Skip to content

What are some Folklore Definitions?

What is Folklore?
The term folklore is generally used to refer to the traditional beliefs, myths, tales, and practices of a people which have beem disseminated in an informal manner — usually via word of mouth, although in modern times the Internet has become a pivotal source for folklore. The term folklore may also be used to define the comparative study of folk knowledge and culture.

The term "folklore" was first coined by William J. Thoms in 1846. Thoms was a Britist antiquarian who wanted a simple term to replace various awkward phrases floating around at the time to discuss the same concept; phrases such as "popular antiquities", "the lore of the people", and "the manners, customs, observances, supersitions, ballads, proverbs etc, of the olden times".


What is a folktale? (folk tale)
A folktale is a story or legend forming part of an oral tradition. Folktales possess many or all of the characteristics listed below.

  • Are generally part of the oral tradition of a group.
  • Are more frequently told than read
  • Are passed down from one generation to another
  • Take on the characteristics of the time and place in which they are told
  • Sometimes take on the personality of the storyteller
  • Speak to universal and timeless themes.
  • Try to make sense of our existence, help humans cope with the world in which they live, or explain the origin of something.
  • Are often about the common person
  • May contain supernatural elements
  • Function to validate certain aspects of culture


What is a Tall Tale?

A tale tale is an extravagant, fanciful or greatly exaggerated story. Usually focuses on the achievements of the ultimate hero.

What is a Myth?

Myths are traditional, typically ancient stories dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the worldview of a people. The purpose of myths is to account for the origins of something, explain aspects of the natural world or delineate the psychology, customs, or ideals of society. In many myths, the main characters are gods or demi-gods and the story may have some religious meaning or background.

In the Inuit tale of the First Tears , we discover how Man learned to cry.

Excerpt: "Once long ago, Man went hunting along the water’s edge for seals. To Man’s delight, many seals were crowded together along the seashore. He would certainly bring home a great feast for Woman and Son. He crept cautiously towards the seals. The seals grew restless. Man slowed down. Suddenly, the seals began to slip into the water. Man was frantic. His feast was getting away."
Read more.


What is a Legend? 

A legend is a traditional tale handed down from earlier times and believed to have an historical basis.


What are Urban Legends?

Urban Legends are apocryphal stories involving rather fantastic contemporary incidents which have a tantalizing bit of plausibility to them. Urban legends contain many folkloric elements and are disseminated through mass media.


What is a Fable?

A fable is a short narrative making a moral point. Often employs animals with human characteristics (powers of speech, etc.) as the main characters of the story.


What is a Fairy Tale? 

A fairy tale is a fanciful tale of legendary deeds and creatures, usually intended for children.

S.E. Schlosser

S.E. Schlosser

S.E. Schlosser is the author of the Spooky Series published by Globe Pequot Press. She has been telling stories since she was a child, when games of “let’s pretend” quickly built themselves into full-length tales acted out with friends. A graduate of both Houghton College and the Institute of Children’s Literature, Sandy received her MLS from Rutgers University while working as a full-time music teacher and a freelance author.