How to Use Folklore
Since folklore has no author, it’s impossible to write real folklore. However, folklore and mythology provide an endless source of inspiration for stories. Folk tales are born in the mysterious depths of human culture and history, and survive because they speak to something within us. The stories that get passed on are the ones that are the most resonant with human experience, and folk tales have been winning this competition for generations on end.
In science fiction and fantasy, you can also write fake folklore to give more detail to your fictional cultures. In order to do this, keep the following tips in mind:
- Give your folk stories a proper structure, with a beginning, middle, and end.
- Plan the stories to match the values and attributes of the culture. For example, a bloodthirsty horde of space pirates would probably tell folk stories about killing and pillaging, whereas the noble woodland elves would tell more peaceful and philosophical stories.
- The beginning should set the stage and introduce the major characters, plus some sort of conflict
- The middle should show the conflict being played out, and should involve some sort of growth on the part of at least one character
- The ending should tie up all the loose ends and show how the conflict is resolved (if at all).
- Be aware of the difference between folklore and mythology. These two concepts are very similar, but myths have a sacred or religious significance, whereas folklore does not. Thus, if you are creating a fictional culture you may also want to give it a mythology, with a creation story, an “end of the world” story, etc. But make sure you don’t confuse folklore with mythology.
When to Use Folklore
The best use of folklore is as inspiration for a story or poem. Think about the folk tales you heard as a child, or spend some time with a collection of folklore from around the world. Which stories speak to you, and why? What psychological insights do they contain? What makes the characters relatable, inspiring, and fearsome? By analyzing the appeal of your favorite folk tales, you can develop valuable insights for your own writing.