A Perspective on Traditional Literature
• Traditional literature can provide a window on cultural beliefs and on the spiritual and psychological qualities that are part of our human nature.
The Origin of Folk Literature
• Children sometimes identify these stories as “make-believe,” as contrasted with “true” or “stories that could really happen.”
• The origin of the myths has fascinated and puzzled folklorists, anthropologists, and psychologists.
• Folktales are also of special interest to scholars of narrative theory because of the way the tales are honed by many generations of telling; only the most important elements of the story survive.
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Characteristics of Folktales
• An authentic tale from Africa will include references to the flora and fauna of Africa and to be tribe’s people’s food, huts, customs, foibles, and beliefs.
• Repetition is a basic element in many folktale plots and frequently three is the magic number.
• The introduction to the folktale usually presents the conflict, characters, and setting in a few sentences.
• Qualities of character or special strengths or weaknesses of the characters are revealed quickly because this factor will be the cause of conflict or lead to resolution of the plot.
• The introductions and language of the folktale should maintain the “flavor” of the country but still be understood by its present audience.
• Many of the stories once provided an outlet for feelings against the kings and nobles who oppressed the poor.
• Feminists have expressed concern that folktale themes most often favor courageous, independent boy adventures and leave girl characters languishing at home.
• Motif has been defined as the smallest part of the tale that can exist independently.
• Magical powers, transformations, the use of magical objects, wishes, and trickery are just a few of the motifs that run through the folklore of all countries, as we have seen.
• In contrast to folktale versions, folktale variants do not derive from the same original source but share many characteristics, similarities, or motifs in common.
Folktales of the World
• A study of the folktales of West Africa, Russia, Japan, or North America can provide insights into the beliefs of these peoples, their values, their jokes, their lifestyles, their histories.
• The first folktales that most children in the United States hear are the English ones. This is because Joseph Jacobs, the folklorist who collected many of the English tales, deliberately adapted them for young children, writing them, he said, “as a good old nurse will speak when she tells Fairy Tales.”
• German folklore is enlivened by elves, dwarfs, and devils, rather than the fairies of other cultures.
• Most of the Scandinavian folktales are from the single Norwegian collection titles East o’the Sun and West o’the Moon.
• Scandinavian tales often seem to reflect the harsh elements of the northern climate. Animal helpmates assist heroes in overcoming giants or wicked trolls.
• French folktales were the earliest to be recorded, and they are also the most sophisticated and adult.
• The best-known French wonder tale, other than those by Perrault, is Beauty and the Beast, adapted by Marianna Mayer from a long story written in 1757 by Madame de Beaumont.
• Russian folktales are often longer and more complicated than those of other countries and frequently involve several sets of tasks.
• Folktales from the Middle Eastern countries would take several...