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According to Bernice E. Cullinan and Lee Galda (1994), "folktales are narratives in which heroes and heroines demonstrate virtues like cleverness and bravery, or lovable vices like supreme silliness to triumph over adversity." Folktales don't have any known authors. They have been handed down through the generations and changed by various storytellers.
There are four types of folktales: fairy tales, talking beast, noodlehead, and cumulative. Fairy tales have "deeply magical" characters. Talking beast tales have animals that talk to humans. Noodlehead tales have "a simple, blundering person who does not use good sense or learn from experience." Cumulative tales have repetitive lines that build on one another.
Folktales involve clear conflict between good and evil. According to Cullinan and Galda, "the good are supremely good, the evil are outrageously evil, and justice prevails without compromise." The characters always live happily ever after. There are themes in the book that might not be stated directly. These themes are the values of those that created the stories. "The language is direct, vivid vernacular uncluttered by awkward constructions or convolutions...they are tempered to the tongue, having been pruned and polished through centuries." The geographic location of the setting is vague. The time the stories took place is unidentified.
Folktales are a category of folklore. There are some different ideas of the origins of folklore. Because of the similarity of folklore throughout the world, people originally believed that stories originated from one source and went with people as they migrated. As folklorists have studied tales from many different cultures, they realized that some of these stories must have originated in many different places. Today, it is believed that both theories are correct.
Source: Cullinan, B. E. & Galda, L. (1994). Literature and the Child (3rd ed.). Orlando, Florida: Harcourt Brace & Company.