There are many definitions of folktale. Most definitions have the same meaning or implication. It is just the explanation or the way one defines it that varies.
Folktale can be defined as a traditional story, of a place or culture, society or religion. Folktale can be defined as an anonymous story developed by common people of a region or province and passed down from one generation to another. Folktale can also be defined as a timeless and placeless story that is orally narrated by people. Typically, folktale represents a story of a place, tribe or native people of a region highlighting some morals, practices, cultural and social perspectives. Folktales can be historic but they usually don’t have a defined timeline or unity of time, place and action. Folktales can be political or religious as well.
While there are published copies of folktales from around the world, they have been traditionally narrated and passed down through generations without being produced in a printed form. Folktales are almost always local and native to a place but the lessons imparted through the stories are often universal. Most folktales resonate across cultures, regions and religions.
Types of Folktales
There are many types of folktales: myths or mythologies, legends, tall tales, fairy tales and fables. As you may observe in the very coinage of the term, folktale is a combination of ‘folk’ and ‘tale’. This means a tale of folk, ala common people or just people in general. It also means that a tale made by folk, that is a story not written by a particular author but generally woven by the masses. Folktale is essentially pop culture.
There are some differences in the types of folktales. Myths are believed to be entirely imaginative. There are no factual evidences or historical accuracies in myths. Legends are a mix of fact and fiction. Legends are usually stories that may have happened or were real but elements of mystery or myth have been added to the original incidents. Legends are mostly born out of realities and then they get fictionalized. Fables and fairy tales or tall tales are almost always made up of magical or unrealistic elements. They may or may not be inspired from real stories, real people or real places. The entire realm of fables, tall tales and fairy tales is imaginary. It could be utopian or dystopian, historic or narrated in the context of present day.