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Which is folklore and which is not?

McNeill defines folklore in a lengthy statement. She states, "Folklore is informal, traditional culture. It's all the cultural stuff—customs, stories, jokes, art—that we learn from each other, by word of mouth or observation, rather than through formal institutions like school or the media. . . . folklorists focus on the informal and traditional stuff, like urban legends and latrinalia."

There are also specific characteristics each text attaches to folkloric texts. Folklore is:

Informal/Unofficial (learned by word of mouth or observation)

Mostly anonymous (no one source or author is responsible for the text)

Creative cultural expression

Expressive (reveals some aspect of a group's identity/values)

Traditional/Conservative (has elements that remain consistent)

Dynamic/Variable (has elements that vary/change over time)

Using these definitions and characteristics, tell me which items are folklore and which are not. Then, do the following:

1) If the item is folklore, tell me how you know this based on the definitions and characteristics described above.

2) If the item is not folklore, state which type of culture the item falls under - is it pop culture or elite culture?


Bloody Mary


Beethoven's "Fifth Symphony"

Hansel and Gretel


Disney's The Lion King

Baby Yoda Memes


Moby Dick

1 Answer

  • 2 months ago

    Stop that crap.  You're trying to analyze and quantify an abstract concept, and it's not going to work.

    Folklore is anything from any culture that has not been historically verified, end of definition.  And despite what many will tell you, it's really damn hard to verify anything in history.  

    Folklore can be mostly-true, partially-true or completely made up.  It could even be 100% true, just not verified as such.  Again, verifying the past is extremely difficult.  Even recent historical events are hard to verify, as the documentation is almost never unbiased. 

    The Anansi is a well known figure in western African folklore.  Jesus is a well known figure in a lot of countries' folklore.  The moth-man is a famous folklore figure in Pennsylvania.  The slender guy is extremely modern folklore, since nobody had ever heard of him before 2009.  Hell, Keith Richards and Ozzy and Chuck Norris have folklore around them, and they're not even dead yet.

    But unlike other disciplines, folklore is not an exact science.  Math is an exact science, because the numbers either add up or they don't.  Physics is an exact science, because the building (or bridge or space shuttle or whatever) either collapses or it doesn't.  But folklore is called a liberal art for a reason, and that reason is it's not an exact science.

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