Elements of Folktales
What is a Folktale?
Folktales were passed down from
generation to generation by word of
mouth, which is called oral tradition.
Folktales were made up to explain the
wonders of the world or to teach morals
and lessons.
Different Types of Folktales
Trickster Tales
 Fables
 Pourqoui stories
 Fairytales
Trickster Tales
One character, usually the protagonist,
is a clever trickster that causes
problems for the other characters
 They usually goes unpunished
Example “Trickster” Characters:
Anansi the Spider (Africa), Hare (North
America), Wolf( Europe)
These are stories that teach a lesson or have
a moral
 The main characters of Fables are usually
animals with human characteristics
 The moral is never stated, but needs to be
inferred by the reader
Examples of Fables: Tortoise and the Hare,
The Ant and the Grasshopper
Pourquoi Stories
Explain WHY something is as it is
 Explains HOW something came to be
and it usually explains something in
 Examples of Pourquoi stories:
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears
How the Elephant Got Its Trunk or How
the Tiger Got Its Stripes
*** Most myths and tall tales are
considered Pourquois
Include good and evil characters
 Usually has a hero or heroine
 Has Magic
 Often begins with “Once upon a time”
 Conflicts are resolved through kindness,
courage or intelligence
Examples: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty,
Common Elements of Folktales:
 Rule
of Three: Items happen in sets of 3 or 7s
(things happen in 3s, lots of repetition or
repeated phrases)
- 3 characters
- 3 events
- 3 tests the character must overcome
Ex: “Jack and the Beanstalk” showed Jack climbing the beanstalk three
times. The wicked stepmother visited Snow White in the forest three
times before she finally got her to eat the apple.
 Magic
is commonly used, to explain the
 You will see similar characteristics from stories
across the world
Common Elements of a Folktale:
go through tests to prove
something (the good character must
solve a problem)
Good v. Evil (has characters that good,
others are bad)
Good is rewarded and evil is punished in
the end (tales have a happy ending)
Common Elements of a Folktale:
Characters change only after they have
gone though the lesson learned during the
course of the story
 The hero is usually young and fair, kind,
brave, unselfish, and may possess some
sort of special power.
 Magic helpers, such as the Fairy
Godmother in Cinderella, allow for things to
occur within a story that would otherwise
be impossible
Common Elements of a Folktale:
Place is usually described easily and
briefly, leaving the imagination to fill in the
gaps. For example, folktales take place in
a cottage in the woods or in a magical
Time is fantasy time, such as Once upon
a time, or A long time ago