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Traditional Literature

Teacher Resource: What is Traditional Literature? Traditional literature is a genre that deals specifically with stories that were passed down through oral storytelling from generation to generation. Traditional literature consists of songs, stories, poems and riddles from anonymous sources. There are many forms of traditional literature (myths, fables, epics, ballads, legends, folk rhymes, folktales) and many of the categories do overlap. Folktales are a major form of traditional literature found all over the world. These stories have some elements in common and come in several different forms.

Some types of folktales are: fairy tales, noodlehead tales, cumulative tales, pourquoi tales, and animal stories. Folktales are considered part of the larger category of folklore that includes everything from nursery rhymes and fables to home remedies and proverbs. Distinguished from folktales are: myths, legends, tall tales and epics. These are also stories from a culture’s oral tradition, but are not generally considered folktales. These stories emanate from a culture’s historical events, religion, and tradition. Information compiled by Jennifer Stanbro—July 2006 Glossary of Folktale Forms

Fairy tale This is the best known type of folktale, and one of the most popular. Fairy tales, sometimes called “magic stories,” are filled with dreamlike possibility. Fairy tales feature transformations, magical interventions, enchanted forces, and, of course, magic. Fairy tales always have a “happily ever after” ending, where good is rewarded and evil is punished. Characteristics: ?Tale of some length, with a succession of episodes and motifs ? Setting does not have a definite location or time ?Includes magic and/or magical characters and marvelous adventures Sleeping Beauty by Mahlon F.

Craft Cinderella by Ruth Sanderson Folktale Folktales feature common people, such as peasants, and commonplace events. Characters are usually flat, representing human frailty. Folktales have tight plot structures, filled with conflict. There is often a cycle of three in folktales. Elements of magic or magical characters may be incorporated, but logic rules so the supernatural must be plausible and within context. Hansel and Gretel retold from the Brothers Grimm and illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky Tikki Tikki Tembo by Blair Lent Young Ed Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story From China by Ed Young

Noodlehead story (droll, numskull story, humorous story) A noodlehead story is about a silly or dim-witted person who nevertheless often wins out in the end. The main character in a noodlehead tale makes the same mistake over and over until the resolution of the story. Humor is an aspect of this type of tale, resulting from the absurdity of the situation and the foolishness of the characters. These stories are often nonsensical and meant for fun. Ming Lo Moves the Mountain by Arnold Lobel Soap! Soap! Don’t Forget the Soap! by Tom Birdseye Lazy Jack by Vivian French Epossumondas by Colleen Sally

Pourquoi story (explanatory tale, etiological tale) Pourquoi (por-kwa) means “why” in French. Pourquoi tales explain observable facts and phenomenon for which early people lacked scientific knowledge to explain, such as why the sun falls from the sky, why beavers have flat tails, and how tigers got their stripes. The explanation is not scientifically true and while this type of folktale is often serious, it has hilarious aspects integrated into the telling. Pourquoi tales are often found in mythology. Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears Aardema

Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky by Elphinstone Dayrell The Great Ball Game: A Muskogee Story by Joseph Bruchac Talking Animal Tales/ Beast Tales Beast tales feature animal characters with human characteristics. They walk like humans, they talk like humans, and they exhibit all of the other follies that befall humans. The tone of a beast tale can either be serious or funny. Morals in beast tales are more subtle, as opposed to fables, which baldly state the moral at the end of the story. While the animals in a beast tale interact with humans, it is the animals that are the principle characters, with the humans taking a back seat.

The Three Little Pigs by Barry Moser Henny Penny by Jane Wattenberg Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Jan Brett Trickster Tales Trickster tales are humorous stories in which the hero, either in human or animal form, outwits a more powerful opponent through the use of trickery. Anansi the spider is a trickster figure in African folklore; Iktomi, which means spider, comes from the United States Plains Indians and is generally in human form; Coyote is a trickster figure from southwestern Native American folklore; and Raven is a trickster figure from the Pacific Northwest in the United States.

Iktomi and the Boulder by Paul Goble Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest by Gerald McDermott A Story A Story by Gail E. Haley Cumulative Tales Cumulative tales are simple stories with repetitive phrases. There is not much plot involved, but the rhythm structure of these tales is very appealing to children. Events follow each other logically in a pattern of cadence and repetition, sequentially repeating actions, characters, or speeches until a climax is reached. Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema One Fine Day by Nonny Hogrogian

The House That Jack Built by Jeanette Winter There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Simms Taback Glossary of Folklore Traditions Fables Fables are short stories, in verse or prose, with an explicit moral ending. Didactic in tone, the objective of a fable is to teach a lesson, or at the very least guide the reader’s behavior. Characteristics: ?Characters are animals, or occasionally inanimate objects, which behave like human beings. ?Characters are flat, and stand for one human trait. ?Plot is very brief, with one incident. The story teaches a lesson, which may or many not be expressed in a proverb or maxim. The Ant and the Grasshopper by Amy Lowry Poole Doctor Coyote: A Native American Aesop’s Fable by Wendy Watson The Lion and the Mouse and Other Aesop’s Fables by Doris Orgel The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse: An Aesop Fable by Bernadette Watts Jests (jokes) Jokes are probably the most common form of folklore prevalent in our society today; almost everyone hears jokes and then repeats them to other people. Jokes or jests are very short humorous stories, usually with only one incident.

Nursery Rhymes/Mother Goose Rhymes Mother Goose Rhymes are from many sources, passed down in folklore fashion; some were penned by famous authors, and disseminated by publishers, generally without author attribution. Among the favorite rhymes are “Jack Be Nimble” and “Little Jack Horner. ” Babushka’s Mother Goose by Patricia Polacco Inner City Mother Goose by Eve Merriam Tomie de Paola’s Mother Goose Favorites by Tomie de Paola The Neighborhood Mother Goose by Nina Crews Superstitions ?Superstitions are traditional beliefs which are learned orally from other people. Although some superstitions do have a scientific basis, the superstition usually arose long before the reason for it was discovered scientifically. ?Superstitions can have to do with almost any topic, but they often deal with the causes of good or bad luck, or how to insure or predict events. (Examples: a black cat crossing one’s path is bad luck; finding a four-leaf clover is lucky; an itching nose means someone is coming to visit; showering a bridal couple with rice will bring them many children. ) Proverbs Proverbs are moral sayings; they are “the most highly condensed commentary on human folly or wisdom. ” ? Proverbs are very short, often only one sentence or line; proverbs have two parts, a cause or condition and a result: an apple a day / keeps the doctor away; you can lead a horse to water / but you cannot make him drink; a penny saved / is a penny earned. Glossary of Religious/Cultural Literatures Creation Stories Creation stories (or myths) are narrative projections of a culture’s origins, an attempt for a collective group to define its past and probe the deeper meaning of their existence.

Creation myths describe how the universe, the earth, life, and humanity came into being. With complex symbolism, a myth is to a culture is what a dream is to an individual. A culture’s creation myth, or cosmogony, describes the how order came from chaos. The creation myth descends from a culture’s desire to define the creation and bring order to the universe. The Fire Children: A West African Story of Creation by Eric Maddern Moon Mother by Ed Young The Woman Who Fell From the Sky: The Iroquois Story of Creation by John Bierhorst Legends & Epics

Legends are based in history and embellish the acts of a real person. The facts and adventures of the person are exaggerated, making the individual notorious or his or her deeds legendary. Finn MacCoul and Robin Hood are legendary figures. Legends are associated with a particular place or person and are told as if they were historical fact. Legends, like myths, are stories told as though they were true. Arthur and the Sword by Robert Sabuda Finn MacCoul and His Fearless Wife by Robert Byrd The Heroine of the Titanic by Joan W. Blos The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Michele Lemieux

Robin Hood by Margaret Early Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges Myths A mythology is a related body of stories which make up the official beliefs or explanations of a religious system. Myths attempt to explain the beginning of the world, natural phenomena, the relationships between the gods and humans, and the origins of civilization. Myths, like legends, are stories told as though they were true. The One-Eyed Giant and Other Monsters from the Greek Myths by Anne Rockwell Atalanta’s Race: A Greek Myth by Alexander Koshkin

Stolen Thunder by Alexander Koshkin Her Seven Brothers by Paul Goble Tall Tales Tall tales are stories intended to dupe the listener, and are particularly associated with the United States frontier, although other cultures have stories that fit the format. American tall tales possess the very essence of the American spirit, complete with outrageous feats and daring heroes. Stories of famous tall tale heroes, such as Paul Bunyan and Mike Fink, were originally passed along through the oral tradition of storytelling.

It is about a character who is larger and stronger than life, who embodies an area of our country and an occupation common to that region (Paul Bunyan, a logger from the Midwest; Pecos Bill, a cowboy from the Southwest; Cap’n Stormalong, a New England sea captain; Mike Fink, a Mississippi keelboatman; John Henry, a black railroad worker from the South). Paul Bunyan: A Tall Tale by Steven Kellogg Three Strong Women: A Tall Tale from Japan by Jean and Mou-sien Tseng Library Lil by Steven Kellogg Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs Sources Matulka, Denise I. “Traditional Literature. ” Picturing Books: A Website About Picture Books. ttp://picturingbooks. imaginarylands. org/ [website online]. Last updated August 6, 2005. Accessed July 19, 2005. Stauffer, Marilyn H. “Traditional Literature. ” LIS 6585 Materials for Children. University of South Florida. http://nosferatu. cas. usf. edu/lis/lis6585/class/tradlit. html [website online]. Last updated June 16, 1997. Accessed July 19, 2005. Elements of Folktales Setting: ?Time is vague and in the past. Example: Once upon a time; Long ago ?Place is very general and vague. Example: a forest; a castle, a hut Character: ?Characters are simple. They usually have one really strong trait.

Example: Evil magician, kind old lady, lazy pig, wise turtle. ?There usually are opposing characters. Example: Evil queen vs. brave knight; wicked step mother vs. virtuous child Plot: ?The story is an exciting and fast-paced with lots of conflict and suspense. ?The beginning is very short. It tells and the setting, conflict and characters quickly and then starts right in with the action. ?The story makes sense even if there are talking animals or magic. ?The story usually ends quickly. Good is usually rewarded and evil punished. Problem: ?Conflict is established early in the story. Everything that happens in the story relates to the story’s central conflict. Theme: ?Morality and justice. Good and evil. ?Tells about human nature. They sometimes make us laugh at ourselves. Style: ?Folktales often include rhyme and repetition. ?Rich language is used, which sometimes sounds like the language spoken where the story came from. ?There is a lot of talking between the characters. ?There is a lot of imagery in the story, but not long and detailed descriptions. ?It sounds like a story being told orally rather than written down. Elements of Fairy Tales Setting: ?Time is vague and in the past.

Example: Once upon a time; Long ago ?Place is very general and vague. Example: a forest; a castle, a hut Character: ?Characters are simple. They have one really strong trait. Example: Sweet princess, loyal servant, brave prince, ?There usually are opposing characters. Example: Evil queen vs. brave knight; wicked step mother vs. virtuous child ? There are often magical creatures such as witches, fairies, fairy godmothers, etc. Plot: ?Fairy tales feature transformations, magical interventions, enchanted forces, and, of course, magic. ?Stories can be rather lengthy and usually have several episodes. ?The story always ends happily.

Good is rewarded and evil is punished. Problem: ?Conflict is established early in the story. ?Everything that happens in the story relates to the story’s central conflict. ?Some sort of magic is used to solve the problem. Theme: ?Morality and justice. Good and evil. ?Wonder and possibility. Style: ?Rich language is used, which sometimes sounds like the language spoken where the story came from. ?There is a lot of talking between the characters. ?Stories usually have common motifs such as a long journey, a palace ball, a magic slipper, a rose, a wicked step mother, a dark forest, a death-like sleep, a transforming kiss. There is a lot of imagery in the story, but not long and detailed descriptions. Elements of Myths Setting: ?Time is in the ancient past. ?Place is the geographic region from which the myth originated. Character: ?Characters are gods and humans. ?Characters are defined by their actions, not their thoughts or emotions. ?The gods have superhuman power but are very human in form and in behavior. ? Gods often personify virtues and forces such as love (Venus or Aphrodite), the family the family (Juno or Hera), wisdom (Minerva or Athena), and war (Mars or Ares). Plot: ?Plot moves primarily through action. Problem: Problem usually consists of a conflict between gods and/or humans. ?Resolution of the problem often involves the creation of some sort of natural phenomena, such as the tides ebbing and flowing, or a constellation. Theme: ?Myths attempt to explain the beginning of the world, natural phenomena, the relationships between the gods and humans, and the origins of civilization. Style: ?A mythology is a related body of stories which make up the official beliefs or explanations of a religious system. ?Myths, like legends, are stories told as though they were true. Elements of Legends Setting: ?Time is in the past in a specific historical time. Place is also specific. Character: ?Hero is a person who accomplished great and impossible feats. ?Main character is a real person who is known to have lived in this time and place. ?Supporting characters may be gods or humans. Plot: ?May be one tale or a series of related tales ?The facts and adventures of the person are exaggerated, making the individual notorious or his or her deeds legendary. ?Events follow a logical sequence and could happen. ?The story is an exciting and fast-paced with lots of conflict. Problem: ?Main character solves problems through exaggerated prowess, such as strength or clever actions.

Theme: ?The human ideals most desired by the particular society. ?The moral code of the country and the time. For example: honor or strength Style: ?Legends, like myths, are stories told as though they were true. Elements of Fables Setting: ?Time and place are both vague. Character: ?Characters are animals, or occasionally inanimate objects, which behave like human beings. ?Characters are flat, and stand for one human trait. Plot: ?Plot is very brief, with one incident. Problem: ?Conflict is established early in the story. ?Everything that happens in the story relates to the story’s central conflict. Theme: ?Good and bad Wisdom and foolishness ?The story teaches a lesson, which may or many not be expressed in a proverb or maxim. Style: ?Moralizing or instructive in tone. Clearly set on improving or guiding the reader’s behavior. ?There is a lot of talking between the characters. 11. curriculum. spsd. org/… /Traditional%20Literature%20. doc Elements of Tall Tales Setting: ?Time is in the past in a specific historical time. ?Place is also specific. Tall tales are usually from the United States. Character: ?It is about a character who is larger and stronger than life, who represents an area of the country and an occupation common to that region. Main character is a real person who is known to have lived in this time and place. Plot: ?The facts and adventures of the person are exaggerated. ?Events follow a logical sequence and could happen. ?The story is an exciting and fast-paced with lots of conflict. Problem: ?Main character solves problems through exaggerated prowess, such as strength or clever actions. Theme: ?The human ideals most desired by the particular society. Style: ?Strong use of local dialect. ?It sounds like a story being told orally rather than written down.