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Quiet your faces; be crossed every
Fix on me deep your eyes...
And out of my mind a story shall
come-Old, and lovely, and wise.
Walter de la Mare
Traditional literature is that
body of ancient stories and poems
that grew out of the human quest
to understand the natural and
spiritual worlds and that was
preserved through time by the oral
tradition of storytelling.
Having no known authors,
these stories are attributed to
entire groups of people or
Types of Traditional
• Myth
• Legend / Tall Tales / Ballads
• Fable
• Folktale / Fairy Tale
Some of the oldest stories
come from Greek and Roman
Myths are stories that recount
and explain the origin of the
world and the phenomena of
nature. They are sometimes
referred to as creation stories.
Public schools are prohibited from
discussing religious material through
separation of church and state laws.
However, there is a huge body of
literature that deals with man’s
attempt to understand the origin of
the world, not only from the Christian
point of view, but through the Jewish,
Native American and many others
points of view.
As a teacher, would you not include
such creation myths, such as the
Native American legend, the Birth of
the Sioux in your literature
curriculum? If you say no, why not?
If you say you would, how would you
respond to a parent who says you
are teaching religion?
Legends and Tall Tales
These are stories based on either
real or supposedly real
individuals and their marvelous
Stories about American
folk heroes, such as Pecos Bill,
Johnny Appleseed, and John
Henry are usually thought to
be based on the lives of actual
people. However, the Paul
Bunyan stories began as an ad
campaign for a lumber
Indian Legends
“Very early, the Indian boy assumed
the task of preserving and
transmitting the legends of his
ancestors and his race. Almost
every evening a myth or a true
story was narrated by one of the
parents or grandparents, while the
boy listened with parted lips and
glistening eyes.” Charles Eastman
A fable is a simple story that
incorporates characters, typically
animals, that teach a moralistic lesson or
universal truth. Often, the moral is
stated at the end of the story. Most
Americans are familiar with Aesop’s
fables, such as The Tortoise and the Hare,
but there are many other fables.
Aesop (620?-560? BC), was thought to
be a Greek slave who thought his
master’s behavior was unwise and
foolish. Being a slave, he was forbidden
to tell him so directly, so he made up
stories that pointed out his human
frailties. These stories, with their morals
were his way of “educating” his master
concerning proper behavior.
Traditional stories that grew out
of the lives and imaginations
of the people or folk. They are
universal; regardless of
geography, often remarkably
Stith Thompson
Around the turn of the century, Seth
Thompson began to study folktales
from around the world. In an attempt
to classify the tales and to organize
them in some format, he studied and
classified both the tale type and the
motifs of the different tales he heard.
Tale Types
• refers to the over all type of story, such as
beast tales
magic (often referred to as fairy tales)
plus many others
• refers to the smallest part of a tale that
has meaning, such as
wicked stepmother
three wishes
• there words are so much a part of our
culture, they need no further
explanation by the storyteller.
The Motif of 3
• In many European cultures, the motif
of three is very common
– 3 little pigs
– Mama Bear, Papa Bear, Baby Bear
I Keep Three Wishes Ready
I keep three wishes ready
Lest I should chance to meet,
Any day fairy
Coming down the street.
I’d hate to have to stammer,
Or have to think them out,
For it’s very hard to think
things up
When a fairy is about.
And I’d hate to lose my
For fairies fly away,
And perhaps I’d never have a
On any other day.
So I keep three wishes ready
Lest I should chance to meet
Any day a fairy
Coming down the street.
Annette Wynne
However, in many Native American
cultures, the number 4 is more common.
Cinderella is a familiar tale type. Thompson
identifies it as Tale Type 510A.
• It contains many common motifs
slipper test
abused youngest daughter
lowly heroine marries prince
fairy god mother
• Cinderella
• Poor, beautiful
• Town with castle
• Cannot attend the ball
• Fairy Godmother comes to help
• Cinderella looses one slipper at ball
• The prince puts glass slipper on Cinderella
• Cinderella marries Prince and lives in the castle
The format of the folktale is so
popular, many authors attempt
to copy it. These are called
literary folktales.
Hans Christian Anderson is
probably one of the better know
writers of this genre.
Oral storytelling
Aesop’s Fables published by William Caxton
Tales of Mother Goose
Wilhelm & Jacob Grimm
Joseph Jacobs published English Fairy Tales
Andrew Lang
, Charles Perrault
publish Nursery & Household Tales
published4 volumes of folktales from around the world
People to know…..
Marcia Brown
Seven of her nine Caldecott Awards or Honor Book Awards
are for illustrating folktales. Cinderella; Once a Mouse
Walt Disney
Film produced whose greatly sentimentalized versions of
folktales popularized the genre. Snow White and the Seven
Illustrator of numerous classic folktales. The Gingerbread
Boy, Androcles and the Lion
Paul Galdone
Jakob & Wilhelm
19th German folktale collectors
Margaret Hodges
Reteller of traditional stories, St. George and the Dragon
Trina Schart Hyman
Reteller & illustrator of classic folktales. Little Red Riding
Hood; The Sleeping Beauty
Joseph Jacobs
19th century English compiler & adapter of folktales for
James Marshall
Reteller & illustrator of humorously irreverent versions of
classic folktales Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Charles Perrault
French collector of folktales; Cinderella
Patricia Polacco
Author and illustrator of Russian folk stories. Thundercake
Ed Young
Chinese-American illustrator of Chinese folktale variants.
Lon Po Po
Paul O. Zelinsky
Illustrator whose realistic oil paintings provide insights into
the meaning of folktales. Hansel and Gretel
Margot Zemach
Author and illustrator of humorous folktales from many
countries. It Could Always Be Worse: A Yiddish Folk Tale.
Values of Traditional
Sense of Story
Cultural Literacy
Understand different cultures
Develop a sense of morality