Comparison of a Scottish and American storyteller and their Märchen repertoires
McDermitt, Barbara Rice Damron
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There have been many attempts made by folklore scholars from the late nineteenth century to the present to formulate a classification system in folklore that would make it possible to clearly define folklore genres. Limited success has been achieved always to be blocked by a look at the problem from yet another angle. In identification problems relating specifically to folk narratives the earlier scholars recognized myths, legends and folk tales as general categories to be found universally in all cultures, but they made no attempt to clear up the blurred lines between and within these divisions. Comparative folklorists arbitrarily divided prose narratives according to themes or subject matter. They assumed that similar themes constituted a single genre. Roughly, stories of ritual and belief that explained origins of a people, related adventures of their gods, gave spiritual guidelines to day to day living and were believed were considered myths; other "true" narratives about people and places in the recent past, but not having to do with religion were loosely gathered under the heading of legends; and tales of make-believe told mainly for entertainent were called folktales or Marchen. Certainly the examination of themes is important to the study and comparison of prose narratives. However, as a method of classification on its own it produced confusion.