English 207: World Folktales and Literature, Spring 2006 
Assignments for January 19 

Dr. Tina L. Hanlon

Ferrum College

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World Folktales Course Home Page

Readings for January 19:

Yolen (Favorite Folktales Around the World), Introduction and Telling Tales section

Comparing types from oral traditions:
Start thinking about differences/uses of terms folktales, fable, myths, creation story, pourquoi tale, legend

Which tales in Yolen's Telling Tales sections are folktales, which are pourquoi or creation stories, and which are myths or fables any other categories?
Fables: Lechner 16-17   "The Wind and the Sun" (20), "Fire and Water," Truth and Falsehood"
Legends: "The Departure of the Giants" (Yolen 352-53)
Legends/Ghost stories: Lechner, White House Ghosts, 281

Guidelines for Teaching with Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, Fables, Ballads, and Other Short Works of Folklore

Diagrams of Types of Folk Literature

Also read several variants of any folktale and do the journal/discussion assignment below.  Here is one example based on one of the readings in Yolen's first section, but you can find plenty of examples at Sur La Lune Fairy Tales or in D. L. Ashliman's groups of Folklore and Mythology Online Texts.

Example:  "The Longest Tale." For variants of the same tale, compare Japanese "An Endless Story" in Yolen's  Telling Tales section, two Appalachian versions at The Tale without an End in AppLit, and The Endless Tale by James Baldwin (and/or any other versions you find).

Journal/Discussion Assignment for Thursday, Jan. 19:

Select any folktale and read, view or listen to several variants of the same tale. Be prepared to report to the class orally on what you learned about folktale variants from your reading. AppLit's Annotated Index of Folktales lists many variants of individual Appalachian tales. Links to Online Texts leads to many tales on the internet from other traditions. The best sites to use for this exercise besides AppLit are D. L. Ashliman's groups of tales by tale types, such as The Name of the Helper (with "Rumpelstiltskin," etc.); or Sur La Lune Fairy Tales.

Read at least 3 variants of your tale before class on Thursday, preferably 4 or 5 variants by next week. Be sure you are reading variants of the same tale. There must be significant plot similarities, more than one or two similar motifs in the tales you read in order for this exercise to work for you. For example, AppLit has cross references between tales about "Jack and the Giant" and "Jack and the Beantree," and there are thousands of tales about ordinary people overcoming giants or witches, but if you want to use "Jack and the Beantree/Beanstalk" for this assignment, pick only tales that have a gigantic beanstalk with a giant living at the top, or something very much like that. Many anthologies group tales by subject or theme, such as Animal Tales, Fools and Numbskulls, Ghost Stories, Wise Women, etc., but that does not mean that the tales within those sections are all variants of the same tale.

For this class, you will be keeping a reading journal of informal writing about the the course readings and activities.

As you begin to write in your journal and think about what to say in class, consider any of the following questions:

  • What type of folktale are you reading? Do any of the other labels above fit any of your variants better?

  • How are the plots similar and different?

  • How are the characters similar and different?

  • How are other motifs similar or different? (e.g., giant beanstalks, three tests or trials or tasks, shoes that fit only one girl, getting magic help by giving aid to a seemingly poor person, magic tablecloths, three or seven or twelve siblings or fairies, guessing a secret name, turtle's smooth shell cracks, etc.)

  • Are your tales from different cultures? Can you detect cultural differences in their content?

  • Can you tell if your tales come from different times in history? Can you tell if that makes a difference?

  • Do your tales have obvious morals, either indicated explicitly or implied, or do they seem amoral (not intended to comment on morality)?

  • Are any of your variants satiric? Are they modern spinoffs or revisions that reflect modern values more than the traditional variants?

  • Are any of your variants illustrated? What do you think about how illustrations affect your reading or help interpret the tale?

You don't have to answer all these questions, and this is not a formal paper assignment, but you should have written something in your journal by next week about the tales you have read for this exercise. Be sure to identify the specific tales you read and their sources.