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Native American Folktales
Transcript of Native American Folktales
Native American traditional literature is an excellent source for identifying and understanding tribal traditional values and beliefs.
One adaptation frequently used by the storyteller was the repetition of incidents. The description of an incident would be repeated a specific number of times. The number of repetitions usually corresponded to the number associated with the sacred by the culture; whereas in Christian traditions, for instance, the sacred is most often counted in threes (for the Trinity), in Native American traditions the sacred is most often associated with groups of four most likely being that of the four winds. The hero would kill that number of monsters or that many brothers who had gone out on the same adventure, etc.
Lankford, George E. Native American Legends: Southeastern Legends--tales from the Natchez, Caddo, Biloxi, Chickasaw, and Other Nations. Little Rock: August House, 1987. Print.
Norton, Donna E. Through the Eyes of a Child: An Introduction to Children's Literature. 8th ed. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, 2011. Print.
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Native American Folk Tales
Traditional values, such as, living in harmony with nature, viewing religion as a natural phenomenon closely related to nature, showing respect for wisdom gained through age and experience, acquiring patience, emphasizing group and extend family needs rather than individual needs, and keeping one's word.
Numerous Native American tales depict crossing various thresholds; transformations that allow characters to go into and out of the animal world.
Typical Animals as Villain or Hero
Characters such as tricksters and animals can have either positive or negative qualities. Sometimes they are helpful and entertaining; at other times, they are unpredictable, deceptive, or violent.
Mythic figures do not always fall into the same category. A trickster may act as a culture hero, a culture hero may be an animal, an animal may be a creator figure, and a creator may have a capacity for destruction.
A culture hero is someone who makes the world a suitable place for humans and teaches people how to live.
Trickster, who is almost always male, represents uncertainty. He loves to upset things and spread confusion. Sometimes his acts are comic pranks, but they often have a cruel side as well. Trickster can be a culture hero when his pranks - such as stealing fire or the sun - benefit humans.
The terms myths and folktale in American Indian literature are viewed differently as a matter of time rather than content. If the story starts with "before the people came" it is more so a myth, a time when the world had not yet assumed its present form. If the story is told only at night and during the winter season it is also known to be a myth. If the story is more for fun or to teach a lesson, it could be told anytime, and would be a folktale.
There were taboos which surrounded the telling of sacred narratives. The taboo on telling certain kinds of narratives was observed over much of the Woodlands and Plains; the danger lay in snakes.
Omaha: Myths must not be told during the day, nor in summer, as violation of this rule will cause snakes to hear and do mischief.
Ojibwa: "Tales of the Fathers" in summer, frogs and other disagreeable things would enter into the camp.
Reason being...they emphasize astronomical meanings of legends. During the summer months, or months when snakes are visible, it is supposed that the tutelary god or star of the snakes is in direct communication with the star of Coyote. For during these months the Coyote Star is early visible in the eastern horizon, and, not liking to be talked about, directs the Snake Star to tell the snakes of those who talk about him they may bite them.
To Native Americans, the supernatural world has a tremendous impact on the natural world. There is a spirit quality to all things in the natural world. Contact with these spirits is essential for the well-being of the community and for a deeper understanding of the world.
One of the clearest and most widespread beliefs of Native Americans is that the sun is a major power in human life. The sun, both as the celestial body and as its earthly representative, fire, did take a direct role in the cultural life. The direct contact to the sun was that of fire or "sacred fire." Why many of the myths and folk tales are told around the fire.
The Oral Tradition. Before the arrival of Europeans and the spread of European influence, Native Americans did not use written languages. As a result, their myths and legends were passed from generation to generation in oral form, usually by special storytellers who sometimes used objects such as stone carvings, shells, rugs, or pottery to illustrate the tales
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Rank, J. "Myths Encyclopedia." Native American Mythology. Advameg, Inc., 2015. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.
Gunther, Erna. "Native American Literature." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2015. Web. 23 Mar. 2015.