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Intro to Lit: Folk & Fairy Tales

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Lori Cornelius

on 8 January 2018

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Transcript of Intro to Lit: Folk & Fairy Tales

Intro to Literature:
Folk & Fairy Tales
CRN 82553 - LIT2000
What is a folk tale?
Quite simply, it's a tale of the folk, or the common people.
Since many people were illiterate in the past,
stories were orally transmitted, passed down through generations by word of mouth.
Since many common people were illiterate in the past,
stories were orally transmitted, passed down through
generations by word of mouth.
A "literary tale" means someone wrote the story down; it doesn't necessarily mean that the one who wrote it down created the story.
What's the effect of the story in its written form
versus its oral form?

Really, the only authentic folk tale is an oral version.
"Formal" versus "informal" entertainment
In the movies, a place of formal entertainment, a distinct separation exists between performer and audience.
Not so, in informal entertainment.
Often what some term as "writers" of fairy tales are more accurately known as "collectors."
Some more well-known early collectors of "literary folk tales" include:
Giovanni Francesco Straparola
Giambattista Basile
Charles Perrault
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
1785-1863; 1786-1859
So, what about this class? What kind of themes can we expect?
The role of wolves
Frame Stories
(and other villains!)

Enchanted Brides & Bridegrooms
Growing Up
and Tricksters!
Axel Olrik. "Epische Gesetze der Volksdichtung." Zeitschrift für Deutsches Altertum, Vol, 52 (1909), 1-12.

The Law of Opening and Closing (Folk narrative does not begin with sudden action or
end abruptly)
The Law of Repetition (Events are repeated, often 3 times)
The Law of Three (Things come in threes)
The Law of Two to a Scene (Each scene will contain only two speaking characters. Any
other characters present will remain mute.)
The Law of Contrast (Folk narrative loves contrasts: weak & strong, poor & rich, man &
monster, good & evil)
The Law of Twins (Folk narrative is fond of twins, however, if they play a major role,
they will probably be subject to the Law of Contrast [one bright, one gloomy])
The Law of Final Stress, or Importance of Final Position (The youngest son will have our sympathy; the last test will be decisive)
The Law of the Single Strand (Folk narrative follows one temporal strand of action. It
does not shift scenes to follow parallel actions)
The Law of Patterning (Repeated scenes will be as similar to each other as possible)
The Use of Tableaux Scenes (Certain moments of folk narrative evoke a strong visual
The Logic of the Sage (Folk narratives find their plausibility not in their sense of
reality, but in a certain internal narrative logic)
The Unity of Plot
The Concentration on a Leading Character

Since spoken language is quite different from the written form, it can be difficult to make the tale "read" properly (Hallett & Karasek 16)
Really, the authentic version of the folk tale is an oral version, and as each telling will differ, we must consider that all tellings are authentic, or only the first one--whenever and whoever told it (16).
An oral tale is vibrant.
A literary tale is like a frozen path in its printed words.
But, that path in literary collections of (Western) fairy tales can be traced from the Italians (like Staparola and Basile) to the French, like Perrault, and the female aristocrats of the late 17th Century French Court, and later by the German Grimm Brothers.
Defining Principles of Oral folk tale & literary fairy tale – according to Jens Tismar
1. a literary folk tale distinguishes itself from the oral folk tale in so far as it is written by a single identifiable author;
2. it is thus synthetic, artificial, and elaborate in comparison to the indigenous formation of the folk tale that emanates from communities and tends to be simple and anonymous
3. the differences between the literary fairy tale and the oral folk tale do not imply that one genre is better than the other;
4. in fact, the literary folk tale is not an independent genre but can only be understood and defined by its relationship to the oral tales as well as to the legend, novella, novel, and other literary fairy tales that it uses, adapts, and remodels during the narrative conception of the author.
Who are fairy tales for?
Let's look at the idea of stories themselves
by considering the idea of the "myth."
At its very basis, a myth tries to explain
what cannot be fully understood or easily
Consider who reads or uses fairy tales.
What do these stories mean?
Why are they still relevant and being used, in some part, by business owners, doctors, and lawyers? Why are we still entertained by them?
Famous modern writers; filmmakers around the world; psychologists/psychoanalysts; businesspeople; motivational speakers; children and adults from all walks of life, all find folk and fairy tales interesting, relevant, and useful in their understanding the world.

I hope you will too!
These myths, or stories about
how something happened or got
its start, become imbedded in
our cultural memories.
Grimm Brothers - folklorists

Welcome & Overview

A fairy tale is a sub-genre of folk tales
Full transcript