Myths, Legends and Folktales

Myths, Legends and Folktales

Mr. Ruggirello Essex Public School Storytelling is common to every culture. Most people enjoy listening to stories. Storytellers have catered to the need for a 'good story' since the beginning of civilization. Most people have their own favorite story from childhood and, often, these tales are both fascinating and frightening. These stories include legends, myths and folktales.

A legend is a semi-true story, which has been passed on from person-to-person and has important meaning or symbolism for the culture in which it originates. A legend usually includes an element of truth, or is based on historic facts, but with 'mythical qualities'. Legends usually involve heroic characters or fantastic places and often encompass the spiritual beliefs of the culture in which they originate.

A myth is a story based on tradition or legend, which has a deep symbolic meaning. A myth 'conveys a truth' to those who tell it and hear it, rather than necessarily recording a true event. Although some myths can be accounts of actual events, they have become transformed by symbolic meaning or shifted in time or place. Myths are often used to explain universal and local beginnings and involve supernatural beings. The great power of the meaning of these stories, to the culture in which they developed, is a major reason why they survive as long as they do - sometimes for thousands of years.

A folktale is a popular story that was passed on in spoken form, from one generation to the next. Usually the author is unknown and there are often many versions of the tale. Folktales comprise fables, fairy tales, old legends and even 'urban legends'. Again, some tales may have been based on a partial truth that has been lost or hidden over time. It is difficult to categorize folktales precisely because they fit into many categories. Folk tales are often referred to as Tall Tales. Myths, legends and folktales are hard to classify and often overlap. Imagine a line (or continuum)

as illustrated below, with an historical account based on facts at one end and myths or cultural folktales at the other; as you progress towards the mythical/folktale end of the line, what an event symbolizes to people, or what they feel about it, becomes of greater historical significance than the facts, which become less important. By the time you reach the far end of the spectrum, the story has taken on a life of its own and the facts of the original event, if there ever was one, have become almost irrelevant. It is the message that is important. As well as making fascinating reading, these stories also tell us a great deal about how people in the past saw, and understood, the world around them.

There are many reasons why stories are told and passed down the generations. Here are just a few of them: To strengthen a community and provide a common understanding. Stories often reflect the beliefs of the people who tell them. The popularity of any story depends on whether those listening approve of the values underlying it. By telling and listening to stories, people confirmed their ideas about the world around them. Things that people found scary, infuriating, or desirable all found their way into the stories and they were passed on, because people wanted to be assured that other people around them were thinking along the same lines.

As a way of providing moral guidance and showing people how they should conduct themselves, including the consequences of not doing so. Myths and legends, like any good stories, often include a moral. Within the myth, the hurt or embarrassment experienced by people is often due to their own stupidity, greed, dishonesty or negligence. To explain how the world works, for example why the seasons change, and to explain strange happenings or phenomena such as eclipses - the

reasons for which were unknown in early times. For entertainment purposes. Stories were told to amuse and enthrall an audience in the days before TV and other forms of mass entertainment. To pass on history and knowledge, such as the outcome of battles and tales of courage, in ages when many people could not read or write. Many myths have an element of truth that has been built upon and embellished over the years.

For fame, money or recognition - as in all areas of life, not all stories were told for good reasons. For example, stories of bravery in battle could enhance the status of an individual or a group or, in later centuries, a good ghost story could be sold for money. The truth was not always the most important consideration. Regardless of why they were told, many of the stories still remain popular today and, although we no longer swap stories around the fireside, the tradition of storytelling still continues in the form of urban legends. Many older stories also live on in current day carnivals or festivals, which have their roots in a very different past.

A re-telling The orientation is typically timeless e.g. Long, long ago Before animals walked the earth A single animal is representative of all animals of that kind Natural forces like wind and fire are represented by gods or god-like form The resolution of myths and legends explain why things are the way we are

A classic opening and\or closing (e.g. Once upon a time., And they all lived happily after) Stereotypes e.g. Animals e.g. wolves are bad; rescuers are male The representative of certain values, wealth= happiness, beauty = happiness

The involvement of supernatural forces, e.g. fairy godmothers, creatures that can talk Tales are based around themes like trickery and foolishness But still to this day So every time you see These comments sum up how things came to be .

A hero is someone who is distinguished for his or her courage or ability. They are admired for brave deeds and noble qualities. They may have performed heroic acts. They may also be someone who is a model or an ideal. Make a list of all the heroes you can think of both real and fictional. Think about a person in your life you

might consider a hero. Write a short explanation or story about why you consider him/her to be a hero. A tall tale is a story that provides enjoyment to a wide variety of audiences. Tall tales stretch the imagination through colorful figurative language and exaggerations. Tall tales are also known as lying tales; they are humorous

exaggerations. Tall tales may come from other countries but we are most familiar with American ones. Tall tales are often about the frontier days in the United States. They are an exaggeration of the hardships of frontier life.

Tall tales may be about animals, weather, everyday events, and ordinary people; but the more famous tales are about heroes. Tall tales often feature over-sized people and exaggerated deeds.

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