Folklore Genres and Analysis


Throughout this course, I have learned many things that I was not aware of hitherto concerning traditions and especially folklores. Folklore, which is also popularly known as ‘lore’, includes oral history, music, jokes, proverbs, legends, fairy tales, tall tales, as well as traditional customs of different cultures or groups. It is easy to see that folklorists’ interests lie in songs and tales, rituals and religions, customs and beliefs, proverbs, jokes, and many others. In simple terms, folklorists are majorly interested in produced materials in a manner that pleases a group as well as contributes to each other’s understanding. Earlier on, they had a concern in these things for personal use as the main thing was text (Untiedt, 2006).

Quite a number of American experiences resulting in folklore emanate from historical circumstances while others from institutional and social structures. The frontier experience, the colonial experience, and the ethnic experience have come about particularly in American history whereby each has produced ballads, folk customs, legends, and traditions. From my perspective, I can conclude that folk refers to a group of whatever kind of people who share one or more common thing(s). In this case, the common thing does not in any way matter. In Marxist theory, the term “folklore” is a class protest weapon. For instance, the majority of folklores highlight the discontent that exists within the society with an example of racism (Sop, 2003). Following the Marxist theory to the letter, it would mean that a perfect society would emerge in the future and there will be no oppression of groups, and thus folklores would cease to exist.

What I have learned

As the course progressed, I learned about the origin of folklore. Studies regarding folklores always put their attention on interrelationships existing amongst literature, language, as well as history. Wilhelm Grimm and Johann Gottfield are the folklore founders whereby they even went ahead to call it philology (Untiedt, 2006). Folklorists of the past were much concerned with saving folklore pieces in an attempt to unravel the past coupled with predicting or molding the present and the future. Classification of texts was a common feature amongst ancient. Actually, the significant shift in regards to the 1960s folklorists was the move that they made to a new synthesis focus all the way from categorization and collection (Sop, 2003). The contemporary folklorists appreciate the relationships between how a storyteller puts across a certain text and how the audience responds to such narrations. In contemporary society, folklorists appreciate the disparate links that exist between the originative and conventional mindset. In a bid to have a pragmatic richness, folklorists in contemporary times use theories and data, fieldwork, and people (Untiedt, 2006).

The “legends” topic was particularly interesting especially since we looked at examples of different legends in various cultures. Throughout history, some legends have thrown the world into bewilderment. The legends of diverse cultures are seen as extremely strong beliefs, but there are those that are non-existent in the modern world (Bialik & Rawnitzky, 1992). For instance, the legend of Godiva (980-1064AD) whom people believed that she was a woman from the Anglo-Saxon tribe coupled with being the wife of the Coventry ruler. According to the legend, she was very much in love with her husband; however, she did not agree with the ways he treated the people that he ruled. As a protest, she took to the streets naked to oppose the heavy taxation that her husband imposed on his subjects. She did so covering herself with her hair only. People in the city had a lot of respect for her such that they decided to close their doors in an attempt to avoid seeing her nudity. As a result, her husband immediately removed the heavy taxation and this example is just one of the many legends told. Others include the legend of the youth fountain, Robin Hood legend, blood Mary legend, and many others.

Riddles and jokes are also extremely interesting as riddles seek to check a person’s intelligence. Some of the situational times where riddles are applicable include during leisure time as a form of entertainment and passing time, where they are told as a way of greeting when people are courting in order to prove a person’s worthiness coupled with in folk narratives and rituals particularly during death and initiation (Epstein et al. 2003). Jokes on the other hand make people smile, laugh, quiver, groan, and reflect. Prior to this course, I did not know that jokes fell into disparate categories including question and answer, one-liners, jests, and puns. The majority of the jokes told are about appropriate incongruity and they can have either a simple or complicated structure as well as deep and surface meanings. In my opinion, jokes mean any type of narration whereby the response it gets from the audience is humorous. Performers conversely have to take caution as to when and where they ought to perform (Sop, 2003). Jokes are part of folklore and they fall into different categories. In the early 1970s, there were not many collections of jokes, as people would think before cracking a joke as compared to contemporary times where everybody can make a joke.

In class, we also learned about Cape Breton Fiddling, which is under the violin style. Scottish immigrants brought the cape Breton fiddle music. There are also dancing styles linked with Cape Breton and these are step dancing, highland dancing, as well as square dancing (Graham, 2006). The piano is also another musical instrument learned within the course. It was interesting to learn about the different types of piano music with the inclusion of classical, baroque, contemporary, and romantic. Music associated with the piano started coming up during the mid-18th century. Writing of piano music started in Western Europe and particularly in Germany, Italy, France, Austria, and England. Looking at the piano music period, the classical period went from 1750 to 1825 while the baroque period fell between 1600 and 1750 (Graham, 2006). People who love playing the piano should listen to Brahms (1833-1897), for his music is both authentic and intriguing. Brahm came up with three sonatas, which he wrote while he was still young. His music is extremely long and symphonic in style.

At the time UNESCO was developing the safeguarding on intangible cultural heritage convention in the year 2003, the use of the word folklore had ceased. UNESCO created the Intangible Culture Heritage (ICH) in order to put its attention on concrete cultural aspects (UNESCO, 2001). Intangible culture entails drama, music songs, and other different parts of culture. ICH somewhat varies from oral history, its recording, interpretation, and preservation of information from the past, which has the basis of a personal experience. The aim of ICH is to conserve cultural heritage with the community and this is by guarding those processes that permit the passing on of traditions. On the other hand, oral history tries to amass and safeguard historical information.

The reason why UNESCO does not use folklore and uses ICH is that folklore covers only a small part of what UNESCO hopes to cover. ICH covers human spiritual practices and values that have come about in historical evolutions like morals, wisdom, social practices, expertise, and literature. Passing on of ICH is done orally particularly in a community set up and in addition, it is bigger than the skills of a particular person. Since the year 1949, one of the main causal UNESCO activities is cultural diversity preservation. Early trials to give folklore international protection were included in copyright protection. All these efforts underscored a way to respond to the made out negative impacts in regards to folklore commercialization (UNESCO, 2001). Between the years 1968 and 1975, quite a number of countries started using the national legislation based on copyright mechanisms meant to guard folklore expressions.


Overall, this course allowed me to learn very many new things, which I did not know before, regarding folklore. The majority of the things at a glance would seem boring, but after going through the intricate details, they become appealing. People appear different while their traditions are more or less the same particularly when it comes to uniting them and this realization was quite intriguing to me. In my opinion, folklore is another way for people to escape the daily pressures of life and enjoy life especially referring to jokes, riddles, and the like.

Reference List

Bialik, H., & Rawnitzky, H. (1992). Book of Legends/Sefer Ha-Aggadah: Legends from the Talmud and Midrash. New York, NY: Schocken Books Inc.

Epstein, R., & Kovler, B. (2003). Fundrum My Conundrum: A Book of Riddles. California, CA: Fundrum Pub.

Graham, G. (2006). The Cape Breton fiddle: making and maintain tradition. USA: University of Michigan.

UNESCO. (2011). International Round Table: Intangible cultural heritage. Web.

Sop, B. (2003). Handbook of Folklore 1914. Whitefish, MN: Kessinger Publishing.

Untiedt, K. (2006). Folklore: In all of us, in all we do. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press.