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A Personal Essay on the Folk Tales and their purposes

“If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hoper, a prayer, a magic-bean-buyer, if you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire, for we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in! ” –Shel Silverstein (1930 – 1999) Just what exactly is a folk tale? Many a numerous scholarly writings have defined folk tales and due to the encompassing character of folk tradition in itself, the folk tales have been featured, not only as stories passed by oral means, but also roughly include songs and other non-literary or even non-oral forms where folk tales play importance and comes up as a form.

For academic purposes let me offer at least two definitions of folk tales from scholarly sources. One such definition comes from Stith Thompson, A folklorist and an authority on matters regarding the folk tale. In his article the Universality of Folk Tales, Thompson defines folk tales as: “Although it is a term often used in English to refer to the ‘household tale’ or ‘fairy tale,’ such as Cinderella or Snow White, it is also legitimately employed in a much broader sense to include all forms of prose narrative, written or oral, which have come to be handed down through the years.

(Thompson 1885-1976) Your Last Name 3 In an internet resource website, cuip. uchicago. edu, a website for an Integrated Language Arts Curriculum, the webmasters has this to say about folk tales: “A folk tale is a short story that comes from the oral tradition. Folk tales often have to do with everyday life and frequently feature wily peasants getting the better of their superiors. In many cases, like in the folk tales we’ve selected, the characters are animals with human characteristics. (cuip. uchicago. edu) ORAL OR WRITTEN?

As most scholars would have it, the sources of folk tales are oral traditions. These are stories passed on by word of mouth. It is but later when collectors and other scholars such as the Brothers Grimm have begun to collate these oral tales and compiled them to be published in book form. It was until at least the end of the middle ages when writers like Chaucer and Boccaccio begun writing ‘original’ tales (Thompson). In the same above mentioned article, Thompson also has this to say about the inclusion of written tales to the inclusion of the categorization of ‘folk tales’:

“If use of the term ‘folk tale’ is to include such literary narratives seem somewhat broad, it can be justified on practical grounds, if on no other, for it is impossible to make a complete separation of the written and the oral traditions. Often indeed, their inter relation is so close and inextricable as to present one of the most baffling problems the folklore scholar encounters. (Thompson) For purposes of this essay then, the term folk tale is used to include both oral and written forms. Your Last Name 4 Once Upon A Time: Growing up on Folk Tales “Things need not have happened to be true.

Tales and adventures are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes and forgotten” -Neil Gaiman (1960) All around the world, it would be rare o find children who have never heard of a single folk tale while growing up. Regardless of whatever race, religion or beliefs they grew up on, the telling of stories or reading of the same, whether they be the classic “fairy tales” or religion driven stories of saints or prophets, or stories from the Bible or the Koran or whatever Holy Scriptures, the telling and reading of folk tales is a universal phenomenon.

In fact, I believe that we have never, and perhaps, will never outgrow this. We continually look for this activity in varied forms that would suit our age group. The cinema experience is actually an extended venue for our thirst for the “tale. ” Even gossips about celebrities have, in one way or another, an element of our search for tales and stories. For those more inclined and partial to experiencing the “written” form of the tale, we simply move on from our Nursery rhymes and fairy tales to the more complex short stories or the lengthier forms in novels that pique or curiosity and stimulate our interests.

What then is the purpose, or purposes of the folk tales. The next sections will discuss what I personally speculate are the reasons for the telling and the reading of such folktales. Your Last Name 5 THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT! “I have very happy memories of fairy tales. My mother used to take me to the library in Toronto to check out the fairy tales. And she was an actress, so she used to act out for me the different characters in all these fairy tales. ” –Mike Myers

For the folk tales to continue to endure the test of time as to its relevance and for it to continually attract various attentions- from the plain delight of a listener to the highly scholarly and daunting work of a folklorist; folk tales must have deeper and loftier purposes for its being. Foremost, in my mind, Folk tales were meant to entertain. Fantastic tales of adventure, magic and daring sword fights, fire breathing dragons and damsels in distress waiting to be rescued by a brave bold knight in shining armor.

An evil witch or warlock casting a spell or a heartless stepmother causing much pain and suffering to a poor child, quick witted and wily boys outwitting evil sorcerers and magicians, travels to lands that are strange, mysterious yet beautiful: these are the moving stories that have filled almost every child that has ever lived or will ever live. I too, share in this early delight and look back longingly to a time when a tale was to be had for the night, in exchange for excellent behavior and obedience during the day.

For me, the prime purpose of folk tales is to entertain. The very art of telling them is a skill that is sometimes coveted. Whether the telling is oral or written, to tell a tale would be to entertain. Even in modern times, Your Last Name 6 when one is with good company, he that tells good tales, or ‘jokes’ to create amusement or laughter is most sought after. CULTURAL ASSERTION “In a utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected. ” -Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

The earliest tales that parents would usually tell their children are those that are steeped in culture and tradition. For me, folk tales are one of the most effective, if not the most effective way of inculcating cultural pride in the young children of their community. The local myths and legends as to the origin of things have in them elements of culture and tradition that teaches children to be proud of their own culture, heritage and tradition at a young age. Examples of stories of how things came to be are usually imbued with local color and indigenous elements.

Stories from China would extol Chinese virtues that parents want their children to learn. Stories of travel and epic adventures told in Saudi Arabia would tell children how to cope with and be proud of their intrinsic environment and way of life. Philippine folk lore is replete with tales of god and goddesses from their own native and indigenous cultural pantheon and cosmology. These stories become the very first lessons in culture and history that parents, elders and even mentors would tell their children.

On the other hand, it is also the children’s first encounter with cultures Your Last Name 7 different from their own as they hear and read folk tales from other countries and other cultures. HOW TO LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER: MORALS AND RELIGION “If you happen to read fairy tales, you will observe that one idea runs from one end of them to the other–the idea that peace and happiness can only exist on some condition. This idea, which is the core of ethics, is the core of the nursery-tales. ” -G. K.

Chesterton (1908) I also believe that folk tales or fairy tales for that matter were told and/or read to serve moral functions. They were very didactic in nature and as a child, we were always trained to see “the moral of the story. ” Folk tales served the purpose of presenting to young minds the concept of right and wrong. They define early on what is ‘evil’ and what is ‘good’ with the end note that good will always triumph over evil, and that all the good doers will have their ‘happily ever after.

It teaches that when one lives righteously, one will encounter difficulties in following the ‘good’ path, and no matter how big or impossible things may be, whether this be in a form of a curse, a dangerous ocean of monsters and perils, a giant, a fiery dragon or a wicked step-mother/witch, the do-gooder will conquer the odds and be triumphant. Furthermore, these tales are usually steeped in faith and beliefs, whether they be Christian, Catholic, Islam, Buddhist or what ever faith. These stories are the first Your Last Name 8 religious instructions that children receive from their parents, elders, or mentors.

The telling of folk tales become a religious duty as well as immersion an adventure in their own unique faith and belief systems Again, on the other hand, children also learn to understand religions and beliefs different from them when they discover stories of the other faiths. ENTER THE WORLD OF IMAGINATION “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales. When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking.

” ~Albert Einstein (1879-1955) For me, folk tales was the gate where we enter into the world of fantasy and imagination. It was what first opened my “inner eye. ” It was what taught me to use my imagination and be immersed in a totally strange yet compelling and beautiful world. Folk tales were the earliest stories that excited my imagination and taught me how to “dream’ and “fantasize”. I think folk tales are also the earliest way of teaching a child how to listen and comprehend. You can not help but be captivated and listen to such fantastic and wonderful stories.

It may also be the very first way that children are introduced to the world of reading. My interests in fairy tales led me to wanting to read more of those stories and ultimately led to my love for the written word. Folk tales serve a purpose of opening doors to literary appreciation and the wonderful world of reading. Your Last Name 9 CONCLUSSION Although the speculations I have provided may be merely my own thoughts guided by experience and what I have read about folk tales, I believe that the reasons I have enumerated could very well by validated.

Furthermore, the reasons I have provided may be shallow or of very small importance as to the very purpose of folk tales, and I admit that there could be purposes for the folk tales, other than what I have mentioned. One thing remains clear though, that the folk tale or the fairy tale will continue to mesmerize, entertain, teach and engage not only the young, but as well as the young at heart and the not so very young for generations yet to come. As the great novelist, scholar, and fictionist C. S Lewis once said “some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. ”

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