Folk literature refers to a body of cultural knowledge and beliefs passed from one generation to the next, both orally and in writing. • • • • • • • • Myths Fairy tales Epics Fables Folk tales Folk songs/spirituals Legends Tall tales Folk literature can entertain readers enlighten readers by sharing the human condition or experience provide readers with an escape from reality help readers learn about themselves and others teach readers lessons in morality allow readers to explore diverse cultures • Like fiction, folk literature has the elements of characters, plot, setting, and conflict. • Folk stories also have their own distinct characteristics, including – stereotypical characters (such as good/evil) – plots that focus on an initial problem, a quest to solve the problem, and the tasks and obstacles involved in the journey – settings in olden times and faraway places – supernatural and repetitious elements Much of the world’s early folk literature originated as part of oral tradition Oral tradition is the passing of a work, an idea, or a custom by word of mouth from generation to generation. Early stories were composed as poems, songs, or prose tales. Epics are a very old form of folk literature, dating back more than 2,000 years. These ancient stories have remained popular for their ability to entertain readers. Epics often contain larger-than-life characters exotic settings suspenseful plots • Epics are long stories that involve gods and heroes and that are often told in verse. • Grand in length and scope, epics are portraits of cultures that provide clues about societies’ – legends – beliefs/values – laws – arts – ways of life • The bards of ancient Greece were masterful storytellers. • They would sing or recite long narrative poems about the gods, goddesses, and heroes of days gone by. • They would often accompany their tales by playing lyres— small, stringed instruments resembling handheld harps. • They start with an invocation, or a plea to the Muse (goddess of poetry) for divine inspiration • The tales begin in medias res, or “in the middle of things,” with the epic hero well into the journey • Flashbacks are used to fill in prior incidents • The tale is ended by revealing the epic hero’s fate Epic Poetry: An extended narrative poem recounting actions, travels, adventures, and heroic episodes and written in a high style (with ennobled diction, for example). Epic Hero: a larger-than-life figure from history or legend The Hero undertakes a dangerous voyage, demonstrating traits (such as courage, loyalty, and honor) that are valued by the society in which the epic originates Epic Simile: an elaborate comparison that may extend for several lines (like, as, just as, so) The main character or protagonist is heroically larger than life, often the source and subject of legend or a national hero The deeds of the hero are presented without favoritism, revealing his failings as well as his virtues The action, often in battle, reveals the more-than-human strength of the heroes as they engage in acts of heroism and courage The setting covers several nations, the whole world, or even the universe The gods and lesser divinities play an active role in the outcome of actions All of the various adventures form an organic whole, where each event relates in some way to the central theme Frequent use of epithets Use of patronymics (calling son by father's name) “Laertes' son" Long, formal speeches by important characters And of course… Epic Similes In telling the tale, the bards used many “word formulas,” such as epithets and epic similes. These phrases helped the bard memorize the tale. Epithets are brief descriptive phrases that emphasize an important characteristic of a person or thing. In The Odyssey: “versatile Odysseus” “divine Calypso” “rosy-fingered dawn” Epic similes are extended comparisons that go on for several lines They are also known as “Homeric similes” I drew it from the coals and my four fellows gave me a hand, lugging it near the Cyclops as more than natural force nerved them; straight forward they sprinted, lifted it, and rammed it deep in his crater eye, and I leaned on it turning it as a shipwright turns a drill in planking, having men below to swing the two-handled strap that spins it in the groove. —from The Odyssey, by Homer Lived in the 8th Century BC Wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey Many recent scholars believe he is not real A series of writers… or just one? Traditionally thought of as blind… but may not have been The name “Homer” can be translated as “blind” The Greeks and the Trojans are at war! Apollo was angry at Agamemnon over a girl Agamemnon gives up the girl but forces Achilles to give his girl up too Achilles is angry and tells his mom (Thetis) and refuses to fight for Agamemnon and the Greeks Thetis gets Zeus involved and he sides with the Trojans Athena, Apollo, Zeus, Ares, Poseidon, etc. get involved at various stages… Known for being a great soldier Gets his girl back - still refuses to fight for the Greeks Odysseus is currently on the frontlines for the Greeks After his best friend, Patroclus, is killed in battle he decides to fight It was his fault – Patroclus was wearing Achilles’ armor After Achilles reconciles with Agamemnon, Zeus allows the gods and goddesses to fight for the Greeks! The story begins after the 10 year Trojan War Odysseus has been away from his family for 20 years!! His son was an infant when he left… his wife has been waiting for him Stay tuned to find out what happens….