Read By Mitchell Stuart
What is Traditional Literature?
Traditional literature is the genre of stories that have passed down through generations of people usually by word of mouth. As they were written down significantly later than they were created, some of them have been changed slightly as they have been passed down. For instance, Cinderella’s name has been Zezolla and Cendrillon in past versions. Despite these alterations the main story still remains.
The purpose of traditional literature is that its story is relatable to the masses. Strong themes run through the genre such as good vs evil, weak vs strong, beautiful vs ugly and rich vs poor. Whether the characters be magical or non-human the message of the story is something that the wide majority will understand and usually value.
The origins of traditional literature are unknown. Most of the original authors or composers of the stories are a mystery. Often a story from the genre is made from the work of a collective that passes the story around until the form of it begins to settle. The stories are created to communicate beliefs, explain natural phenomena or to pass down values that are important within a culture. A lot of these stories were written down a lot longer after they were created because they came from societies who couldn’t write.
Whilst the stories in traditional literature can vary the character types seem to stay consistent. In mind of their audience, characters are usually broken into two main groups; the good and the bad. The protagonist is usually given a mission at the beginning of the story that seems impossible to achieve and the villain of the story is assigned the task of keeping the protagonist from achieving this mission at any cost.
The characters don’t have to be human; they have been animals and gods. They all seem to hold the same trait that they are introduced with at the beginning. If they are introduced as bad to our reader, they stay bad, there is no personal growth or change of heart.
Types of Traditional Literature
Traditional literature can be broken down into a number of catergories; fairytales, folklore, animal tales, myths, legends. The four most common types are listed below:
- Fairytales – These stories often involve romance and include the lines ‘a long time ago’ or ‘in a faraway land.’ The characters include enchanted creatures such as witches, giants and dragons and take place in grand locations like castles or enchanted forests. Common themes include royalty, magic and the famous ‘happily ever after’ ending. The most common example of this is Cinderella, a beautiful girl that is kept as a slave by her evil stepmother and ugly sisters who all treat her terribly. When her fairy godmother appears to grant her a wish, she wishes to go to the ball. Cinderella meets the Prince at the ball and after a bit of confusion with a glass slipper she is rescued and they marry. The underlying lesson is that kindness and love will always conquer evil.
- Fables – Fables are often short stories and heavily symbolic. Morals are portrayed in them and are used to educate the readers. Stories usually include a small amount of characters that are usually talking animals and has a very important life lesson that usually gets expressed at the end. The most popular example is The Hare and the Tortoise. The hare mocks the tortoise for how slow he is and challenges him to a race. During the race, the Hare speeds off and becomes so over confident in his ability that he decides to take a nap. The tortoise overtakes him and wins the race. The lesson of the story is that perseverance is more worthy than speed or strength.
- Legends – Unlike fairytales and fables, legends are thought to be based on real events or those thought to have been real. The stories portray heroism or give an explanation to something that might be inexplicable. Common themes include events that have occurred in the past and a hero that has an astonishing ability. One of the most famous examples of a legend is the story of Robin Hood. Prince Edward claims the throne whilst King Richard is away. During his time on the throne, Prince Edward enforces severe taxes on the poor making it extremely hard for the population to live. Robin Hood and his band of merry men plot to rob Prince Edward and give the money back to the poor.
- Myths – A myth is a traditional story written to explain why people believe the things they do. It often specifies a relationship between a human and a particular god, goddess or hero. Myths are fictional stories that explain to the reader how our world works and how we should treat one another. They were often used to pass on values of a particular culture. Myths look to answer life’s questions such as ‘how did our world come to be?’ and ‘why do tornadoes happen?’
The Benefits of Traditional Literature
Traditional literature tends to appeal to children and often the stories lend themselves to child-like imaginations. They give us hope in the face of challenges that we will encounter in our life time and inspire children to live good lives. It provides entertainment to the masses whilst passing on important cultural morals and values in a strong rhythm, rhyme and repetition that are tailored wonderfully to a child’s developing memory and imagination.
Modern literature has benefited greatly from traditional literature as they have carried over a lot of the fantasy and enchanting characteristics whilst still containing an underlying moral message such as The Hobbit and Great Expectations.
Storys passed down through the generations with no known author. I have always been intregued bythis genre as its sense of mystery and unknown lets the imagination run free when reading one of the many classics. I hope you enjoy reading the piece i have written explaining this genre as much as I enjoyed writing it. Mitchell Stuart.