Both Adams and Dundes discuss “functions of folklore” in terms of what I originally considered motivations for story telling. Perhaps function is a more accurate term than motivation since motivation suggests a premeditated intention. Adams names these functions: validation, maintaining conformity or control, escape, and education. Folklore, they suggest, validates certain aspects of culture and justifies its rituals and institutions. There is the “explanatory tale” or a moral animal tale, myth or legend to “validate doubted pattern or to warn of subsequent consequences if necessary when accepted practices are violated.” Folklore also provides rationalizations when institutions and conventions are challenged.
The second function which Adams calls “integration” is group cohesion and group feeling. Dundes terms this “maintaining conformity”. Dundes’ notion emphasizes the way folklore acts as a controlling factor. Consider how folklore can be used to express social approval of those who conform. On the other hand, Adams says that the telling of legends can act as an “icebreaker” to let outsiders into the group or bring the group closer together.
Adams labels a third function of folklore “compensation” for something lacking in reality, and he suggests that telling the tale may serve as an ego building device for the teller. Bascom looks at the same function from a slightly different slant and calls it “escape” in fantasy from a) frustrations and repressions and b) “Geographical environment and biological limitations”.
Many agree that a fourth function of folklore is to educate. Folklore can carry along and teach the history of a people as well as its cultural norms diligence, respect, perseverance, etc. Dangers and how to avoid them may be pointed out. The most fascinating tales are legends which attempt to teach why things are found as they are, for example, why the elephant has a long nose or the bear a short tail. While no one labels entertainment as a function of folklore, it seems that one of the primary purposes served when a story is told is to interest, and provide fun or excitement.
The functions of legends are not fixed and may change as the context changes. According to Adams the context includes the following: 1. When and where the tale was told. 2. Events which took place before the narration began. 3. Was the legend told verbatim or not. 4. Gestures and facial expression. 5. The relationship of the narrator and the audience. 6. The amount and type of audience reaction and participation. 7. The age, occupation, ethnic background, etc. of both teller and audience. For example, when and where the tale was told, or to whom could change whether the tale acted as an educating or controlling factor. These factors provide a good source of investigation and class discussion.