What is folklore?
• Folklore refers to the
customs, and stories of
a community, passed
on by word of mouth
• Folklore consists of
legends, music, oral
history, jokes, proverbs,
fairy tales, stories, tall
tales, and customs
Three Principle Genres of Folklore
• Legends - usually include an element of truth.
Are often based on historical facts, ﬁltered through
• Myths: convey truth through symbolic meaning
rather than recording a true event. Can be based
on actual events, but are usually transformed by
• Folktales: popular stories such as fables and fairy
tales. Narrative meaning emphasized over facts.
What’s the difference between
legends, myths, and folktales?
Folktales based on
Fairy tales, or wonder tales, are a sub-genre
of folktales involving magical, fantastic, or
wonderful episodes, characters, events, or
German term Märchen,
meaning “wonder tale”
Some Characteristics of Fairy Tales
• Usually in timeless settings (once upon a time)
in generic and unspeciﬁed places (the woods),
with one-dimensional characters (good or bad)
• Typically feature talking animals and European
folkloric fantasy characters such as dwarves,
fairies, giants, gnomes, goblins, trolls, witches
• They function to entertain, inspire, and instruct.
They are not always didactic.
The History of Fairy Tales
• Found in oral and literary form,
but only literary forms survive,
making history difﬁcult to trace
• Adults, not children, were the
original audience of fairy tales
• Have their origin in a peasant
culture - tales to shorten hours
of repetitive work, chores, etc.
• Originally ﬁlled with comedy,
melodrama, humor, sex, and
Variations & Adaptations
• Fairy tales circulate in multiple versions; cross-
• Remixed and reconﬁgured by each new telling
• They take on the color of the time and place in
which they are told
• Variations can include location, motifs, style,
character, ending, context, etc.
• What are some variations in “Little Red Riding
The Brothers Grimm
German academics, linguists, cultural researchers,
lexicographers, and authors who specialized in
collecting and publishing folklore in 19th century
Frontispiece and title page from 1819 edition of
Brothers Grimm’s Fairy Tales
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