called “oral tradition.”
Before people groups had written
languages, oral tradition was the only
means of preserving the history of a
people and its culture.
TRADITIONAL LITERATURE
Folktales, myths, and legends are
only one part (the literary part) of a
folk's lore. Folktales are a society's
narratives, stories, and literature.
They are the stories that have been
handed down from generation to
generation.
values
legends
Beliefs
myths
Facts
Folklore
Customs
Folktales
The science of folklore was born when
collectors ("folklorists") began collecting items to preserve the lore and history of various people groups. The birth
of this science began in the early 19th
century and is most often attributed to
the Brothers Grimm, known best for their
collection of what are now well-known
fairy tales: Red Riding Hood, SnowWhite, Hansel & Gretel, Rapunzel, etc.
EXAMPLES OF FOLK LORE
 How do you cure the hiccups?
 What do you do at a birthday party?
 What is done with the bride’s bouquet at a
wedding?
 How can you “magically” predict the
gender of an unborn baby?
EXAMPLES OF FOLK LORE
How do you make s’mores
(“somemores”)?
How do you build a snowman?
What do you say when you smile for a
picture?
WHAT IS A FOLK TALE?
A folk tale is a story with no
known author that usually
teaches a lesson. Examples
of American folktales
include: Brer Rabbit, Paul
Bunyan, Three Billy Goats
Gruff, etc.
WHAT IS A MYTH?
A myth is a story that usually
explains something about the
world and involves gods and
other superhuman beings.
Examples include: Medusa’s
Head, Prometheus Bringer of
Fire, Iliad & Odyssey
WHAT IS A LEGEND?
A legend is a story often
believed to be true and in
which the characters are
usually considered historical
by some. Examples include
Robin Hood, King Arthur,
and Pecos Bill.
MOTIFS IN TRADITIONAL
LITERATURE
A motif is a recurring thematic
element. lt is the smallest element in
a tale having the power to persist in
tradition. ln order to have this
power, it must have something
unusual or striking or universal
about it.
SOME COMMON MOTIFS:
Magical powers
Transformation
 Making a deal with the devil
 Wishes
 Trickery
THREE WAY S MOTIFS
APPEAR IN LITERATURE:
Characters
Example: The "underdog" brother (or
sister), Prince Charming, the damsel in
distress, etc.
THREE WAY S MOTIFS
APPEAR IN LITERATURE:
Plot lncident
Examples: The magic kiss, the long sleep,
the journey, the difficult task, etc.
THREE WAY S MOTIFS
APPEAR IN LITERATURE:
Objects
Examples: Hair, ring, water, magic cooking
pot, flying carpets, etc.
VoiceThread Questions
Do today’s
young
people
tell
stories?
Do you
think
these
people are
telling
stories or
just
goofing
around &
partying?
Do
children
still
enjoy
hearing
stories?
Is this
story telling? Why
or why
not? How
does
it differ
from face
to face
story telling?
What about
myths…folktales…legends…
As a culture, do we still believe
them? Tell them? Pass them on to
other generations? Should we? Why
do we or don’t we?
What about…?
DO YOU AGREE OR DISAGREE? WHY?...
“Myths are stories, and we find meaning
in our lives through the stories we tell.
Myths are not true or untrue—they're
living or dead.”
--Phil Cousineau
Once & Future Myths
WE TELL STORIES…
WE FIND MEANING…
“Myths are stories and we find
meaning in our lives through
the stories we tell.”
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Folktales, myths, and legends