pot of gold

Diagrams of Types of Folk Literature

By Tina L. Hanlon

Ferrum College

pot of gold

Back to General Guidelines for Teaching with Folktales, . . . and Other Short Works of Folklore

Go to Timeline of Appalachian Folktales in Oral and Written Traditions

The diagram below shows how different types of folk literature overlap as tales are passed down from one generation to another and from one culture to another. If this drawing looks too complicated for your purposes, click here for simplified diagrams, including one that shows how Jack Tales or trickster tales and other wonder tales fit into the folktale categories.

The black circles outline the major types of literature in the oral traditions. Myths deal with the creation of the universe, relationships between the human and the divine, and cosmic conflicts between good and evil or political power struggles. Folktales tend to focus more on the earthly adventures and fortunes of individuals rather than nations or souls, although supernatural villains and magical helpers often appear. Legends are associated with real people or places or historical events. These labels have been used very loosely in different times and places so you may find wide variations in stories called myths or folktales or legends. Religious beliefs and cultural bias may influence whether people object to calling their own stories or other groups' stories myths or legends.

Links on this page are to AppLit pages that give examples and background on particular Appalachian tales. These diagrams and the examples below can be used to show how Appalachian tales relate to other oral traditions of the world.



Some examples to illustrate these types of tales and the ways they overlap:

What do you think?

You and your students might change the relative sizes or positions of the circles, or add other circles, depending on which types of tales you are studying. For example, in many folk traditions, most of the culture heroes and other folktale characters are animals, so animal tales should have a bigger circle. Let me know if you have new ideas, if you have corrections or suggestions for this page, or you would like your students' diagrams or comments to appear in AppLit.

This page created 9/9/02   |   Site Index   |   Top of Page   |   Last update 6/14/10

Back to General Guidelines for Teaching with Folktales, . . . and Other Short Works of Folklore

Timeline of Appalachian Folktales

Bibliography of Appalachian Folktales
Complete List of AppLit Pages on Folklore


copyright 2002 Tina L. Hanlon
all rights reserved