Storytelling in the Folktale and
Novel forms: a Comparison
- Lalrinmawii Tochhawng
“Man is in his actions and practice, as well as in his
fictions, essentially a story-telling animal.”
- Alasdair MacIntyre
“Both oral and written literature can and do share a
fictive, creative aspect and it is now possible to use the
word literature for them both.” Robert Kellogg (1973)
STORY: A story provides a desirable, discernible meaning and purpose, giving its
audience a dramatic journey leading to a resolution of life-like situations and events.
Tools of Storytelling: Suspense, elements of character development, plot
construction, pattern, motif, symbolism etc.
3-act structure of Beginning, Middle and End is at the core of every story.
PROCESS OF CREATION:
“Heavy residue of primary orality” (Walter J.Ong)
is found in the ‘oral performance’ mode found in
the novel through the persona of the “narrator”
created by the author or in the omniscient voice
“telling” the story.
ELEMENTS OF THE STORY:
Style: The folktale employs economical language with minimal description and heavy
reliance on dialogues and formulaic patterns. It is marked by stock scenes, repetition
of themes, motifs, phrases and the technique of stylized intensification.
The novel relies heavily on the author’s language to create a style that would best suit
the exposition of the work’s theme. It would be impossible to consider the ‘style’ of
the novel as a form, taking into consideration the individualistic nature of its creation.
Theme: Folktale themes appear simple and straightforward but are often serious and
The novel opens itself up for a greater variety in interpretation and makes it possible
for the reader to look at different aspects and uncover diverse understandings.
A structuralist approach to
narrative systems reveal the
use of basic units such as
motifs, types, characters and
combinations of sentences
that form the discourse of
Characters: A folktale’s characters are usually flat, simple, and straightforward, either
completely good or completely evil with no psychological insights into their ‘inner’
beings. Stereotypes are commonly found.
Characters, in both the
folktale, and the novel, operate
to make the story’s movement
visible and concrete.
The novelist develops his characters to explore the value of human experiences and
they grow with the development of the story. They are invested with a sense of
interior consciousness and
psychological depth and are
Much more than archetypes.
Novels demonstrate a return to narrative, to storytelling centred on a sequence of
The concept of one person
telling a story and of the
‘speaking’ voice coupled
with the notion of an
audience that participates
through its reaction and
interpretation of the literary
work- as in the telling of a
folktale, continues to lie at
the root of the narratives
that make up the form of the