Difference Between Folklore and Folktale

Key Difference – Folklore vs Folktale
 

In every culture, folklore and folktales play a significant role. Both are passed down from one generation to the other through word of mouth. The key difference between folklore and folktale is that the folklore refers to the traditional beliefs and stories of a community. This usually encompasses a large variety of components ranging from one’s cultural practices to material culture. Folktales, on the other hand, refer to the stories that have been passed down from the ancestors of a particular group of people to the younger generations. This highlights that folktales are a part of folklore. They include the stories that belong to a group of people that are passed down orally. This is the main difference between the two words. Through this article let us elaborate this difference more.

What is Folklore?

Folklore refers to the traditional beliefs and stories of a community. This includes folktales, myths, legends, beliefs, practices, superstitions, etc. This highlights that folklore captures a wide span. It can even be stated that folklore of a particular group of people is built in accordance with their culture. People make sense of their surrounding world through the usage of folklore. The various superstitions, stories, beliefs all add up to the creation of this cultural heritage.

Folklore is passed down from one generation to another through word of mouth. It was William J. Thoms who coined the word folklore in 1846. Now folklore has even become a study of knowledge and culture of different groups of people. There are many genres of folklore as well. They are music, narratives, beliefs, religion, practices, material culture, etc. In the study of folklore as an academic discipline, folklorists focus on these aspects of various cultures in order to comprehend their folklore.

Difference Between Folklore and Folktale

Trolls from Danish folklore

What is a Folktale?

Unlike folklore that encompasses a large variety of cultural heritage, folktales refer to stories that have been passed down from ancestors of a particular group of people to the younger generations. These stories can be quite different from one another and do not belong to the same genre. For instance, folktales can include adventure stories, fairy tales, historical tales, and even ghost tales. This emphasizes that folktales include a blend of stories. These stories are passed down from one generation to another through the word of mouth.

Just as in the case of folklore where culture plays a huge impact, in folktales also this impact can be seen very well. This is why people of different groups have different folktales, based on their cultures. However, the main elements of folktales are mostly universal. In each story, we can find human beings as main characters. Some of these characters can even have special powers. Folktales usually consist of supernatural elements, action, justice, and even happy endings. Most folktales provide the listener with a moral as well.

This highlights that folklore and folktales are different from one another, and should not be used interchangeably.

Folklore vs Folktale

Vasilisa the Beautiful at the Hut of Baba Yaga

What is the difference between Folklore and Folktale?

Definitions of Folklore and Folktale:

Folklore: Folklore refers to traditional beliefs, practices, and stories of a community that have passed down from one generation to the other through word of mouth.

Folktale: Folktales refer to stories that have been passed down from ancestors of a particular group of people to the younger generations through word of mouth.

Characteristics of Folklore and Folktale:

Connection:

Folktales can be viewed as a part of folklore.

Range:

Folklore: Folklore captures a wide range of elements ranging from beliefs to superstitions.

Folktale: Folktales include only stories.

Passing Down:

Both folklore and folktales are passed down from one generation to another through word of mouth.

 

Images Courtesy: Trolls from Danish folklore and Vasilisa the Beautiful at the Hut of Baba Yaga via Wikicommons (Public Domain)

  • Wayne Logan

    I like how the differences in meanings were explained.
    I just discovered this site and find it very helpful.