Before sharing any specific stories, there are some general things to know about folklore. While there’s no definitive and official definition for it, the term can be obviously broken down to ‘folk’ and ‘lore’. The folk part is the people behind the stories and traditions and these groups share at least one common factor. There are numerous types of folks, with individuals belonging to a variety of groups that each create specific folklore. Some of the more basic folk groups are children, families, and communities.
- What is folklore? – Stuff You Should Know (podcast)
The lore part is the stories and traditions – these are the myths, legends, clothing, rituals, etc specific to a group of people. It can be broken down into various genres, including oral traditions (such as songs, jokes, myths, etc), material traditions (like jewelry, clothing, even traditional family recipes), and belief traditions (like religion, wedding rituals, housewarming gifts). Stories like Davy Crockett and Paul Bunyan are a part of American folklore; bad luck being associated with specific days like Friday the 13th is folklore; certain dances from groups of people are also considered folklore in their own right.
Folklore is a wide definition that encompasses a variety of traditions and stories and continues to be a vital part of life today all around the world. It grows and evolves as time goes on and humanity changes but with any group of people existing together, there will be specific folklore. As stated by Henry Glassie:
Folklore is traditional. Its center holds. Changes are slow and steady. Folklore is variable. The tradition remains wholly within the control of its practitioners. It is theirs to remember, change, or forget. Answering the needs of the collective for continuity and of the individual for active participation, folklore…is that which is at once traditional and variable. [Henry Glassie. The Spirit of Folk Art. New York: Abrams, 1989]
Some parts of folklore will be based in history; other parts are exaggerated tales. There will sometimes be reasons behind the actions and some will have histories that are difficult to pin down. While there is so much that encompasses folklore, the one constant aspect is that it belongs to humanity in an ever evolving way.