Types of Folklore

11 Types of Folklore Expressed in Every Way

Folklore encompasses such a broad range of human activities that any attempt to list the many genres and categories within it is bound to fall short. Accordingly, what follows is meant to be a representative survey, not an exhaustive one. Examples are included from each of the main forms of expression: oral, material, and behavioral (or customary).

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A ballad is a traditional poem or folk song that tells a story, be it about true love, a heroic adventure, a scandalous interlude, or a tragic death, to name but a few possible topics. Historical examples date back to the Middle Ages. The stories told in the ballad may be kept alive and evolved by how they are written for the songs.

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Fairy Tales

Fairy tales are traditional stories, intended primarily for children, which recount human encounters with supernatural beings such as fairies, witches, ogres, and the like, most often conveying a cautionary message. Many such tales were compiled by the Brothers Grimm. In the modern era, they have become the basis of Disney movies, television, and movies.

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Folk Art

As distinct from fine art, folk art comprises a range of artistic productions and handicrafts. These ​include paintings, sculptures, quilts, pottery, and furniture created by ordinary, unschooled folks using traditional styles and methods, and often employing imagery or symbolism from local mythology.

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A folk dance (also sometimes called ethnic dance) is any dance that originated with the common people of a region or cultural group and has been handed down by tradition. They were usually held at social gatherings by people who learned the dances informally.

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A folk song is a traditional song, anonymously composed and handed down orally, about commonplace topics including work, family, community, and the vicissitudes of everyday life. They can address social or political issues or be ballads, love songs, or novelty songs. They are usually played on acoustic instruments.

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A joke is a humorous story or anecdote meant to provoke laughter through irony, wordplay, the thwarting of expectations, the juxtaposition of images, and other long-practiced techniques.

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A legend is a traditional historical tale or collection of related tales popularly regarded as true but usually containing a mixture of fact and fiction. They may explain an event or have a moral lesson. Sometimes they contain fantastical elements or embellishments that would have a supernatural origin or be highly improbable and couldn't be regarded as factual.

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A myth is a traditional sacred story, usually featuring gods and heroes, which purports to give a cosmic explanation of a natural phenomenon or cultural practice. It is part of the cultural fabric, conveying essential (if not literal) truth and meshing with other stories and beliefs in the society.

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A riddle is a linguistic puzzle posed in the form of a question containing clues to its solution. It's a form of verbal play and popular with children.

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A superstition is an irrational belief (i.e., one held in spite of evidence to the contrary), usually involving supernatural forces and associated with rituals. A superstition may conflict with a person's religious beliefs, or lack thereof, but still be held and practiced.

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An urban legend is an apocryphal story, often taking the form of a cautionary tale, which varies in the telling but is always told as true and attributed to a secondhand or thirdhand ("friend of a friend") source.