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"Folklore" is a relatively young word, having been coined in the mid-nineteenth century. The cultural traditions it embodies, however, are ancient and multifaceted. Folk artifacts include tales passed by word of mouth, material handicrafts, performances, and more. Folklore provides people with a sense of local identity as well as a sense of legacy, as traditions are carried on from one generation to the next. This guide contains dozens of links that will allow you to explore and understand these cultural treasures. You'll find podcasts, videos, books, and websites filled with information on the many forms of folklore.
As a genre, folklore is amorphous and complex. A deep connection to specific geographical locations and cultures, however, unites its many forms. The resources in this section offer definitions of folklore and folk art, and will introduce you to the differences and points of connection between folklore and mythology.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary entry for folklore includes three definitions for the word and many examples of its usage from 1846 onward.
David Emery, a freelance writer and "avid chronicler of folklore and popular culture," outlines the many different genres and forms that folkloric expression can take.
This article from the New York Folklore Society defines folklore and the related terms "folklife" and "folk arts" with quotations from a number of scholars.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champain’s library provides this resource guide, which offers a definition of folklore and the genres it comprises, along with books and web sources for further exploration.
This episode from the Stuff You Should Know podcast demonstrates that folklore is made up of diverse art forms, and provides examples of folklore in daily life.
In this excerpt from the book Studies in Aggadah and Jewish Folklore, available through the University of Pennsylvania's site, Dr. Dan Ben-Amos gives an extended definition of folklore.
In this list of resources from UNESCO, learn about global traditional art forms and cultural practices with both text and audio visual files.
Here, Esther Lombardi parses out generic differences. Though myths and folktales share roots in oral storytelling, the scope of these stories is different. While myths tend to look at big-picture questions, folklore is more localized.
Learn more about the differences and points of connection between folktales, legends, fairy tales, and myths in this article fromThe Poetics Project.
On this webpage from the University of Pittsburgh, you'll find a repository of texts relating to folklore and myth. Read an essay on "Aging and Death in Folklore," or read the Kashmiri folktale "The Lost Peasant."
As colorful and unique as the cultures that create them, folklore artifacts take many forms. In this section, you'll discover the material culture and performance art associated with folklore. You'll also delve more deeply into the tradition's most fascinating literary legends and tall tales. This section includes links to images, videos, texts, and more.
On this webpage, the renowned folk art museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico defines the objects in its collections. You can explore the museum's collection by clicking on the tabs at the top of the page.
Founded in 1987, the Folk Art Society promotes folk art throughout the United States. Its website includes articles about folk art organized by artist, location, and medium.
This Huffington Post article provides helpful information on the diverse objects that comprise folk art, and also includes photographic examples.
On the website for the New York-based American Folk Art Museum, you'll find pictures of select items in the museum's collection, along with information on current exhibitions and further resources.
The University of Massachusetts Amherst offers this online edition of the famous collection of fables attributed to the ancient Greek storyteller Aesop.
On this webpage, you'll find links to many of the Grimm brothers’ famous collection of fairy tales. The text is based on the classic Edwardes and Taylor translation.
Read the collected fairy tales of 17th-century French writer Charles Perrault here, courtesy of Project Gutenberg. Perrault's "fairy tales" are derived from folk tales.
In this article from The Atlantic, Jamie Tehrani investigates how folktales spread worldwide, using “Little Red Riding Hood” as an example.
Traditional children’s games—sometimes known as folk games—are listed on this Wikipedia page from A through Z. Click on each link to learn more about games like apple bobbing and “What’s the weather, Mr. Wolf?”
"Cultural Traditions" (BBC)
For photo-stories and articles detailing customs ranging from celebrations to food around the world, visit this BBC webpage on cultural traditions.
This article from ThoughtCo. provides an overview of folk dances from around the world, organized by region. Learn about contra dancing, Baladi dancing, and more.
Wikipedia offers a comprehensive list of folk dances from around the world. You'll find links to separate pages on many of the dances, from Albanian Shota to Ukrainian Hopak.
Folklore from the geographically and ethnically diverse African continent represents many different peoples and forms. Figures from these tales are known and loved the world over. You may be familiar, for example, with the trickster Anansi the spider, whose story originated with the Akan people of modern-day Ghana. Below, you'll find resources on many other African epics and tales, and view examples of traditional folk dance forms.
Mike Rugnetta of Crash Course will introduce you to Mwindo, hero of the Congo. His tale, which involves a superhero-like babyhood, is told by the Nyanga people.
In this article from Mental Floss, you'll learn more about the scary mythical creatures of African folktales, from the grootslang to the tikoloshe.
A Book of Creatures’ African Folklore section, which is complete with illustrations and maps, will teach you about mythical creatures from around the continent.
Episode 40 of the Myths and Legends podcast focuses on West-African Folklore. Listen to tales about Ijapa the turtle, the subject of many folktales in western Africa.
In episode 53 of the Myths and Legends podcast, you'll hear the story of a mythical dragon slayer from South Africa. Giant towers and underwater villages are also featured.
In this video, you’ll learn about the legendary Anansi, the trickster spider originating in West Africa. The "occasionally tricky" Hercules and Atlas make appearances, as well.
Read James Honey’s 1910 collection of tales from South Africa. You'll find the tale of "The Lioness and the Ostrich" and "The Lion Who Thought Himself Wiser Than His Mother."
This article provides videos and information about traditional dances from around the African continent, and discusses African dance’s cross-cultural legacy.
Ghosts, demigods, and warriors populate legends from Asia and Oceania. These continents are also home to dances and theatrical forms that convey stories from ancient or modern times, such as the Hawaiian hula or Japanese kabuki. In this section, you'll explore the folklore of India, China, Japan, Korea, Australia and Oceania through encyclopedia articles, videos, and more.
Khan Academy's Arts and Humanities section will introduce you to traditional art forms from Japanese kabuki theater to the shrines of China.
This Mental Floss article will introduce you to creatures from the yara-ma-yha-who (a vampire of Aboriginal lore) to the Japanese ningen (a humanoid monster said to live in the waters of Antarctica).
In this article from Encyclopedia Britannica, learn about traditional Indian dance forms from Bharatanatyam and Kathakali to Manipuri and Odissi.
In this article from Culture Trip, Tapasya Narang provides an overview of the ancient origins of Indian folk art and their relevance in today’s society.
The news magazine India Today describes 10 important Indian folk musical instruments, including the khomok, udukai, nagada and tumbak.
On this site, you can read a sampling of stories from ancient sources. Explore the Hitopadesha Tales, the Jataka Tales, and the Panchatantra Tales.
Watch an animated version of the ancient Chinese folktale “The Little Rabbits,” available from PBS in both Chinese and English. You may be reminded of "Little Red Riding Hood" or "The Three Little Pigs."
ThoughtCo.’s article explores a number of Chinese folktales that illustrate moral lessons. The tale of the donkey of Ghizhou, for example, will show you that "cheap tricks never last."
On the Smithsonian Folklife Festival's webpage, you can watch a brief and beautifully animated version of the ancient Chinese tale of Hou Yi.
Episode 41 of the Myths and Legends podcast focuses on the Chinese Cinderella, a tale that pre-dates the European rendition of the story by a millenium.
On this webpage from the world-famous performance troupe Shen Yun, you can learn about traditional Chinese dances such as the Yang Ge.
This section of the University of Pittsburgh's collection of online folktexts features eight tales from Japan, and links to related sites with resources on Japanese folklore.
This webpage directs you to Myths and Legends Podcast episodes centered on Japan. You'll hear the story of Urashima Taro, the Boy who Drew Cats, and many more.
In this article from the Japan Info site, you'll learn about traditional Japanese dances (like the bon odori) and musical instruments (such as the biwa).
This four-minute video from UNESCO will introduce you to one of Japan’s traditional theater forms, kabuki. Kabuki originated in the Edo period in the 17th century.
On this webpage from KBS World Radio, you can listen to narrated folktales or read transcripts of stories like "The Kind Old Lady and the Goblin."
This program from NPR explores the legendary hero Hong Gildong and how he relates to Korean identity formation. You'll find both a transcript and an audio file.
This article from the Korea Times focuses on "minhwa," Korea’s traditional painted art form. A number of beautiful images accompany the article.
Discover how "gugak," the traditional folk and court music of Korea, is performed. The word "gugak" translates as "national music."
In this article from Australia.gov, you'll learn about creatures from Australia's folkloric heritage, including the man-eating bunyip and the legendary Ned Kelly.
The Northern Territory settlement of Papunya has been called "the birthplace of contemporary Aboriginal art." Explore the National Museum Australia's holdings in this area.
Folk music from Australia’s bush—the more rural parts of the country—is discussed on this website. You'll find information on the iconic Waltzing Matilda and much more.
Learn about the ancient tradition of hula dance in Hawaii. Did you know that the hula dance predates written language, or that there are two different types of hula?
Read Thomas G. Thrum’s 1907 collected volume of Hawaiian tales, including the stories of Maui. Project Gutenberg offers the text in a number of different formats.
Watch this CrashCourse video to discover the story of Ma’ui, a central hero in Oceanian lore. Mike Rugnetta will teach you about Ma'ui's divine birth and many adventures.
This article from DanceSpirit describes the different dance traditions of Polynesia, from the Hawaiian hula to the Tongan Tau’olonga.
In this article from NewZealand.com, you'll learn more about the emblematic dance of New Zealand—the haka—an ancient war dance of the Maori people.
You may already be familiar with a number of figures from European folklore, from the Russian tale of Morozko that gave us "Jack Frost," to the Italian Pinocchio of Disney fame. Below, you'll find resources on many of Europe's most beloved folk tales, and will learn about with the influence of Celtic and Norse culture on British and Scandinavian folklore. Resources on circle dances, morris dance, and traditional painting forms round out this section.
In this article from Russia Beyond, learn about the most famous protagonists and antagonists in Russian fairy tales, including Baba Yaga and the Firebird.
This repository of folk and fairy tales from Russia and Eastern Europe includes Alexander Afanasyev’s famous collection, the legacy of which some liken to that of Grimms' Fairy Tales.
Listen to these Myths and Legends podcast episodes, which tell the stories of iconic characters like Ilya Muromets, Vasilisa, and Koschei the Deathless.
"Russian Folk Art" (Artrusse)
On the Artrusse site, you can read articles and look at examples of traditional Russian art, such as lacquer miniatures, shawls, and earthenware toys.
In this article from the New York Dance Parade site, read about and watch videos of traditional Russian dances. You'll find material on the Tanok, Troika, and more.
Listen to episodes from The Lore of the Land, a BBC radio program in which Professor Carolyne Larrington explores the impact of folklore on British culture, and how it derives from the British landscape.
Learn about the most prominent figures of British folklore, including the Loch Ness Monster, with this list of resources from the Historic UK site.
This webpage includes both an article and videos that will introduce you to traditional Scottish music and dancing, which form the ceilidh (a gathering or party with song and dance).
The famous “Child Ballads" are a collection of treasured poems and songs from England and Scotland edited by Francis James Child. Here, you can read the entire text, courtesy of Sacred-texts.com.
The Hammersmith Morris Men will teach you how to perform a traditional English Morris Dance, in memory of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.
Elaine Bradtke writes about lesser-known English Folk Dances such as the longsword and step clog in this article for The Guardian.
This BBC article features images from a 2014 exhibition of folk art at the Tate Modern museum. Many of the artists involved remain unknown.
In this article from a Welsh travel site, you'll learn more about the legend of King Arthur and the famous sites in Wales with which he is associated.
Watch this one-minute video, which features a man and a woman performing traditional Irish step dancing at a festival (The Templore Seisiun Mor).
The Internet Sacred Text Archives host this collection of folklore texts from Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Read "The Cattle Raid of Cooley" or "The Poems of Ossian."
Listen to podcast episodes from Myths and Legends that focus on figures from British and Irish folklore, including King Arthur and Sir Gawain.
Listen to Myths and Legends podcast episodes exploring the stories of legendary heroes like Beowulf and the Viking king Ragnar Lodbrok.
In this section of the Folk Texts archive hosted by the University of Pittsburgh, you'll find familiar favorites like Hans Christian Andersen’s collection, and lesser-known texts like Anna Wahlenberg’s collected Swedish fairy tales.
This list of terms from the Skandia Folkdance Society describes many types of traditional dances found across the Scandinavian region.
This article from the illinois Norsk Rosemalers' Association details the history of Norwegian rosemaling, a style of decorative folk painting.
On Sweden's official website, you can learn about the connection between Swedish customs and the seasons, including the famous Midsummer celebrations.
The troll—a looming figure in the world of Nordic and Scandinavian folklore—is explored in this article from The Powder Room forum.
In this section, you'll find resources on Middle Eastern folktales and traditional art forms, from belly dancing to Jewish paper cutting. Learn about the tales Shahrazad told for 1001 nights to delay her death, Jewish folk tales based on sacred texts, and the great Persian epic centered around the reigns of 50 kings.
In this post from the Book of Creatures site, you'll discover legendary figures from Middle Eastern lore, like the dulhath and the behemoth.
Southern Connecticut State's University Library provides this resource guide on Islamic folktales, which includes book recommendations and a video.
Richard Burton translates the famous text often called The Arabian Nights, the source text for familiar stories like Aladdin and the genie.
Wikipedia's overview of Arab folk dance looks at Arab classic dances like belly dance, folk dances such as the Dabke, and sacred dances such as the zar.
In these episodes of the Myths and Legends podcast centered on Middle Eastern stories, you'll hear the tales of Sinbad the sailor, Aladdin, and Ali Baba.
On this webpage from The British Library, you'll find a number of resources on the great Persian epic The Shahname, which is translated as the “Book of Kings."
In this article for the science fiction and fantasy website Tor.com, Shoshanna Kessock writes about otherworldly spirits from Jewish folklore.
Read Gertrude Landa’s 1919 book Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends, a collection of stories based on the Jewish Talmud and Midrash.
This article describes traditional Jewish dances like the hora. The author emphasizes that dance, in the Bible, is an expression of joy and worship.
In this article, you'll learn about traditional Jewish art forms including paper cutting. Like Jewish dance, visual art is used here to express devotion.
America is a melting pot when it comes to folklore. Legends from indigenous peoples have mixed with African and European lore, coming to this land along the routes of slavery and trade. Catholic religious practice and the sacred rites of indigenous peoples blend into new stories. Cultures clash and meld in legends like la llorona, and familiar figures like Anansi reappear in new forms.
Several episodes from the Myths and Legends podcast take a look at the legendary life of Pocahontas, mythical monsters, and the important figure of the coyote.
This library guide outlines different types of folktales and offers a list of books and web resources for native tales, organized by modern tribal region.
Explore the folk art of different native tribes via the National Museum of the American Indian's website. You'll find a featured item and many different search options.
Learn about different types of native dance, from the hoop dance to the war dance. This website includes links with videos, an essay, and lists of resources.
Discover the first artwork of the Americas on this webpage for a 2003–2006 exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.
In this CrashCourse video, Mike Rugnetta will tell you all about Coyote and Raven, two famous trickster figures that appear in many Native American tales.
This webpage contains folktales from Mexico in side-by-side English and Spanish versions. The tales were collected by the editor's grandfather, who kept them in a box in his basement.
This online guide to Mexican folk art will help you understand the diversity of the artistic creations by indigenous people with no formal training.
Read a version of the famous legend of "La Llorona" (the weeping woman) on Literacynet.org. This legendary ghost wends her way through much Latin American folklore.
Explore the creatures that populate Caribbean folklore with this post from A Book of Creatures. Meet the dangerous duppies, the yuanat serpent, and many more wild and wonderful creatures.
Learn about contemporary performers who are preserving traditional folktale storytelling in the Caribbean and beyond in this Caribbean Beat article.
This episode of The Mythology Podcast explores the roots and practice of the Vodou religion. You'll find part two on the podcast's site, as well.
Wikipedia's entry on Caribbean folklore will introduce you to some of the most popular characters in folktales throughout the region, including Papa Bois.
This blog post from Wide Walls delves into the different cultures, influences, and artworks of the Caribbean nations. A number of images accompany the text.
Wikipedia has compiled a list of folk music traditions from the Caribbean, along with the traditional dances that accompany them.
This post from Tripsavvy highlights several key figures in Central American folklore, including the shape-shifting spirit Sihuanaba and the playful El Cipitío.
In this blog post, you'll learn about dark creatures from El Cuco of Spanish legend to the Peruvian or Bolivian vampire figure Pishtaco.
Listen to this Myths and Legends podcast episode, which brings you a Chilean folktale about the world’s smartest woman and her talking shoe.
This blog post contains a list of different dances from Central and South America (and a few from the Caribbean), and provides video examples.
Read about the 2014–2015 “Grandes Maestros” exhibition at the Natural History Museum Los Angeles, and view photos from the event.
Bringing folklore into the classroom will enrich your students’ abilities to communicate stories through various media. What’s more, an appreciation of folklore from across the globe will foster connections across cultures and countries. The following resources will help get you started in preparing lesson plans.
Resources, activities, and lesson plans are provided on the National Education Association's website for those looking to teach folklore from the Americas.
This archived page from PBS's THIRTEEN offers a lesson plan about oral traditions and African folklore for your students to explore the continent’s culture.
The New York Public Library offers this list of ten favorite African and African-American folktales for children, including Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters as told by John Steptoe.
Education World lists lesson plans for grades K–12 and resources for myths and stories. You might, for example, have your students rewrite one of Aesop's fables in a modern-day setting.
In this 16-page teaching guide, Lerner Books provides lesson plans, resources, and accompanying handouts on folklore for students to fill out.
Author Nina Jaffe provides an online workshop for teachers on the study of folklore, inviting educators and students to discover the folklore that’s all around them.
"The Magical World of Russian Fairy Tales" (EDSITEment!)
The National Endowment for the Humanities’ EDSITEment! provides a lesson plan on Russian fairy tales, and includes worksheets, resources, and media materials.
If you’re looking to learn even more about folklore from around the world, the following resources will satisfy your curiosity. In this section, you'll find an award-winning podcast about folklore's frightening history, an online repository of texts, and websites to help you delve into folklife.
Aaron Mahnke’s hit podcast looks at legends and lore from across the ages and around the world. Beware: some episodes may have you sleeping with the lights on!
Dan Scholz was inspired to start this project as a way to share his interest in folklore and fairy tales with his daughter. His podcast focuses on global folklore.
The online repository of fairy tales SurLaLune includes stories with illustrations and annotations, as well as an accompanying blog.
This branch of the Library of Congress preserves American folk heritage. learn more about the American Folklife Center’s collections on its website.