Multicultural Folklore

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					Multicultural Folklore
Pros and Cons

Benefits of sharing folklore:
• Folklore is the basis for much literature • Folklore patterns are basic forms of narrative that can help children to recognize narrative patterns and common literary motifs

Narrative Structure
• The story patterns of folktales can teach children some of the basic patterns they‟ll need to become good readers (to become literate) • Once upon a time there were three billy goats who . . .

• . . . And they all lived happily ever after

In literature, a term that denotes the recurrent presence of certain character types, objects, settings, or situations in diverse genres and periods of folklore and literature. Examples of motifs include swords, money, food, jewels, forests, oceans, castles, dungeons, tests of skill or wisdom, journeys, separations and reunions, chaos brought to order.

(from Columbia Encyclopedia online)

Cultural Literacy
The assumption that a literate person is able to recognize common narrative patterns and motifs.
The assumption that most people in any given culture will “get” a reference.

Folklore in the classroom:
• Because folktales follow similar patterns and have common motifs, they are good sites for comparing various literary elements. • What do the two picture books we read for today have in common?

Some possible drawbacks to consider when sharing multicultural folklore with children: • What might a folktale teach or not teach about a culture? • How can we tell if it is an actual folktale and not just a made-up story that sounds like a folktale? • How can we tell if a folktale from another culture is authentic and accurate?

Eliot A. Singer writes,
• In his essay, “Fakelore, Multiculturalism, and the Ethics of Children's Literature,” “Sure, children's „folktale‟ books are popular. Sure, parents, teachers, and even kids (sometimes) like them. Sure, they win prizes. Sure, they seem a swell way to learn about other times and other places. There's just one hitch. They ain't folk.” • Which books have we discussed in class that were made up folktales?

• “Some fakelore is total fabrication, utterly unconnected to any actual folklore sourcethe Paul Bunyan stories found in schoolbooks were never told by lumberjacks, Pecos Bill was not a cowboy hero, and all those cutesy „Indian‟ origin legends were created by nineteenth and twentieth-century romantics.”

Monica Edinger writes,
• “In the grad course on fairy tales I‟m currently co- teaching we just finished a lively discussion on multiculturalism. One of the books we considered was John Steptoe‟s Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, a beautiful Caldecott honor book that is often used in lessons about Africa because it is mistakenly thought to be an authentic folktale from Zimbabwe.”

Should we teach this book?
• As always, it‟s complicated.

Edinger continues,
• “Steptoe himself is honest by writing that the book, „was inspired by a folktale collected by G. M. Theal and published in 1895 in his book, Kaffir Folktales. Details of the illustrations were inspired by the ruins of an ancient city found in Zimbabwe, and the flora and fauna of that region.‟ Unfortunately, few seem to have investigated to see if it really is an appropriate choice to help American children learn about a place that is very far away and unfamiliar to them.”

Another “excellent” on-line lesson plan:
• “Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters is a folktale. Explain to students that folktales come from the oral tradition of literature and were passed orally through generations of people before they were written . . .” and so on . . .

Edinger concludes,
• “Our students agreed by the end of our discussions that this book was better used within a language arts unit than in a social studies unit. I agree wholeheartedly!”

• What does she mean by used in a language arts unit, not social studies? • How should the book be approached? How not?

Folklore adaptations
• Yeh-Shen is a translation of a Chinese story • The original Chinese text is included • Such translations or adaptations pose a different set of concerns for teachers

• The clothes in the narrative are not true to the period depicted, and the artistic style is not accurate. • Young, however, chose to adapt aspects of Chinese culture in order to creatively interpret the story (notice the fish on every page?!) • Some argue that something is always lost in translation, so a conscious re-interpretation may be more honest.