Traffic map
Article updated: 9/12/2012 2:34 PM

The story behind folk tales, fairy tales, legends, myths and fables

A Paul Bunyan figure stands over Lambs Farm near Libertyville.

A Paul Bunyan figure stands over Lambs Farm near Libertyville.


Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 1 of 1 
text size: AAA
By Hope Babowice

• Students in Elise Diaz's fifth grade class at O'Plaine School in Gurnee asked, "What is the difference between a folk tale, fairy tale, legend, myth, and a fable?"

Folk tales, like the story of Paul Bunyan and his giant blue ox Babe, use colorful characters to describe daring feats from long ago.


Check it out

The Warren-Newport Public Library District in Gurnee suggests these titles on folk tales, fairy tales, legends, myths and fables:
Ÿ"Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears," by Verna Aardema
Ÿ"New Handbook for Storytellers," by Caroline Feller Bauer
Ÿ"Beauty and the Beast," by Jan Brett
Ÿ"The Bronze Cauldron: Myths and Legends of the World," by Geraldine McCaughrean
Ÿ"The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood," by Howard Pyle
Ÿ"Aesop's Fables," by Brad Sneed

Those stories, along with fairy tales, legends, myths and fables, are a framework writers have used to comment on the world around us, the troubles humans face throughout life, and to explain natural phenomena like the change of the seasons.

Some of these stories are written, while others are retold through oral tradition. Some of the authors are famous, like Aesop, a Greek slave who wrote more than 350 fables. Other age-old sagas have passed through so many generations that the original author has been forgotten.

"Myths often have superhuman or divine characters. Although every culture has its own myths, some of the best known come from ancient Greece," said Nathan Breen, professor of English at the College of Lake County.

Legends tell the stories of human heroes, Breen explains. Folk tales are a type of legend and usually are not in written form.

Fairy tales feature good and evil fairies.

"One of the most famous fairy tales is 'Sleeping Beauty,' written by Charles Perrault over 300 years ago," Breen said. "In Perrault's version there are eight fairies -- seven good and one bad -- whereas the Walt Disney movie simplifies this to three good fairies and one bad."

Fables are short stories that often use talking animals to narrate the story.

"In most cases, the lesson is given as the last line of the story," Breen said.

All of these types of stories are popular literature.

"Myths, fairy tales, folk tales, legends and fables all fall into the category of popular literature, literature for and usually by the people rather than the elite classes," Breen said.

Comments ()
We are now using Facebook comments to offer a more inclusive, social and constructive discussion. Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.
Latest Video


Most Commented
Top Jobs

    View all Top Jobs Place a job ad



    • Newspaper next section - Newspaper next section Report card checker - report card checker
    • Dh innovation award 2 - Dh innovation award 2 Zillow /real estate page
    • Discuss refer On Guard series
    • Newspaper archives -- Monday or anyday Mike North



    Connect with a business or service in your area fast. First select a town, then enter a search term or choose one of the listed popular searches:

    Don't see your town listed? Visit our full directory to begin your search.