Folk Tale Research Share

My schedule is all off kilter these days, but in my sorting, I came across some notes from a class I took on Folk Tales, and I thought that they might be of interest to some of my readers. 🙂 This is all I have at the moment, so some of the details may be sketchy…

Folk Tales are stories told by human beings in the context of everyday life which usually have been handed down to the present storyteller.

These texts follow conventions of form and style and do not strive for originality. These fit well with everyday experience.


  1. History — genetics, birth, growth, adaptation
  2. Form — syntax — “grammar” of tales
  3. Meaning — What is the message of the tale?
  4. Function — What purpose does the tale serve?

Two main aspects of tales: Textual and Conceptual

6 Points which stimulate questions; shared characteristics:

  1. Folk tales are artistic behaviors
  2. They tend to be formulaic
  3. They adapt to fit context
  4. They are products of social acts in natural context
  5. They are intimately related to real live of inhabitants
  6. They are usually employed in moments of celebration and/or disjunction

Folk Tale types:

  1. Fairy Tales
  2. Novellas — adventures, long, travel world plane
  3. “Hero” tales — tend to cycles
  4. “Sage” — legends
  5. Origin/explanatory tales
  6. Myths
  7. Animal tales
  8. Fables — make a point
  9. Jokes

4 Clarification Schemes:

  1. Stith Thompson — above list of types
  2. Linda Degh — 3 Types: 1. Tales; 2. Legends; 3) True Experience
  3. Roger Abraham — Continuum
  4. William Bascom’s Scheme — most useful (but no details in the notes…)

Axel Alrik’s 14 Epic Laws of Folk Tales:

  1. Patterning:
    1. parallelism
    2. contrast
    3. inversion
    4. chiasmas
    5. framing
  2. Repetition:
    1. internal redundancy
    2. incremental repetition
  3. Law of 3: Euro-centric pattern of triple occurrences
  4. Contrast: Sharply contrasting binary structures
  5. Twins: Paired characters/ Groups of characters
  6. First/Final positioning: two positions of most import
  7. Two-to-a-Scene: French scenes with two characters interacting
  8. Law of Opening and Closing: Beginning and End calm
  9. Unity of Plot: Continuous interrelated storyline
  10. Single-Strandedness: Few sidetracks to the main thrust of plot
  11. Concentration on leading character’s POV
  12. Tableau scenes: Highlight important events
  13. Character Revealed in Action: Seen not discussed
  14. Own logic: Tale is true to its inner self

We will continue this discussion later. 🙂

About RieSheridanRose

Rie Sheridan Rose multitasks. A lot. Her short stories appear in numerous anthologies, including Nightmare Stalkers and Dream Walkers Vols. 1 and 2,  and Killing It Softly. She has authored twelve novels, six poetry chapbooks, and lyrics for dozens of songs. She tweets as @RieSheridanRose.
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