Adams says that the two main distinguishing features of what he calls the folktale are “...its relative stability as to form and its complete lack of any claim that what is portrayed in the tale actually happened.”
The folktale is then divided into two classes based on form. Those with more complex form are called fairy tales, “Marchen”, or wonder tales. The more simple in form are animal tales, jokes, anecdotes, and formula tales. It is on the fairy tales and animal tales or fables that I intend to place my emphasis, as a sampling of the folktale.
Many students whom I have encountered have little knowledge of the fairy tales that many of us grew up on. Therefore it would be a valuable experience for them to be acquainted with at least Grimm’s and Andersen’s
. As to form, the student should be made aware that while it is relatively stable “...the folktale is not a static phenomena, but the product of an individual tradition bearer’s constant reworking of it as he lives in the social group.”
As to content the student should know that the folklore represents “...what the storyteller feels to be a true reflection of real relationships between groups in a class, ethnic, racial or sex basis.”
However, acquaintance with the form and content of the tales would be insufficient. Some transferable skill must be acquired in order to make the most of the tales for classroom purposes. The fairy tale appeals to the imagination. So stimulation of the imagination could be an objective. Testing to see the degree to which students’ imaginations have been stimulated can be through having some sketch pictures to illustrate the stories and having others, so inclined, act out the stories. Drawing and acting would be motivators for practicing more hard core basic skills like concentration, reading (since this is the mode in which oral stories have been preserved), memorizing, reciting (an opportunity to enact oral tradition first hand). The language in the tales is simple and so would be useful with lower level readers, but the high interest level and appeal to the imagination make them applicable to audiences of all levels of reading ability.
which falls into the category of simple animal folktales offers the same opportunity for high interest, easy, fun reading and all the advantages for developing skills from most basic to more sophisticated. While I believe that art can be appreciated for art’s sake and likewise stories for their own sake, my basic objective is to use these works as a medium for developing specific basic skills. I hope that an exercise to stimulate thought such as presenting a moral a la Aesop, and having the students concoct a story to illustrate it would be challenging rather than contrived. Such an exercise can be done orally or in writing. Care must be taken, however, that a purely workbook mentality is not developed by the exercise which can distract from the spirit in which the original stories were intended. The tales and fables can be read, told and discussed for their own sake, and also used as mediums for learning and practicing other skills already mentioned.