Lecture: Folktales & Fairy Tales: Narrator: Listen to part of a lecture in a literature class. Professor: Now we can't really talk about fairy tales without first talking about folktales because there's a strong connection between these two genres, these two types of stories. In fact, many fairy tales started out as folktales. So, what's a folktale? How would you characterize them? Jeff? Jeff: Well, they are old stories, traditional stories. They were passed down orally within cultures from generation to generation, so they changed a lot over time. I mean, every story teller, or, maybe every town, might have had a slightly different version of the same folktale. Professor: That's right. There's local difference. And that's why we say folktales are communal. By communal, we mean they reflect the traits and the concerns of a particular community at a particular time. So essentially the same tale could be told in different communities, with certain aspects of the tale adapted to fit the specific community. Um, not the plot, the details of what happens in the story would remain constant. That was the thread that held the tale together. But all the other elements, like the location or characters, might be modified for each audience. Okay. So what about fairy tales? Th ... they also are found in most cultures, but how are they different from folktales? I guess the first question is: what is a fairy tale? And don't anyone say "a story with a fairy in it" because we all know that very few fairy tales actually have those tiny magical creatures in them. But, what else can we say about them? Mary. Mary: Well, they seem to be less realistic than folktales ... like they have something improbable happening – a frog turning into a prince, say. Oh, that's another common element, royalty – a prince or princess. And fairy tales all seem to take place in a location that's nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Professor: What's the line-up ? How do all the stories start? Once upon a time, in a far away land ... oh, in the case of folktales, each story teller would specify a particular location and time, though the time and location would differ for different story tellers. With fairy tales, however, the location is generally unspecified, no matter who the story teller is. That land far away ... We'll come back to this point in a few minutes. Student: Um ... I, I thought that a fairy tale was just a written version of an oral folktale. Professor: Well, not exactly, though that is how many fairy tales developed. For example, in the late 18th century, the Grimm Brothers traveled throughout what's now Germany, recording local folktales. These were eventually published as fairy tales, but not before undergoing a process of evolution. Now, a number of things happen when an oral tale gets written down. First, the language changes. It becomes more formal, more standard – some might say, "less colorful". It's like the difference in your language depending on whether you are talking to someone, or writing them a letter. Second, when an orally transmitted story is written down, an authoritative version with a recognized author is created. The communal aspect gets lost. The tale no longer belongs to the community. It belongs to the world, so to speak. Because of this, elements like place and time can no longer be tailored to suit a particular audience. So they become less identifiable, more generalizable to any audience. On the other hand, descriptions of characters and settings can be developed more completely. In folktales, characters might be identified by a name, but you wouldn't know anything more about them. But in fairy tales, people no longer have to remember plots. They're written down, right? So more energy can be put into other elements of the story like character and setting. So you get more details about the characters, about where the action takes place, what people's houses were like, ur, whether they're small cabins or grand palaces. And it's worth investing that energy because the story, now in book form, isn't in danger of being lost. Those details won't be forgotten. If a folktale isn't repeated by each generation, it may be lost for all time. But with a fairy tale, it's always there in a book, waiting to be discovered, again and again. Another interesting difference involves the change in audience. Who the stories are meant for? Contrary to what many people believe today, folktales were originally intended for adults, not for children. So why is it that fairy tales seem targeted toward children nowadays?