A to Z Challenge

The Importance of Folklore

F is for Folklore.

I know, we’ve done this one for F before. But this time it will be different.

Everyone is gathered around the fire. The elder pokes at the logs; everyone waits with bated breath to hear what she has to share…

Okay, not anymore.

In today’s rushed culture, there is hardly time to read to the children, let alone gather for story time. Everyone is so busy, the telling of important tales is put off until no-one wants to hear them anymore.

But folklore finds a way to be shared.

In recent years Disney has breathed new life into its classic tales of Beauty and the BeastSleeping Beauty told from the perspective of MaleficentCinderellaand new tales including MoanaFrozenThe Frog Princess and Tangled. All of these stories can be traced back to printed works from centuries past and oral tradition that is even older than that.

No matter in which way these stories are retold, the basic message remains. For Belle it is to look at the beauty within, for Maleficent it is that true love conquers all, and so forth.

And parents are rushing to theatres with their young ones to drink it all in.

Which is good for folklore and for those who get to enjoy it.

A lot of authors embrace folklore in their writing too. And some become bestsellers. Vampires? There are so many tales and unique features in folklore of vampires across the globe, that they never go out of fashion. Werewolves? Humans turning into animals can be found in every culture. Just look at the Werehyena found in Africa… Fairies? Oh, so many different ones to choose from! Just check out my Origin of the Fae page to get a taste.

Retellings of favourite fairy tales (also known as folktales) is a major seller in the Young Adult market. Look at Cinder and others making the bestseller lists.

And it’s not just teenagers who love retellings. My collection of short stories – some retellings of my favourite fairy tales – were called “fairy tales for grownups” by the owner of INK: Skryf in Afrikaans when I received the prize for winning a competition with my anthology “Eens…”. (The English version of this anthology is currently in the editing phase – an update will come on the blog when it’s ready for release.) Even the Clarion Call’s theme for their fourth anthology is the retelling of fairy tales/folklore.

Why are traditional tales – even the retellings – so popular? Because it helps us to reflect on what it means to be human.

Folklore examines the issues we deal with every day, it shows us how it works, and how to deal with it – the good and the bad. When hearing the tale of Little Red Riding Hood for the first time as a child, it tells you not to trust strangers. Its earlier versions dug even deeper into that…

On Thursdays you can find folklore enthusiasts sharing bits of information (or whole articles) on Twitter with the hashtag #FolkloreThursday. Check it out – it’s lots of fun and very informative.

Folklore is important. Whether we read the original tales or a retelling of it, we learn where we belong in the world and we see the magic that is all around us.

Do you enjoy folklore? Have you seen the new Disney movies retelling favourite fairy tales? What is your favourite fairy tale/fairy tale retelling? Do you have a favourite author who uses folklore in their writing?

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