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Top Things to Know About the Famous Folk Tales With Morals

Updated on March 16, 2018

Origin of The Folktale

The folktale is as old as the society in which it is found. It is part of folklore and like other aspects of folklore, lacks authorship. It belongs to the community and no single individual can lay claim to the folktale.

Significance Of The Folktale

The folktale has social, ethical and esthetic values. Through folktales, the people learn about their historical origins, social organizations, religious beliefs and wisdom of the ages. The folktale provides explanations for social attitudes, promotes the culture of the people and fosters loyalty and unity among the people. It is both educative and entertaining. It strengthens social institutions. The various uses of the folktale account for the reason that it continues to be vibrant in spite of other forms of entertainment brought about by Western civilization. Although folktale sessions are largely restricted to the rural areas nowadays, the folktale has provided a good reservoir of resource materials for creative writers like Chinua Achebe, Wole Sonyinka, Amos Tutuola, Pepper Clark, Efua Sutherland and many others.

Forms of Folktale

Although the folktale is a product of great imagination, it is organic. It has an introduction, the body and the conclusion.

Introduction In The Folktale
Different societies have different ways by which the oral artist introduces his tale. Some start off with philosophical statement or with a hypothetical question. All the various forms of introduction are an attempt by the story teller to arouse the interest of his audience and also to establish a rapport with them.

The Body of the Tale
The body of the tale is made up of a series of interesting episodes which lead to a climax and the eventual resolution. Depending on the theme of the tale and also the audience, the narrator could manipulate the length of the tale to be long or short. The folktale is dynamic in nature and the story teller has to be resourceful to be successful in his performance.

Characteristics of the Folktale.
There are some characteristics of the folktale which are worthy of note. They are:
1. Setting
2. Themes
3. Personification


The setting. The folktale is usually told at night particularly on moonlight nights. The session is either in a compound or in an open place where different families converge. There is usually a burning fire around which both adults and children sit for the performance.
Themes of the Folktale
Some common themes in folktale are themes woven around human figures, animals, survival tactics, struggle between good and bad, abstract qualities like justice, patience, endurance, vanity etc, episode in life cycles like birth, initiation rites, marriage, death, etc. Some tales condemn pride, laziness in their morals. Some promote moral principles and industry, tales that emphasize love, trust, friendship, industry. Such tales implicitly condemn vices like hatred, guilt, deceit, treachery, etc.

Personification. In folktales, animals and objects are personified to enable them portray the characteristics with which they are being associated. Objects example parts of the body, are also personified. Certain animals convey stereotyped images in folktales. For example, the hare, the tortoise and the spider are noted as master tricksters, cunning and quick witted. They are portrayed as superior to bigger and stronger animals on account of their wit.
The lion and the elephant convey negative images in folktales. The lion is ferocious but stupid and is easily outwitted by the tortoise. The elephant, in spite of its size, is deceived by the spider.

Types of Folktales
1. Human tales.
2. Animal tales.
3. Human and animal tales- having both human and animal characters.
4. Dilemma tales
5. Tales of impossible obligation.
6. Tall tales- fantastic or unimaginable events.
7. Trickster tales- where small animals play tricks on bigger animals.
8. Explanatory tales- to explain why certain things occur.
9. Ghost tales- involving ghosts.
10. Moralising tales- told to impart morals.
* Falktale is told to entertain and educate the people.
* The tale is communal property and lacks individual authorship.
* There are different types of folktales.
* The story teller makes use of different techniques to make his story interesting.


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