In Dec of 1999, I remember sitting on a metal folding chair in a big empty room. The room is in a 60 year old fire house. And technically, it’s not a room, it’s where we parked the fire service vehicles. The space also doubles as the bingo hall/meeting space. On that night, with about 15 or so people there, they decided that I was an OK person to let into their volunteer fire department. Of all the things I knew I would learn about the fire service, I didn’t realize that one of them would be fire service folklore. Truefuly, I didn’t even have a clear understanding of what folklore meant. Now as I write this post, I understand the importance folklore has on a few types of storytelling. I also have a better understanding of why defining types of storytelling can be pretty hard.
The definition as I understand it
I used to think that folklore is connected to some old story from the 1700’s and 1800’s. It would talk about some far away time in a rural place. Then I read the definition form from dictionary.com which states: the traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth.(1) Put another way, folklore is a collection of things about a culture of a group of people. Normally, ordinary people. Not just long ago culture, but today’s culture. Sure fire service folklore explains things like why a fire hydrant is called a “plug”. It also explains why we fight fires the way we do now, not how we did years ago. It’s everything from the uniform we wear to the story on why we wear it the way we do.
For our journey to understanding types of storytelling let’s be clear: folklore is not Storytelling. But types of storytelling are a part of folklore. Here are the examples I found and will be talking about over the next few blog post:
- Folk tales
Why are different types of storytelling so hard to tell a part?
One reason is because they are a part of a bigger system meant to preserve culture. Each one of the story types mentioned above help to keep a person’s culture alive, but do so a little differently. While there can be some debate on how a story is structured when written and told, there are elements that are common to all stories. Given that the four mentioned above serve as a way to keep culture alive, it makes sense that they have things in common. Folktales and fables many times have a lesson that is being explained. Myths and legends many times explain why things are. These story types are similar, yet different. So far, this is a common trait I have seen through storytelling as a whole.
A new question that popped up
If folklore is meant to show the culture of a people, does the new genre of personal narrative storytelling fit into folklore? For those new to storytelling, know that the question I just asked is equivalent to asking which came first, the chicken or the egg? Lots of people are going to have an answer, very few people will agree. Well, good thing I am working on a definition of personal narrative storytelling later in this blogpost series.
For now, know that it’s important to understand what folklore is to understand the impact of folktales, fables, myths, and legends. They play a bigger role in the overall system of keep cultures alive. They are just another way of telling your story on purpose
Places to get more info
Here are some of the places I got the info used in this post. Feel free to check them out and tell me your thoughts. If you have other resources that I should look at, let me know.
Folklore Fragments Podcast, Ep 1 “What is Folklore”