Folklore refers to the oral traditions and body of stories that are passed down from generation to generation in a culture. A society's folklore may include universal truths, which are truths shared by many societies, but it can also include traditions, superstitions, and beliefs specific to a society and its people.
Folklore can include tales of people, animals, and mythical beings. Folklore can also take the form of stories, songs, and poems. Folklore is actually the broad term used to denote all of these genres: folktales, folksongs, fairytales, ballads, and "tall tales." In addition, folklore can also include proverbs and riddles that are passed down in a specific culture.
The main purpose of folklore is to teach a society's beliefs and mores. Folklore often contains a lesson and teaches the listener or reader about the value of behaving in a certain way.
Beowulf is an example of Anglo-Saxon folklore. The hero Beowulf faces and kills the monster Grindel. Most cultures have folklore of this kind, where a hero faces a foe. The Jewish tradition includes David facing Goliath. The Scandinavian tradition includes the hero Thor.
There are many examples of folklore related to animals or mythical creatures. For example the Loch Ness monster is an example from Scotland. North American folklore abounds with tales of "Bigfoot" roaming the mountains.
Finally, there is folklore that arises from oral histories passed down about people who may have been real, but whose feats have been embellished over time. Patrick Henry is a folk hero from the American Revolution. His famous quote, "Give me liberty or give me death," is an oral tradition that has been passed down to generations of Americans. The African-American folk tradition includes John Henry. John Henry was a railroad worker, and according to the folk tradition, he raced a machine to construct the railroad and he won.
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