KOLEC Lesson 07: Genres of Oral Literature - Part 1

KOLEC Lesson 07: Genres of Oral Literature - Part 1


~ PART ONE ~  


According to the historical development of literature and literary modes of presentation, literature is divided into two major types:- 

(1) Oral literature, and 

(2) Written literature. 


This is a type of literature that is handed down or presented orally from one generation to another.

This form of literature was practised much before the invention of writings. However, until today, oral literature is still dominant in various modern societies. 



The following are the forms of oral literature. 

(1) Folktale

This is a fictional traditional story about animals or human beings that is usually passed down from one generation to another in a particular society. Folktales begin with 'Once upon a time', 'long time ago', or 'many years ago' and end with 'They lived happily ever after.' 

Examples of folktales:- 

- Cinderella 

- Tortoise and the Hare  


(2) Fable

A fable is an animal story that tries to teach people how to behave. In a fable, animals, plants, and objects are characters or are made to act as if they were human. 

Fables often deliver a moral lesson that may or may not be clearly stated at the end. 

Examples of fable stories:- 

  • Aesop's Fables 
  • 'Kalulu the Hare' 
  • The Hare and the Tortoise
  • The Lion and the Mouse 

The following are the examples of fables and their moral lessons they teach:

  • "The Lion and the Mouse" - The unpredictability of kind actions or making friends with those who are different.  
  • "The Tortoise and the Hare" - The vice of arrogance, the virtue of consistency and the danger of making assumptions about the abilities of others. 
  • "The Goose That Laid Golden Eggs" - The vice of greed.

(3) Fairy tale

The fairy tale is a fictional traditional story that usually involves magical, imaginary and mythical creatures like witches, elves, trolls, goblins, and fairies. 

Fairy itself is an imaginary creature that appears in various cultures. 

Nowadays, most fairy tales have been adapted into animated stories. Fairy tales are meant to entertain. 

An example of fairy tale story:-  

  • Cinderella 

(4) Trickster tale

A trickster tale is a folktale in which a trickster is a hero. In trickster stories, animals act like human beings by playing tricks on other animals and human beings as well. Trickster tales are popular and are found in almost every culture. Every culture or society has its trickster hero or character.  

Examples of trickster heroes:-  

In Africa:  

  • Tortoise
  • The Hare (Kalulu in Kiswahili). Popular in East Africa. 

In West Africa: 

  • Anansi the Spider.  

Note: The book "Kalulu The Hare" by Frank Worthington is also an example. It has a lot of wonderful stories about the clever and cunning hare. 

(5) Parable

A parable is a story that teaches a basic truth, moral or religious principle. It usually involves ordinary people who are faced with a moral dilemma. 

Examples of parables:-  

*Secular parables:  These are parables that are not originated from the religious beliefs: 

  • Boy Who Cried Wolf 
  • The Man and His Two Wives 

*Aesop's fables: These parables are those that were written by the Greek writer called 'Aesop': 

  • "The Lion and the Mouse"
  • "The Boy Who Cried Wolf"
  • "The Tortoise and the Hare"
  • "The Goose That Laid Golden Eggs"

*Religious parables: As its name suggests, these are parables from the religious sacred books especially Bible: 

  • The Rich and Lazarus 
  • The Good Samaritan 
  • The Mustard Seed  
  • The Prodigal son 


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Emmanuel Kachele

Emmanuel Kachele is a founder and Blogger of KACHELE ONLINE Blog, an educational blog where 'O' Level English - 'OLE', 'A' Level English (ALE) and other related teaching and life skills are shared extensively. This is an online center for all Tanzanian Secondary School English Language students and teachers (Forms I-VI) and all interested English Language learners and teachers worldwide.

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