Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Folklore

Folklore

Overview
Folklore consists of legends, music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

, oral history
Oral history
Oral history is the collection and study of historical information about individuals, families, important events, or everyday life using audiotapes, videotapes, or transcriptions of planned interviews...

, proverb
Proverb
A proverb is a simple and concrete saying popularly known and repeated, which expresses a truth, based on common sense or the practical experience of humanity. They are often metaphorical. A proverb that describes a basic rule of conduct may also be known as a maxim...

s, joke
Joke
A joke is a phrase or a paragraph with a humorous twist. It can be in many different forms, such as a question or short story. To achieve this end, jokes may employ irony, sarcasm, word play and other devices...

s, popular beliefs
Superstition
Superstition is a belief in supernatural causality: that one event leads to the cause of another without any process in the physical world linking the two events....

, fairy tales and customs that are the tradition
Tradition
A tradition is a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes , but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings...

s of a culture, subculture
Subculture
In sociology, anthropology and cultural studies, a subculture is a group of people with a culture which differentiates them from the larger culture to which they belong.- Definition :...

, or group
Group (sociology)
In the social sciences a social group can be defined as two or more humans who interact with one another, share similar characteristics and collectively have a sense of unity...

. It is also the set of practices through which those expressive genres are shared. The study of folklore is sometimes called folkloristics
Folkloristics
Folkloristics is the formal academic study of folklore. The term derives from a nineteenth century German designation of folkloristik to distinguish between folklore as the content and folkloristics as its study, much as language is distinguished from linguistics...

. The word 'folklore' was first used by the English antiquarian William Thoms
William Thoms
William John Thoms was a British writer credited with coining the term "folklore" in the 1840s. Thoms's investigation of folklore and myth led to a later career of debunking longevity myths...

 in a letter published in the London journal The Athenaeum in 1846. In usage, there is a continuum between folklore and mythology
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Folklore'
Start a new discussion about 'Folklore'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Folklore consists of legends, music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

, oral history
Oral history
Oral history is the collection and study of historical information about individuals, families, important events, or everyday life using audiotapes, videotapes, or transcriptions of planned interviews...

, proverb
Proverb
A proverb is a simple and concrete saying popularly known and repeated, which expresses a truth, based on common sense or the practical experience of humanity. They are often metaphorical. A proverb that describes a basic rule of conduct may also be known as a maxim...

s, joke
Joke
A joke is a phrase or a paragraph with a humorous twist. It can be in many different forms, such as a question or short story. To achieve this end, jokes may employ irony, sarcasm, word play and other devices...

s, popular beliefs
Superstition
Superstition is a belief in supernatural causality: that one event leads to the cause of another without any process in the physical world linking the two events....

, fairy tales and customs that are the tradition
Tradition
A tradition is a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes , but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings...

s of a culture, subculture
Subculture
In sociology, anthropology and cultural studies, a subculture is a group of people with a culture which differentiates them from the larger culture to which they belong.- Definition :...

, or group
Group (sociology)
In the social sciences a social group can be defined as two or more humans who interact with one another, share similar characteristics and collectively have a sense of unity...

. It is also the set of practices through which those expressive genres are shared. The study of folklore is sometimes called folkloristics
Folkloristics
Folkloristics is the formal academic study of folklore. The term derives from a nineteenth century German designation of folkloristik to distinguish between folklore as the content and folkloristics as its study, much as language is distinguished from linguistics...

. The word 'folklore' was first used by the English antiquarian William Thoms
William Thoms
William John Thoms was a British writer credited with coining the term "folklore" in the 1840s. Thoms's investigation of folklore and myth led to a later career of debunking longevity myths...

 in a letter published in the London journal The Athenaeum in 1846. In usage, there is a continuum between folklore and mythology
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

. Stith Thompson
Stith Thompson
Stith Thompson was an American scholar of folklore. He is the "Thompson" of the Aarne-Thompson classification system.- Biography :...

 made a major attempt to index the motifs of both folklore and mythology, providing an outline into which new motifs can be placed, and scholars can keep track of all older motifs.
Folklore can be divided into four areas of study: artifact
Cultural artifact
A cultural artifact is a term used in the social sciences, particularly anthropology, ethnology, and sociology for anything created by humans which gives information about the culture of its creator and users...

 (such as voodoo dolls), describable and transmissible entity (oral tradition), culture, and behavior (rituals). These areas do not stand alone, however, as often a particular item or element may fit into more than one of these areas.

Artifacts


Objects such as dolls, decorative items used in religious rituals, hand-built houses and barns, and handmade clothing and other crafts are considered to be folk artifacts, grouped within the field as "material culture". Additionally, figures that depict characters from folklore, such as statues of the three wise monkeys
Three wise monkeys
The Three Wise Monkeys , sometimes called the Three Mystic Apes, are a pictorial maxim. Together they embody the proverbial principle to "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil"...

 may be considered to be folklore artifacts, depending on how they are used within a culture. The operative definition would depend on whether the artifacts are used and appreciated within the same community in which they are made, and whether they follow a community aesthetic.

Oral tradition


Folklore can contain religious or mythic elements, it equally concerns itself with the sometimes mundane traditions of everyday life. Folklore frequently ties the practical and the esoteric into one narrative package. It has often been conflated with mythology
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

, and vice versa, because it has been assumed that any figurative story that does not pertain to the dominant beliefs of the time is not of the same status as those dominant beliefs. Thus, Roman
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 religion is called "myth" by today's dominant religions. In that way, both "myth" and "folklore" have become catch-all terms for all figurative narratives which do not correspond with the dominant belief structure.

Sometimes "folklore" is religious in nature, like the tales of the Welsh
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 Mabinogion
Mabinogion
The Mabinogion is the title given to a collection of eleven prose stories collated from medieval Welsh manuscripts. The tales draw on pre-Christian Celtic mythology, international folktale motifs, and early medieval historical traditions...

or those found in Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

ic skaldic poetry. Many of the tales in the Golden Legend
Golden Legend
The Golden Legend is a collection of hagiographies by Jacobus de Voragine that became a late medieval bestseller. More than a thousand manuscripts of the text have survived, compared to twenty or so of its nearest rivals...

of Jacob de Voragine
Jacobus de Voragine
Blessed Jacobus de Varagine or Voragine was an Italian chronicler and archbishop of Genoa. He was the author, or more accurately the compiler, of Legenda Aurea, the Golden Legend, a collection of the legendary lives of the greater saints of the medieval church that was one of the most popular...

 also embody folklore elements in a Christian context, as well as the tales of Old Mr. Brennan. Examples of such Christian mythology
Christian mythology
Christian mythology is the body of myths associated with Christianity. In the study of mythology, the term "myth" refers to a traditional story, often one which is regarded as sacred and which explains how the world and its inhabitants came to have their present form.Classicist G.S. Kirk defines a...

 are the themes woven round Saint George
Saint George
Saint George was, according to tradition, a Roman soldier from Syria Palaestina and a priest in the Guard of Diocletian, who is venerated as a Christian martyr. In hagiography Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic , Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox...

 or Saint Christopher
Saint Christopher
.Saint Christopher is a saint venerated by Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians, listed as a martyr killed in the reign of the 3rd century Roman Emperor Decius or alternatively under the Roman Emperor Maximinus II Dacian...

. In this case, the term "folklore" is being used in a pejorative sense. That is, while the tales of Odin
Odin
Odin is a major god in Norse mythology and the ruler of Asgard. Homologous with the Anglo-Saxon "Wōden" and the Old High German "Wotan", the name is descended from Proto-Germanic "*Wodanaz" or "*Wōđanaz"....

 the Wanderer have a religious value to the Norse who composed the stories, because it does not fit into a Christian configuration it is not considered "religious" by Christians who may instead refer to it as "folklore."

"Folktales" is a general term for different varieties of traditional narrative. The telling of stories appears to be a cultural universal, common to basic and complex societies alike. Even the forms folktales take are certainly similar from culture to culture, and comparative studies of themes and narrative ways have been successful in showing these relationships. Also it is considered to be an oral tale to be told for everybody.


On the other hand, folklore can be used to accurately describe a figurative narrative, which has no sacred or religious content. In the Jungian view, which is but one method of analysis, it may instead pertain to unconscious psychological patterns, instincts or archetypes of the mind. This may or may not have components of the fantastic
Fantasy
Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common...

 (such as magic
Magic (paranormal)
Magic is the claimed art of manipulating aspects of reality either by supernatural means or through knowledge of occult laws unknown to science. It is in contrast to science, in that science does not accept anything not subject to either direct or indirect observation, and subject to logical...

, ethereal being
Ethereal being
Ethereal beings, according to some belief systems and occult theories, are mystic entities that usually are not made of ordinary matter. Despite the fact that they are believed to be essentially incorporeal, they do interact in physical shapes with the material universe and travel between the...

s or the personification of inanimate objects). These folktales may or may not emerge from a religious tradition, but nevertheless speak to deep psychological issues. The familiar folktale, "Hansel and Gretel
Hansel and Gretel
"Hansel and Gretel" is a well-known fairy tale of German origin, recorded by the Brothers Grimm and published in 1812. Hansel and Gretel are a young brother and sister threatened by a cannibalistic hag living deep in the forest in a house constructed of cake and confectionery. The two children...

", is an example of this fine line. The manifest purpose of the tale may primarily be one of mundane instruction regarding forest safety or secondarily a cautionary tale
Cautionary tale
A cautionary tale is a tale told in folklore, to warn its hearer of a danger. There are three essential parts to a cautionary tale, though they can be introduced in a large variety of ways. First, a taboo or prohibition is stated: some act, location, or thing is said to be dangerous. Then, the...

 about the dangers of famine to large families, but its latent meaning may evoke a strong emotional response due to the widely understood themes
Theme (literature)
A theme is a broad, message, or moral of a story. The message may be about life, society, or human nature. Themes often explore timeless and universal ideas and are almost always implied rather than stated explicitly. Along with plot, character,...

 and motifs such as “The Terrible Mother”, “Death,” and “Atonement with the Father.”

There can be both a moral and psychological scope to the work, as well as entertainment value, depending upon the nature of the teller, the style of the telling, the ages of the audience members, and the overall context of the performance
Performance
A performance, in performing arts, generally comprises an event in which a performer or group of performers behave in a particular way for another group of people, the audience. Choral music and ballet are examples. Usually the performers participate in rehearsals beforehand. Afterwards audience...

. Folklorists generally resist universal interpretations of narrative
Narrative
A narrative is a constructive format that describes a sequence of non-fictional or fictional events. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, "to recount", and is related to the adjective gnarus, "knowing" or "skilled"...

s and, wherever possible, analyze oral
Public speaking
Public speaking is the process of speaking to a group of people in a structured, deliberate manner intended to inform, influence, or entertain the listeners...

 versions of tellings in specific contexts, rather than print sources, which often show the work or bias of the writer
Writer
A writer is a person who produces literature, such as novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, or other literary art. Skilled writers are able to use language to portray ideas and images....

 or editor
Editing
Editing is the process of selecting and preparing written, visual, audible, and film media used to convey information through the processes of correction, condensation, organization, and other modifications performed with an intention of producing a correct, consistent, accurate, and complete...

.

Contemporary narratives common in the Western world include the urban legend
Urban legend
An urban legend, urban myth, urban tale, or contemporary legend, is a form of modern folklore consisting of stories that may or may not have been believed by their tellers to be true...

. There are many forms of folklore that are so common, however, that most people do not realize they are folklore, such as riddle
Riddle
A riddle is a statement or question or phrase having a double or veiled meaning, put forth as a puzzle to be solved. Riddles are of two types: enigmas, which are problems generally expressed in metaphorical or allegorical language that require ingenuity and careful thinking for their solution, and...

s, children's rhymes and ghost stories
Ghost story
A ghost story may be any piece of fiction, or drama, or an account of an experience, that includes a ghost, or simply takes as a premise the possibility of ghosts or characters' belief in them. Colloquially, the term can refer to any kind of scary story. In a narrower sense, the ghost story has...

, rumor
Rumor
A rumor or rumour is often viewed as "an unverified account or explanation of events circulating from person to person and pertaining to an object, event, or issue in public concern" However, a review of the research on rumor conducted by Pendleton in 1998 found that research across sociology,...

s (including conspiracy theories), gossip
Gossip
Gossip is idle talk or rumour, especially about the personal or private affairs of others, It is one of the oldest and most common means of sharing facts and views, but also has a reputation for the introduction of errors and variations into the information transmitted...

, ethnic stereotype
Ethnic stereotype
An ethnic stereotype is a generalized representation of an ethnic group, composed of what are thought to be typical characteristics of members of the group.Ethnic stereotypes are commonly portrayed in ethnic jokes.-Ethnic stereotypes:*African Americans...

s, and holiday customs and life-cycle ritual
Ritual
A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. The term usually excludes actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers....

s. UFO abduction narratives can be seen, in some sense, to refigure the tales of pre-Christian Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, or even such tales in the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 as the Ascent of Elijah to heaven. Adrienne Mayor
Adrienne Mayor
Adrienne Mayor is a historian of ancient science and a classical folklorist.Mayor specializes in ancient history and the study of "folk science": how pre-scientific cultures interpreted data about the natural world, and how these interpretations form the basis of many ancient myths, folklore and...

, in introducing a bibliography on the topic, noted that most modern folklorists are largely unaware of classical parallels and precedents, in materials that are only partly represented by the familiar designation Aesopica: "Ancient Greek and Roman literature contains rich troves of folklore and popular beliefs, many of which have counterparts in modern contemporary legends" (Such as Mayor, 2000).

Vladimir Propp
Vladimir Propp
Vladimir Yakovlevich Propp was a Russian and Soviet formalist scholar who analyzed the basic plot components of Russian folk tales to identify their simplest irreducible narrative elements.- Biography :...

's classic study Morphology of the Folktale (1928) became the basis of research into the structure of folklore texts. Propp discovered a uniform structure
Structure
Structure is a fundamental, tangible or intangible notion referring to the recognition, observation, nature, and permanence of patterns and relationships of entities. This notion may itself be an object, such as a built structure, or an attribute, such as the structure of society...

 in Russian fairy tales. His book has been translated into English, Italian, Polish and other languages. The English translation was issued in USA in 1958, some 30 years after the publication of the original. It was met by approving reviews and significantly influenced later research on folklore and, more generally, structural semantics. Though his work was based on syntagmatic structure, it gave the scope to understand the structure of folktales, of which he discovered thirty one functions.

Cultural


Folklorist William Bascom
William Bascom
William R. Bascom was an American folklorist, anthropologist, and museum director.- Biography :...

 states that folklore has many cultural aspects, such as allowing for escape from societal consequences. In addition, folklore can also serve to validate a culture (romantic nationalism), as well as transmit a culture's morals and values. Folklore can also be the root of many cultural types of music. Country
Country music
Country music is a popular American musical style that began in the rural Southern United States in the 1920s. It takes its roots from Western cowboy and folk music...

, blues
Blues
Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

, and bluegrass
Bluegrass music
Bluegrass music is a form of American roots music, and a sub-genre of country music. It has mixed roots in Scottish, English, Welsh and Irish traditional music...

 all originate from American folklore. Examples of artists which have used folkloric themes in their music would be: Bill Monroe
Bill Monroe
William Smith Monroe was an American musician who created the style of music known as bluegrass, which takes its name from his band, the "Blue Grass Boys," named for Monroe's home state of Kentucky. Monroe's performing career spanned 60 years as a singer, instrumentalist, composer and bandleader...

, Flatt and Scruggs, Old Crow Medicine Show
Old Crow Medicine Show
Old Crow Medicine Show is an old-time string band based in Nashville, Tennessee. Their music has been called bluegrass, Americana, and alt-country, in addition to old-time. Along with original songs, the band performs many pre-World War II blues and folk songs...

, Jim Croce
Jim Croce
James Joseph "Jim" Croce January 10, 1943 – September 20, 1973 was an American singer-songwriter. Between 1966 and 1973, Croce released five studio albums and 11 singles...

, and many others. Folklore can also be used to assert social pressures, or relieve them, for example in the case of humor and carnival
Carnival
Carnaval is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent; the main events are usually during February. Carnaval typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus, mask and public street party...

.

In addition, folklorists study medical, supernatural, religious, and political belief systems as an essential, often unspoken, part of expressive culture.

Rituals


Many ritual
Ritual
A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. The term usually excludes actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers....

s can sometimes be considered folklore, whether formalized in a cultural or religious system (e.g. weddings, baptisms, harvest festivals) or practiced within a family or secular context. For example, in certain parts of the United States (as well as other countries) one places a knife, or a pair of scissors, under the mattress to "cut the birth pains" after giving birth. Additionally, children's counting-out game
Counting-out game
A counting-out game is a simple game intended to select a person to be "it", often for the purpose of playing another game. These games usually require no materials, and are played with spoken words or hand gestures....

s can be defined as behavioral folklore.

Categories of folklore


National or ethnic

See also



  • Applied folklore
    Applied folklore
    Applied folklore is the branch of folkloristics concerned with the study and use of folklore and traditional cultural materials to address or solve real social problems. The term was coined in 1939 in a talk by folklorist Benjamin A. Botkin who, along with Alan Lomax, became the foremost proponent...

  • Appropriation (music)
    Appropriation (music)
    In music, appropriation is the use of borrowed elements in the creation of a new piece, and is an example of cultural appropriation....

  • Chinook wind
  • Folk
    Folk
    The English word Folk is derived from a Germanic noun, *fulka meaning "people" or "army"...

  • Folklife
    Folklife
    Folklife is an extension of, and often an alternate term for the subject of, folklore. The term gained usage in the United States in the 1960s from its use by such folklore scholars as Don Yoder and Warren Roberts, who wished to recognize that the study of folklore goes beyond oral genres to...

  • Folkloristics
    Folkloristics
    Folkloristics is the formal academic study of folklore. The term derives from a nineteenth century German designation of folkloristik to distinguish between folklore as the content and folkloristics as its study, much as language is distinguished from linguistics...

  • Intangible Cultural Heritage
    Intangible Cultural Heritage
    The concept of intangible cultural heritage emerged in the 1990s, as a counterpart to the World Heritage that focuses mainly on tangible aspects of culture...

  • Petrosomatoglyph
    Petrosomatoglyph
    A petrosomatoglyph is an image of parts of a human or animal body incised in rock. Many were created by Celtic peoples, such as the Picts, Scots, Irish, Cornish, Cumbrians, Bretons and Welsh. These representations date from the Early Middle Ages; others of uncertain purpose date back to megalithic...

     (image of parts of a human or animal body incised in rock)
  • Signifying monkey
    Signifying monkey
    The Signifying Monkey is a character of African-American folklore that derives from the trickster figure of Yoruba mythology, Esu Elegbara. This character was transported with Africans to the Americas under the names of Exu, Echu-Elegua, Papa Legba, and Papa Le Bas. Esu and his variants all serve...


Further reading


External links