Folklore, fairytales and mice!
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s and Mice!
ELE 616 Research in Children’s Literature
What is Folklore?–Folklore is the traditional art, literature, knowledge, and practice that is disseminated largely through oral communication and behavioral example. Every group with a sense of its own identity shares, as a central part of that identity, folk traditions–the things that people traditionally believe (planting practices, family traditions, and other elements of worldview), do (dance, make music, sew clothing), know (how to build an irrigation dam, how to nurse an ailment, how to prepare barbecue), make (architecture, art, craft), and say (personal experience stories, riddles, song lyrics).
What about Folktales?
What are folktales? – Folktales are usually stories that have
been passed down from generation to generation in spoken form. Often we do not know who was the original author and it is possible that some stories might have been concocted around a campfire by a whole group of people. It is quite normal to discover that there are many versions of the tale, some very similar but others may have only one or two characters in common and take place in totally different settings.
And Fairy Tales?
But what are fairy tales? – Our term in English comes directly from the French,
the “contes de fées” that became popular in France at the end of the seventeenth century.
– But many, even most, of the stories we call fairy tales do not have any fairies in them. (Think of “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Snow White,” for example. Wolves that speak, magic mirrors, yes. But no fairies.)
– When we speak of fairy tales, we seem to mean several things at once: tales that include elements of folk tradition and magical or supernatural elements, tales that have a certain, predictable structure. • E. W. Harries (2001)
Twice upon a time: Women writers and the history of the fairy tale. Introduction: Once, not long ago.
Let me state this plainly: – . . . fairy tales do not have to be stories about fairies. – . . . fairy tales are part of folklore, but folk tales are not
necessarily fairy tales. The simplest way to explain this is to think of fairy tales as a subgenre of folklore along with myths and legends.
– Be aware that this website and most fairy tale studies deal with literary fairy tales, tales that are once removed from oral tradition, set down on paper by one or more authors. Once the story is written down, it becomes static in that version. It is no longer only folklore, but part of the world's body of literature. • For info about the website’s author, see Who is Heidi Anne Heiner?
Folktales vs Literary Fairy Tales
Folk tales:–humbler stories than the great cosmological myth cycles
or long heroic Romances, and as such have been passed through the generations largely by the lower caste portions of society: women, peasants, slaves, and outcast groups such as the gypsies.
The literary fairy tale:–began as an art form of the upper classes -- made possible by
advances in printing methods and rising literacy. Literary fairy tales borrow heavily from the oral folk tales of the peasant tradition (as well from myth, Romance, and literary sources like Apuleius’s Golden Ass and Boccaccio’s Decameron), but these motifs are crafted and reworked through a single author’s imagination. • Les Contes de Fées: The Literary Fairy Tales of France by Terri Windling
Origin of “fairy tales” in France
The salon tales (1690-1704) – It was in the French salons that the term “fairy-tale”
(conte de fee) was coined -- a colorful but misleading label, as many of the stories falling under it do not contain creatures called “fairies” at all. Rather, they are wonder tales, or marchen (to use the German word) -- tales about ordinary men and women in a world invested with magic.
– Although Charles Perrault is the name history has singled out from this prolific group, he was by no means the only popular writer of French conte de fee. The majority of the works collected and published in the Cabinet des Fees were written by the women who ran and attended the leading salons of the day.
– by Terri Windling (A talk given at Antigone Books, a feminist bookstore in Tucson, Arizona, in March 1997.)
Terri Windling: biography
Another genre of fairy tales
The Oriental Fairy Tale
A Third Type of Fairy Tale
The comic and conventional fairy tale
The Tales Return to the People
The power of cheap printing– The printing press has been considered one of the
greatest inventions in history by many, for without it the world as we know it today would not have developed. For the study of history and popular culture its invention is priceless. Printing allowed for the first time the recording of the tastes, values, and concerns of the population beyond the power structure of the Church and state. It preserved hundreds of years of oral tradition that may otherwise have been lost; without the printing press, the collectors of folktales in the nineteenth century, headed by the brothers Grimm, would not have been as fruitful. • early modern bestsellers: chapbooks and ballads
The Brothers Grimm
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm – Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm - famous for their classical
collections of folk songs and folktales, especially for KINDER- UND HAUSMÄRCHEN (Children's and Household Tales); generally known as Grimm's Fairy Tales. Stories such as ‘Snow White’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’ have been retold countless times, but they were first written down by the Brothers Grimm. In their collaboration Wilhelm, who was the more imaginative and literary of the two, selected and arranged the stories, while Jacob was responsible for the scholarly work.• Wilhelm (Carl) Grimm (1786-1859) • see also Jacob Grimm
A Bear-tale from the Grimm brothers
The Mouse, the Bird, and the SausageOnce upon a time, a mouse, a bird, and a sausage, entered into partnership and set up house together. For a long time all went well; they lived in great comfort, and prospered so far as to be able to add considerably to their stores. The bird’s duty was to fly daily into the wood and bring in fuel; the mouse fetched the water, and the sausage saw to the cooking.• Read the rest of the story here!• You can also read the same story in a different
Another tale-collecting pair!
A Norwegian pair(not brothers this time, though)
Jørgen Moe (1813-1882)
In 1842-1843 the first installment of their work appeared, under the title of Norske Folkeeventyr (Norwegian Folk Tales), which was received at once all over Europe as a most valuable contribution to comparative mythology as well as literature. A second volume was published in 1844, and a new collection in 1871. Many of the Folkeeventyr were translated into English by Sir George Dasent in 1859. • Peter Christen Asbjørnsen ,
A mouse tale from the Norwegian duo
The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
• Read the rest of the story and compare it with translations of Aesop’s original and other variants here
Some collections of the Norwegian tales
The Norwegian Folk Tales and their Illustrators
Norwegian folk tales: from the collection of Peter Christen Asbjørnsen, Jørgen Moe
Why all these similar tales?
Native American Folktales
Encyclopedia of Myths– The Native American or Indian peoples of
North America do not share a single, unified body of mythology. The many different tribal groups each developed their own stories about the creation of the world, the appearance of the first people, the place of humans in the universe, and the lives and deeds of deities and heroes.• Native American Mythology
A Native American mouse tale
Some Sources for Native American mythology
Tales of the North American Indiansby Stith Thompson The classic cross-cultural Native American folklore study.
The Path on the Rainbowby George W. Cronyn A ground-breaking collection of Native American oral literature: poetry, chants and rituals.
Evaluating Folktales (based on Debbie Reese)
1) Is the person listed as the author listed as a "reteller"? That is, on the cover, is the book "By xxxx" or "Retold by xxxx.“
2) In the author's note, does the adapter say where he/she heard the story, or what source he/she found it in?
3) If the adapter provides info about source, does he/she provide enough detail so that I could find the source if I wanted to?
4) In the author's note, does the adapter tell the reader the ways in which he/she changed/edited the story and why?
More advice on evaluation
5) Does the adapter make clear on the title page or the front matter (preface, etc.), or imply in the story itself which Native American group this story comes from?
• Adapted from a post entitled “Recommended Children's/YA/Reference/Resource Books in Debbie Reese’s blog:
See also Debbie’s lesson plan on
Debbie Reese:– Elements of Native religion are misunderstood,
maligned, and romanticized when they are removed from their tribal contexts and appear in American society. In the process, the spiritual significance of ceremony and artifacts is lost. For example, feathers hold deep significance in most Native settings. To understand why it is inappropriate for children to make construction-paper feathers and headbands, it may be useful to consider parallels to one’s own deeply held religious experience. Catholics, for example, would object if schoolchildren across the U.S. made a chalice out of a Styrofoam cup and glitter.• Goals for writing and reviewing books with Native Americ
an themes School Library Journal 45 (11), pp. 36-37
Native American Legends: Abenaki - Blackfoot
Native American Legends: Caddo - Crow
Native American Legends: Eskimo - Hupa
Native American Legends: Inca - Lumbee
Native American Legends: Maidu - Ottawa
Native American Legends: Paiute - Squamish
Native American Legends: Tewa - Ute
Native American Legends: Wabanaki - Zuni
Where do The Three Blind Mice come in ?
The origin of the ‘tale’ of Three blind mice!• The ‘farmer’s wife' refers to the daughter of King
Henry VIII, Queen Mary I. Mary was a staunch Catholic and her violent persecution of Protestants led to the nickname of ‘Bloody Mary’.
• The ‘three blind mice were three noblemen who adhered to the Protestant faith who were convicted of plotting against the Queen.
• Another Nursery Rhyme which features ‘Bloody Mary’ can be found as follows: Mary Mary Quite Contrary Nursery Rhyme
• From Nursery Rhymes - Lyrics, Origins & History!
What about the violence and horror?
Jenni Cargill, professional storyteller:
– Children instinctively respond emotionally and unconsciously to the metaphors embedded in stories, if they are allowed to. Unconsciously and emotionally they recognize the witch, the giant and the wolf as the scary aspect of adults and/or themselves.
– Folktales can give children access to ways of dealing with their natural fears, furies and frustrations. Even those with violent images, can give children important ways to deal with these confusing feelings.
• Frightful Witches and Kissable Toads…Why Folktales?
Illustration for a Bulgarian folktale from
Scary for Kids
“Disneyfying” the folktales
• See also: Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty: A Literary Approach