What is Folk Literature?!

18 Jan

In an effort to clean my home office, I went through my graduate school binders and came across a well-organized handout by Professor Richard Feldman, that describes the genres within folk literature, and I included some of my personal favorite examples from children’s literature:

A fable is very short, with a moral at the end.  Characters are usually talking animals.
The Lion and The Mouse by Jerry Pinkney


A folk tale is a story, also usually with talking animal characters, which uses a pattern (numbers, repetition).
Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti by Gerald Mc Dermott


A fairy tale is similar to a folk tale, but the characters are people. There are obvious “good guys” and “bad guys”, and magic is usually involved. Cinderella would be a classic example, and The Stinky Cheese Man by Jon Scieska would be a more contemporary example.


A myth is a magical story about how natural forces work (death, creation, weather). Sometimes myths have gods, goddesses, or heroes.
D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths by Ingrid d’Aulaire and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire

A legend is similar to a myth, but it is based on actual historical events or people.
Becoming Buddah: The Story of Siddhartha by Whitney Stewart and Sally Rippen


A tall tale is a story about a heroic person who did completely outrageous, impossible things.
Paul Bunyan by Steven Kellogg

Paul Bunyan
Happy Reading


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