What Is a Folk Tale?

folk-tale Credit: Constance Bannister Corp/Archive Photos/Getty Images

While the term “folk tale” has been used to describe different sorts of stories, it is most commonly used to describe short stories that originate from the oral storytelling tradition. While contemporary views often associate folk tales with children’s stories, original folk tales were specifically meant for adults and often had very bawdy or violent content.

Although a variety of different folk tales exist, many have several common factors. For example, the focus is generally placed on everyday life and situations. Consequently, the protagonists are typically normal individuals who triumph in some way, such as a wily and intelligent peasant who manages to best his superior. Many folk tales also feature characters that are animals with human characteristics.