American Legends & Folktales: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

Who doesn't love a good folktale? They are some of the most fun stories! While there are folktales and legends all over the world, this lesson will focus on a few of the most popular folktales and legends from America.

Stories Passed Down by Word of Mouth

Do you have a favorite story? Sometimes, the story becomes a favorite because of the way it was told. For example, if your grandmother told you a story, it might be more special to you than if you just read it in a book. There are many stories that have been passed down through generations, which are groups of people who were born and are living at around the same time.

One type of story that is passed down from generation to generation is a folktale. These stories have been passed down in spoken form, meaning that they got their start from people talking as opposed to writing. While folktales are considered fiction, they are sometimes partially true. Legends are also passed down and can be based on historical events. Most of the time, legends have a hero and are representative of a culture or group. Both legends and folktales should not be taken as fact, and they often exaggerate or 'stretch the truth.'

Davy Crockett

Did you know that there is a song about Davy Crockett? Not only does Davy Crockett have his own song, but he also has his own folktale. As the song explains, one of the reasons why he is one of the most famous American legendary folk heroes is because of his amazing experiences in the woods, such as chopping trees and hunting animals.

Most of the time, Davy Crockett will be wearing a coonskin cap in his pictures. This is because he was known as the 'coonskin congressman.' The story says that he earned enough votes to serve in Congress by buying the people a drink. He didn't use money - instead he used coonskin from raccoons that he hunted himself. Can you imagine buying something with animal skin instead of money? Pretty crazy!

Paul Bunyan

Based on an actual lumberjack, Paul Bunyan is the hero in many American folktales. He is best known for his enormous size; one story even says that it took five huge storks to deliver him as a baby! Another folktale says that he created the Grand Canyon with his own axe. In many stories, he is with his trusty companion, Babe the Blue Ox, who was also enormous - of course.

Statue of Paul Bunyan
Paul Bunyan

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