Once Upon a Time - the World of Folklore

The World of Folklore

I’ve been fascinated by fairy tales, myths, and legends for as long as I can remember. And I want to share and explore these great tales with you – the ones you know and love, and the ones you may not have heard of – yet.

Snow White illustration from a German fairy tales book from 1919
Snow White illustration from a German fairy tales book from 1919

Why do I – we – love fairy tales? What is it about them that have allowed them to persist, and flourish, for more than 500 years? It’s hard to put a finger on it really. Is it the simple-ness of the stories? The way they present moral lessons? Or is it as simple as how they take us back to our childhood, when everything felt so magical and fantastic?

And what about myths and legends? Unlike fairy tales, the fascination with myths and legends runs hauntingly deep within the human psyche. Fortunes and lives have been lost, and wars raged, in the pursuit of confirming the existence of mythical creatures and legendary objects or locations. Today there are still numerous ongoing investigations hoping to find the lost city of Atlantis, the Holy Grail, or to capture definitive proof of the existence of Big Foot. There’s hardly ever any solid evidence, but there’s always an ever-changing source of theories that propel the myths and legends forward through time.

But to understand fairy tales, myths, and legends, we should first touch briefly on the larger world they belong to – the world of folklore.

What is folklore?

Folklore is the traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, that are passed through the generations by word of mouth.

Like literature, folklore has many genres including: music, narratives, sayings, food, and customs. There’s even a subgenre called childlore. It covers all the activities and games that are passed on to children by other children – think playground games, rhymes, and riddles. (Who knew, right?)

Fairy tales, myths, and legends fall into the narrative subgenre. They tell stories, and often times don’t have a known author. Many of these stories pre-date the written word, and they’ve changed greatly over the centuries. Most of the time the meaning of the original story remains, but the details change, like the children’s game of telephone (though in this case the change is usually intentional unlike in the game).

But these subgenres can be broken out even further into categories, the largest of which is nationality/ethnicity. This is where we segment the stories into geographic locations – Asia, the Americas, the Near East, Western Europe, etc. This is where we have stories that are sometimes similar, sometimes vastly different, and sometimes combined to create a different story.

A sculpture of Poseidon/Neptune, god of the sea, in Copenhagen Port
A sculpture of Poseidon, also known as Neptune, god of the sea, in Copenhagen Port

One example of this is the mythology of the Greeks gods. As the Greek civilization lost power, the Romans were gaining theirs. They adopted many of the Greek gods as their own, merging them with their own existing pantheon of deities. This is how Zeus also became known as Jupiter. But it’s the Greek’s version of the gods that remain the most well known today (at least in the Western world).

Now some of you may be asking, what is it about these topics that fascinate me enough to blog about them? Well, the only way to learn that answer is to stick around and find out!

So join me as I explore:

  • fairy tales, the stories behind them, and how they’ve changed over time
  • mythology and mythical creatures from across the globe
  • and the origins of some of the world’s most lasting legends

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