02/04/13 at 2:18 pm
To demonstrate the mechanism of communication, a teacher whispered a sentence into the ear of the student sitting to the extreme left of the first row and asked her to repeat it to the next student without being heard by the others. The sentence: “The school shall remain open tomorrow,” was repeated until the last student sitting to the extreme right of the last row had heard it. The teacher then asked him to say aloud what he had heard, whereupon he said, “The school shall remain closed tomorrow.” Such is the case of folklore which are comprised of fairy tales, legends, popular beliefs, myths, and similar other genres. While being told by word of mouth generation after generation, they keep on changing meaning to suit the sensibilities of the related generations. Very often the younger generations conclude very differently from the original folklore.
Cinderella is one of the oldest, most popular and most-told stories in various cultures. The story of Cinderella, also known as The Little Glass Slippers, was first published in 1697 by Charles Perrault and then by Brothers Grimm in their Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Its roots are traceable to the ancient Greek folktale wherein the bathing slippers of a rosy-cheeked maid, Rhodopis, were lifted by an eagle and dropped onto the lap of a king, who was holding court in the open on top of the mountain Memphis. He was surprised by the event and attracted by the beautiful shape of the slipper. In compliance with the king’s orders, Rhodopis was found in the city of Naucratis and brought to the king who married her. Variously named, Cinderella had so many versions including: Egyptian Rhodopis, Chinese Yeh- Shen, and the Native American The Hidden One.
2. Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty is a beautiful fairytale first published by Charles Perrault in 1697 followed by Brother Grimm’s publication of the story. Walt Disney made an animated film of Sleeping Beauty in 1959. A king and queen invited seven fairies to celebrate the birth of their infant princess. Another wicked fairy came uninvited and cursed the baby with death by a prick of a spindle, but a good fairy converted the curse to a 100 years’ sleep instead of death. Inspite of extra security measures, the princess fell victim to the curse of the wicked fairy and slept for 100 years when she was found by a handsome prince who revived and married her. He had children from her. The princess still had to bear more suffering prior to finally having a happy life ever after.
3. Hansel and Gretel
Hansel and Gretel is a famous German fairy tale. It was published by Brothers Grimm in 1812. The story is about young siblings Hansel and his sister Gretel. They lived with their woodcutter father and stepmother in a remote land. The woodcutter’s wife convinced him to send the children into the woods. Hansel left behind white pebbles in the way when led by the father into the woods, and the children traced back their way back home. They were again left in the woods even farther. When lost, they followed a white bird which led them to a house made of cakes. A cannibal witch lured them in, and planed to cook and eat them. The children outwitted her, and returned to their home to know their stepmother had died.
4. The Frog Princess
The Frog Princess, or Tsarevna Frog, is a popular Lithunian folklore found in different cultures with slight changes of the plot and names of the characters. A king desired to marry his sons and asked them to find there brides by locating them where their arrows would land. The arrows of the two elder sons landed in a prosperous house where they found their brides. The arrow of the youngest son, Alexander Afanasyev, was picked up by a frog to whom he was constrained to marry. The king assigned tasks to all three brides, and the frog princess excelled in all the events due to her magical powers. Alexander Afanasyev, however, felt ashamed being the husband of the frog princess until one day she was suddenly transformed into a woman of outstanding beauty.
5. Egle the Queen of Serpents
Egle, the protagonist of the Lithunian folklore Egle the Queen of Serpents, having bathed along with her two sisters, finds a serpent in her clothes who communicated like a human being. Many serpents came and carried her to the bottom of sea where she came to see a handsome person instead of a serpent and married him. She had children from him and, after a long time, wanted to see her home. When she came to see her family, her brothers killed Zilvina. She was unhappy with her children who revealed the secret that caused Zilvina’s death. Egle, the embodiment of fidelity, transformed her sons into a big oak and spruce and daughters to common shrubs, and finally she transforms herself into a tree.
6. Bloody Mary
Bloody Mary is a famous European folklore character. She was a witch who lived in a small cottage in a forest and earned her living by selling herbals. People were scared of her, and no one dared crossing her for fear of falling into trouble. Suddenly, village girls started disappearing, and people suspected Bloody Mary who denied any involvement. However, seeing her, people attacked her and burned her at the stake. She cursed that anyone who dared to utter her name thrice in front of a darkened mirror would face her spirit and would meet a terrible death, whereafter the victim’s spirit shall be locked in the mirror for ever.
7. Tisayac, the Guardian of Yosemite
Tisayac was the beautiful guardian spirit of the beautiful valley of Yosemite. During her routine visits, she saw a tall, handsome, wise, and brave person, namely Tutokanula. He was very keen about the prosperity of the valley and took great care of its inhabitants. One day, while Tutokanula was hunting in the forest, he met the shy spirit and instantly fell in love with her. However, the shy spirit disappeared and the heartbroken Tutokanula left the village in despair. In his absence, the village was ruined. When the spirit revisited, she was shocked to see the ruins and prayed for the revival. Prosperity returned to the village, and with it returned those who had left it, and Tutokanula was one of them. Seeing her, Tutokanula caught her by her arms, and a rainbow appeared behind them.
8. Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby
The cunning brer fox hated the boastful brer rabbit who was only too short-tempered and bossy. The brer fox planned to get rid of him and sculpted a beautiful baby out of tar and placed her on the road in the forest. The brer fox then hid behind the bush. The brer rabbit saw the cute baby and greeted her, but she did not respond, whereupon the rabbit was annoyed and attacked the tar baby and consequently was stuck in the tar. The fox then appeared whereupon the rabbit appealed to the fox not to throw him in the briars, but the obstinate and foolish fox threw him into the briars, and the rabbit got free, telling the fox that the he was born and raised in the briar.
9. Robin Hood
Robin Hood is one of the most famous characters from the English folklore. One of the earliest tales that mentioned Robin Hood was, A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode. The currently prevalent image of this character is quite different from the original character. It is, however, generally and popularly believed that Robin Hood, after being deprived of his legal estate, turned into an outlaw. With the help of his team comprised of other similar outlaws and known as “merry men,” he robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. The folklore has been covered both by the print and electronic media.
10. Saltbush Bill
Banjo Paterson was the son of the graziers, Andrew Bogle and Rose Isabella Paterson. He is best known for preserving the Australian folklore like Saltbush Bill in poetry. The folklore character Saltbush Bill is a drover, beautifully preserved in the folk poetry of Banjo Paterson…:
For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.
Now this is the law of the Overland that all in the West obey -
A man must cover with traveling sheep a six-mile stage a day;
Now Saltbush Bill was a drover tough as ever the country knew,
He had fought his way on the Great Stock Routes from the sea to the big Barcoo;
A UNESO convention recognizes the importance of folklore and values them as effective means of understanding culture and heritage. In addition to other genres, the convention classifies rituals and folklore as an “intangible heritage.” A traditional ending of folklore is “a tale is a lie, what it tells is the truth.”