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The History of Folktales

Folktales in various forms have been around for centuries. Whether they are tall tales of heroes such as Paul Bunyon and Daniel Boone, or folktales involving the Loch Ness Monster, the folktale has been part of our culture for many years.

The origin of folktales is subject for debate. This is because folktales are generally derived from stories that have been told from person to person, and likely may have changed in the re-telling. For example, in the past if a person saw something unusual, they would tell family or friends, and would in turn re-tell the story to other people. From this original story, it would eventually be written down and would become a folktale.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a folktale as “a characteristically anonymous, timeless, and place less tale circulated orally among a people”. Folktales can involve fictional characters as well as non-fictional characters. 

While folktales are worldwide, and date back to biblical times, some of the most common folktales that we are familiar with are based in the United States dating back to the American Revolution. Some of the more famous folktales include The Ghosts of Ringwood Manor, The Army of the Dead Confederate Soldiers, the Connecticut Yankee, Daniel Boone, John Henry, Casey Jones, Johnny Appleseed and Pecos Bill. 

Folktales are a broad category of oral stories that have been passed along by generations and captured in print. Within the folktale category are other types of stories such as myths, fables, fairy tales, tall tales and legends. Each category has a variety of stories that have been part of our history. These stories have been around for centuries and have its basis from around the world.

Folktales and similar stories have been around for centuries and continue to this day. Who knows, the stories that we currently tell one another could be the folktale people hear about a hundred years from now.

To help preserve the legacy of the folktale, and to understand its past, present and future, we have assembled a collection of resources on folktales:

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