What Are Traditional Tales?

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Traditional tales are stories that are passed down orally as part of the shared tradition of a culture. Traditional tales include myths, folk tales and legends. These tales often include fantasy elements and metaphorical lessons.

Traditional tales are loosely grouped into myths, folklore and legends, with some overlap between the categories. Myths are stories that explain natural phenomena, especially things that are not easily understood by primitive people. These include creation stories and stories about why things happen. Myths explain thunderstorms, deaths and why various animals look the way they do. Myths sometimes feature gods or goddesses and are often part of spiritual traditions.

Folklore includes fairy tales and fables. These stories often involve fantasy elements, such as witches, fairies and giants. Animals may talk, and humans may have superhuman powers. Folk tales frequently show ordinary people overcoming extraordinary obstacles. These tales both entertain and give hope to people living difficult lives.

Legends are fantasy stories that evolve from real people and events. As the story is passed down, the reality is augmented until people have impossible powers, and traits and events have exaggerated qualities. Tall tales are a type of legend. Some legends permeate whole cultures and have long lost their thread to the truth. This type of legend includes traditional tales about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and those about Robin Hood and his band.