What are Folktales and What is Their Function in Society?

Folktales, including other forms of mythological tales which were the precursor of folktales, were and are essentially moral stories initially told by word of mouth from parents/elders to children for the purpose of educating and entertaining the next generation (ie. our children) while children are growing up through childhood.
Folktales were more important and influential in ancient times and pre-modern times because there was no mass media, radio, TV, electronic device, film and even books were not common for the commoners. So, most people had to tell tales by word of mouth in order to a. teach their children moral ideas, encourage imagination and b. amuse their children so that they would not get too bored.

wolf and warrior

wolf and warrior

Folktales have always been useful and are still useful today in not just passing on moral direction/suggestion/notions to children, but also in transferring the mother tongue (language) on the next generation. By language, I mean, a feel for grammar structure, pronunciation and vocabulary. This, I believe, was also the precursor of literature. Literature is simply a sophisticated version of folktale telling. It is a continuation of story telling right into adulthood. And people everywhere love a good story. In fact we are still being surrounded by stories everyday right into the 21st Century. The methods have evolved and diversified, but stories are still told with the exact same intentions as our ancestors had when they told them to their children.

Story telling became so important that the early tribal political and religious leaders had to rely on new fables/tales/myths to justify their own authority over the others who were being made subjugated. This became their only right to rule. In Europe, the concept of “Divine Right of Kings” appeared. In China, it was called “天命Tian Ming.”

Many other civilisations claimed that their rulers were “descendants of the gods (eg. Japanese myth)” or “called by God to rule (eg. Islamic Empire),” thereby legitimising their authority to conquer (liberate?) and rule over the masses. The real truth behind all these different and conflicting narratives are beyond human comprehension, but one pattern is for sure, they come and then they are replaced by a seemingly never ending continuum of new stories or justification and legitimisation.

This is the sheer power of the folktale and its function in our society.

By Shu Lee

This article is borrowed from https://www.quora.com/What-are-folktales-and-what-is-their-function-in-society

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