What Characteristics Do Myths, Fables, Legends and Folktales Have in Common?

Myths, fables, legends and folktales are all stories originally passed on through word of mouth, and all have endured as both teaching tools and entertainment. While myths, fables and legends appeal to children and adults alike, folktales are often written primarily toward children.

Myths are cultural tales that address the "big picture" questions of life, death, creation and the human condition. Fables are those short stories that feature anthropomorphized animals conveying special lessons or morals. Legends have a basis in truth, often telling the story of a heroic character imbued with mystical qualities. Folktales are primarily passed down through generations by mouth. There are usually several versions of a folktale, and the original author is seldom known. Folktales are sometimes known as "urban legends."