A quarterly specialized journal
The Message Of Folklore from Bahrain To The World

The Folktale: Structure and connotation

Issue 40
The Folktale: Structure and connotation

By Dr. Rashid Wadiji, Morocco


Like fairytales and legends, the folktale is a distinctive type of story. It is not a general type of tale that falls under the umbrella of other tales, despite what some researchers have stated. The facts, events, heroes and motives differentiate it from other tales.


The functional approach, which focuses on the tale’s function and purpose, the thematic approach, which focuses on the story’s theme, and the morphological approach, which focuses on the internal construction of the story, can be used to classify and characterise the tale. However, there is still no consensus on the name for this type of tale. Some people still insist on calling it an oral tale rather than a folktale, while others classify it as a riddle or even a myth.


Folk literature and folklore are more democratic than written literature because they spread information, knowledge, and experience to the public without any preconditions. Written literature must be read; this makes literacy a pre-requisite, and excludes an important segment of society.

Because the folktale is not written down, it is subject to frequent additions and deletions according to the context and the narrator’s experience; this means it is not ‘stable’. Folktales have no known creator, which means they belong to everyone. The folktale is a type of narrative art that requires listening, rather than the pictures upon which we depend in the current era. Folktales are often associated with grandmothers and mothers, so they offer insights into the way women’s minds work.

The study also attempts to answer the following questions: Were folktales originally myths that have been distorted over time, or are they based on popular folk literature such as The Arabian Nights, Kalila and Dimna, Hayy ibn Yaqzan, and Sayf ibn Dhī-Yazan? Are they simply stories from the collective imagination about an event or value that grandparents wanted to pass on to the next generation? What about their themes? Do they separate the audience from reality, given that the weak are always victorious over the strong and that good overcomes evil?

If the folktale is an important source of children's literature, why is it not included in teaching curricula? Is this omission intentional?

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