Folklore is the traditional art, literature, knowledge, and practice that is disseminated largely through oral communication and behavioral example. Every group with a sense of its own identity shares, as a central part of that identity, folk traditions–the things that people traditionally believe (planting practices, family traditions, and other elements of worldview), do (dance, make music, sew clothing), know (how to build an irrigation dam, how to nurse an ailment, how to prepare barbecue), make (architecture, art, craft), and say (personal experience stories, riddles, song lyrics).
Folktales are usually stories that have been passed down from generation to generation in spoken form. Often we do not know who was the original author and it is possible that some stories might have been concocted around a campfire by a whole group of people. It is quite normal to discover that there are many versions of the tale, some very similar but others may have only one or two characters in common and take place in totally different settings .
Our term in English comes directly from the French, the “contes de fées” that became popular in France at the end of the seventeenth century.
But many, even most, of the stories we call fairy tales do not have any fairies in them. (Think of “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Snow White,” for example. Wolves that speak, magic mirrors, yes. But no fairies.)
When we speak of fairy tales, we seem to mean several things at once: tales that include elements of folk tradition and magical or supernatural elements, tales that have a certain, predictable structure.
Twice upon a Time: Women Writers and the History of the Fairy Tale
. . . fairy tales do not have to be stories about fairies.
. . . fairy tales are part of folklore, but folk tales are not necessarily fairy tales. The simplest way to explain this is to think of fairy tales as a subgenre of folklore along with myths and legends.
Be aware that this website and most fairy tale studies deal with literary fairy tales, tales that are once removed from oral tradition, set down on paper by one or more authors. Once the story is written down, it becomes static in that version. It is no longer only folklore, but part of the world's body of literature.
For info about the website’s author, see Who is Heidi Anne Heiner?
humbler stories than the great cosmological myth cycles or long heroic Romances, and as such have been passed through the generations largely by the lower caste portions of society: women, peasants, slaves, and outcast groups such as the gypsies.
The literary fairy tale:
began as an art form of the upper classes -- made possible by advances in printing methods and rising literacy. Literary fairy tales borrow heavily from the oral folk tales of the peasant tradition (as well from myth, Romance, and literary sources like Apuleius’s Golden Ass and Boccaccio’s Decameron ), but these motifs are crafted and reworked through a single author’s imagination.
Les Contes de Fées: The Literary Fairy Tales of France by Terri Windling
It was in the French salons that the term "fairy-tale" ( conte de fee ) was coined -- a colorful but misleading label, as many of the stories falling under it do not contain creatures called "fairies" at all. Rather, they are wonder tales, or marchen (to use the German word) -- tales about ordinary men and women in a world invested with magic.
Although Charles Perrault is the name history has singled out from this prolific group, he was by no means the only popular writer of French conte de fee . The majority of the works collected and published in the Cabinet des Fees were written by the women who ran and attended the leading salons of the day.
The printing press has been considered one of the greatest inventions in history by many, for without it the world as we know it today would not have developed. For the study of history and popular culture its invention is priceless. Printing allowed for the first time the recording of the tastes, values, and concerns of the population beyond the power structure of the Church and state. It preserved hundreds of years of oral tradition that may otherwise have been lost; without the printing press, the collectors of folktales in the nineteenth century, headed by the brothers Grimm, would not have been as fruitful.
Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm - famous for their classical collections of folk songs and folktales, especially for KINDER- UND HAUSMÄRCHEN (Children's and Household Tales); generally known as Grimm's Fairy Tales. Stories such as ‘Snow White’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’ have been retold countless times, but they were first written down by the Brothers Grimm. In their collaboration Wilhelm, who was the more imaginative and literary of the two, selected and arranged the stories, while Jacob was responsible for the scholarly work.
The Native American or Indian peoples of North America do not share a single, unified body of mythology. The many different tribal groups each developed their own stories about the creation of the world, the appearance of the first people, the place of humans in the universe, and the lives and deeds of deities and heroes.
Elements of Native religion are misunderstood, maligned, and romanticized when they are removed from their tribal contexts and appear in American society. In the process, the spiritual significance of ceremony and artifacts is lost. For example, feathers hold deep significance in most Native settings. To understand why it is inappropriate for children to make construction-paper feathers and headbands, it may be useful to consider parallels to one's own deeply held religious experience. Catholics, for example, would object if schoolchildren across the U.S. made a chalice out of a Styrofoam cup and glitter.
Goals for writing and reviewing books with Native American themes School Library Journal 45 (11), pp. 36-37
Children instinctively respond emotionally and unconsciously to the metaphors embedded in stories, if they are allowed to. Unconsciously and emotionally they recognize the witch, the giant and the wolf as the scary aspect of adults and/or themselves.
Folktales can give children access to ways of dealing with their natural fears, furies and frustrations. Even those with violent images, can give children important ways to deal with these confusing feelings.
Frightful Witches and Kissable Toads…Why Folktales?
is a fertility deity , usually depicted as a humpbacked flute player (often with a huge phallus and feathers or antenna -like protrusions on his head), who has been venerated by some Native American cultures in the Southwestern United States . Like most fertility deities, Kokopelli presides over both childbirth and agriculture . He is also a trickster god and represents the spirit of music . 1
“ The changes serve primarily to make the tale more accessible to today's youngsters, making it more compelling and more appropriate, and thus more likely to be watched, at least one person (the one who made the following graphic) has even referred to it as...
See also: Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty: A Literary Approach