English Literature


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The Role of Folklore Literature in Preserving Culture and Values

Folklore has been a timeless source of inspiration for literary works, from poetry to novels. But what exactly is folklore and why is it important? In this article, we will delve into the meaning of folklore and its significance in literature. We will also explore the different types and elements of this traditional form of knowledge and its notable characteristics, using illustrative examples.

Defining Folklore in Literature

Folklore can be described as a collection of traditional knowledge and beliefs passed down through generations by word of mouth. It encompasses various forms, including dramas, rituals, fairy tales, riddles, poems, and songs. It serves as a way to preserve a community's history, particularly when a written language is not available.

The Role of Folklore in Literature

By sharing stories through folklore, we gain insight into a community's culture and values. While many of these stories are fictional, they often feature animals and humans as characters. Some may have uncertain origins and have been changed over time due to oral transmission. Nevertheless, folklore remains a critical record of a community's history and promotes intergenerational connection.

Understanding the Importance of Folklore

Aside from preserving cultural history, folklore imparts valuable lessons and teachings. It highlights the successes and failures of a particular community and often contains a moral lesson. By presenting different perspectives within a story, folklore aims to convey crucial values and teachings to its audience.

The Elements of Folklore in Literature

In literature, authors incorporate folkloristic elements by borrowing tales from diverse cultures and incorporating them into their work. It is also essential to consider the contextual background of the folklore material, such as its originating community and time period. Analyzing folklore involves identifying similarities and differences between various pieces, allowing us to better understand its progression and significance.

Examples of Folk Literature

Let's explore some popular examples of folk literature and their folkloristic elements:

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table

The tale of King Arthur and his Knights is a renowned legend originating from British mythology. These stories revolve around the legendary King Arthur, believed to be a sixth-century warrior who led British armies against the Saxons. These tales highlight moral integrity, defending the weak, and remaining loyal, serving as a reminder of societal values.


The famous fairy tale of Cinderella, originating from folktales, has numerous variations in different cultures. However, the common elements of good and evil are evident in all versions. This folklore teaches the importance of goodness, resilience, and kindness.

In conclusion, folklore plays a significant role in literature by preserving cultural history and imparting valuable lessons and teachings. By understanding its elements and evolution, we can appreciate the diverse world of folklore literature.

The Fable of The Tortoise and The Hare

The classic story of The Tortoise and The Hare teaches a valuable lesson through its characters. In this fable, a tortoise challenges a hare to a race after being mocked for his slow speed. The hare, confident of his abilities, takes a nap during the race while the tortoise persists at a steady pace and ultimately wins.

The moral of this tale is that success comes from consistent progress rather than overconfidence and rushing.

Characteristics of Folk Literature

Folk literature is a form of storytelling that is passed down through generations orally, leading to variations in its retelling. These stories reflect the values and culture of a community and may be based on significant events or contain lessons. Folklore often includes music and singing, which has resulted in the development of poetic forms over time.

  • Oral tradition: Folklore is primarily shared through spoken word rather than written texts.
  • Variations in retelling: Due to its oral transmission, folk literature may have different versions in its retelling.
  • Representation of values and culture: Folklore often portrays the beliefs and values of a specific community.
  • Moral lessons: Many folktales aim to teach a lesson or value through their narrative.
  • Use of animal characters: Animals are frequently featured as characters in folklore, often exhibiting human traits and behaviors.
  • Exploration of good and evil: Folklore often explores the concepts of good and evil through its characters and their actions.

The Four Types of Folk Literature

There are four main genres of folk literature: fairy tales, fables, myths, and legends. Each has its distinct characteristics and storytelling style.

Fairy Tales

Fairy tales typically involve magic and fantastic elements. They often feature a hero, a villain, and a challenge that the hero must overcome to achieve their happy ending. These tales may also convey a moral or lesson.

An example of a fairy tale is Cinderella, where a young girl must overcome her evil stepfamily and attend a ball with the help of her fairy godmother in pursuit of true love.


Fables are short tales that solely use animal characters, personifying them with human qualities. The purpose of these stories is to teach a moral lesson, usually explicitly explained at the end. Anthropomorphism is a common feature in fables, using animals to demonstrate the flaws of human behavior.

For instance, the fable of the fox and the grapes teaches the moral that people often pretend to dislike what they cannot have.


Myths are symbolic narratives that often originate from traditions and religious beliefs. These stories use symbolism to convey a deeper meaning and may be based on real events or characters. For example, the story of Little Red Riding Hood symbolizes innocence and naivety rather than simply being a tale of a girl lost in the woods.


Legends tell the stories of historical figures and their adventures, often blending elements of truth and fiction. These tales may be based on a series of events or a single story passed down through generations.

In summary, folklore is a collection of traditional stories and beliefs that are orally passed down through generations. These tales may not be entirely accurate and can change over time as they are retold. However, they provide a unique insight into a community's culture and values, often through the use of fictional characters and animals.

The Four Main Types of Folk Literature: Exploring Fairy Tales, Fables, Myths, and Legends

Folk literature is a rich and diverse collection of traditional stories that have been passed down through oral transmission over many generations. From ancient myths to classic fairy tales, these tales serve as a testament to the values, culture, and history of a community. In this article, we will explore the four main types of folk literature: fairy tales, fables, myths, and legends.

The Blurring Lines Between Genres

Determining the exact genre of a folk story can be a challenging task, as many of these tales contain elements of multiple genres. For example, Pandora's Box can be classified as both a fairy tale and a myth, while the Arthurian Legends contain elements of both myths and legends. However, there are certain key elements that can help identify a story as folk literature.

The Oral Tradition and Cultural Depictions

One of the defining characteristics of folk literature is its oral transmission through generations. These stories have been passed down from one storyteller to another, preserving the unique cultural and societal values of a community. Additionally, folk tales often use music and instruments to elevate the storytelling experience, creating a sense of connection and unity within the listeners.

Preserving History and Offering Insight

Folklore is not just a source of entertainment, but also serves as a record of a community's history and culture. These stories offer readers a glimpse into the successes and failures of a community, providing valuable lessons and insights. Through their exploration of morality, good and evil, and human nature, folktales offer timeless lessons and reflections for readers of all ages.

Examples of Popular Folk Literature

  • Fairy tales - Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White
  • Fables - The Tortoise and the Hare, The Boy Who Cried Wolf
  • Myths - Greek and Norse myths, Beowulf
  • Legends - King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Robin Hood

In conclusion, folk literature is a vital part of our cultural heritage, providing a connection between generations and offering valuable insights and lessons. Whether it's a magical fairy tale or an epic myth, these stories continue to captivate and inspire readers around the world.

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