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What Is Folklore? - Definition, Legends & Myths

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  • 0:00 Definition of Folklore
  • 0:51 Myths
  • 1:51 Legends
  • 2:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Arlean Plummer
In this lesson, you will be introduced to the genre of folklore that includes legends and myths. Folklores are an integral part of all cultures. This lesson will provide a brief introduction folklores, their purpose, and examples.

Definition of Folklore

Folklore is oral history that is preserved by the people of the culture, consisting of traditions belonging to a specific culture. These traditions usually include music, stories, history, legends, and myths. Folklore is passed down from generation to generation and is kept active by the people in the culture.

Folklore allows people to give meaning to their lives and their surroundings. Because every culture has different historical backgrounds and traditions, folklore has a different definition to each culture. The definition presented in this lesson is a general one that covers the topic broadly.

A famous folklore in American history is the tall tale about the fictional lumberjack Paul Bunyan. In the story, Paul has superhuman skills that allow him to complete tasks that other lumberjacks are unable to complete on their own, such as taming the blue ox named Babe.

Myths

The term myth is derived from the Greek word mythos, which means story. Myths are commonly used to describe the origins of a group of people, the beginning of the universe, natural events or the rituals and traditions of a specific culture. For example, a myth can be used to explain the origin of a holiday or cultural tradition.

Mythical stories are usually characterized by nonhuman characters and magical events that cannot be proven to be true or false. They answer questions that have unknown answers in the real world. Myths usually contain creatures and places that are not real. However, they usually provide an answer to a valuable philosophical questions, such as 'what happens after death?'

Greek gods and goddesses are the main characters in many famous Greek mythological stories. According to these stories, the gods and goddesses are usually to blame for any and all natural events, such as rain and thunder and even emotion, like love.

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