May 4, 2022
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Folk traditions

Folklore is oral folk art that arose even before the advent of writing and combined all types of art: music, dance, literature, theater. Folklore traditions serve as a manifestation of the ethnic traits of the people, their worldview, spiritual culture and moral principles, in translation the word folk-lore means “folk wisdom”.

Folk traditions

Folklore genres

According to stylistic and plot features, folklore is usually divided into several types.

Epic genres:

  1. Bylina. A vocal and poetic work, the characters of which are heroes reflecting the moral ideals of the people. Epics describe historical events, and the reliability of these events is combined with obvious elements of fantasy that embellish the physical and moral qualities of the characters.
  2. history song. A piece of music that differs from an epic by its smaller size and greater reliability in the presentation of events and facts.
  3. Story. A literary genre of folklore with an everyday or heroic plot. The fairy tale is characterized by the obvious fiction of the plot, its heroes can be people, animals or fantastic characters.
  4. Tradition. A true or fictional historical account. The plot of the story is usually built on one bright, extraordinary episode. Such literary folklore traditions describe significant events in the life of the people or rare natural anomalies that have occurred. In the process of passing from mouth to mouth, historical information can be interpreted, gradually bringing the legend closer to the legend.


Lyric genres:

  1. Proverb – a grammatically complete sentence in which a judgment about something is expressed in an instructive form. For example: “The word is not a sparrow: it will fly out – you won’t catch it.”
  2. Proverb – a short phrase or phrase that is included in a sentence in order to more clearly express the attitude to the subject of conversation in a literal or figurative sense. For example: “Not everything is Shrove Tuesday for a cat.”
  3. Chastushka – a genre of song folklore, most often represented by humorous or satirical quatrains set to music.
  4. Lullaby – an instrumental melody or song for lulling an infant, a very ancient genre of folklore. In folk culture, lullabies have retained elements of ritual songs, amulets and incantations.


Folk drama (another term is folklore theater) belongs to the dramatic genre of folklore. This is a theatrical performance that does not have a fixed text and allows some changes in the plot when performed from the stage.

Folklore traditions of Russia

Established throughout the vast geographical space of the country, Russian folklore traditions have a pronounced unity. The folk art of Russia includes family and calendar ritual folklore, epic genres, lyrical and dance songs, ditties, instrumental music and folk theater.

Important historical events are displayed in historical songs, feats of arms of heroes (Ilya Muromets, Dobrynya Nikitich, Alyosha Popovich) are described in epics. Popular heroes of Russian folk tales are Ivan Tsarevich, Emelya, Ivan the Fool, Vasilisa the Beautiful, the evil wolf, the cunning fox, Kolobok, Baba Yaga. Among the national musical instruments there are both common Russian ones (accordion, balalaika, violin), and those characteristic only for certain regions (harp, horn, zhaleyka, multi-barreled tambourine flute).

Folklore traditions of Russia

European folklore

The folklore traditions of European countries have many similarities, since they developed against the background of centuries of close contact between the cultures of the peoples inhabiting this part of the world.

The heroes of most epics and fairy tales of the countries of Western Europe are supernatural creatures: trolls, goblins, boggles (ghosts), wigets (brownies), evil sorcerers and witches. Folk heroes are sung in historical songs: the English Robin Hood, the Scottish Honest Thomas, the French Roland and Joan of Arc.

In Eastern European, Slavic folklore, the heroes of fairy tales and legends were often brave knights and the beauties they saved, good fairies, elves, nixes (mermaids), goblin and brownies endowed with magical abilities. Ordinary people (Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella) and various animals also acted as fairy tale characters: the enterprising Puss in Boots, the cunning Fox, the smart Mouse who can read books.

European folklore

American folklore

The peculiarity of the folklore traditions that exist on the American continent is that until the 16th century they were based solely on the myths and beliefs of indigenous peoples: Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts. These were legends and tales about the creation of the world and the origin of people, ritual songs and dances. New customs, new genres of folklore and new heroes appeared after the arrival of Europeans in America.

Many American folk songs and ballads are arrangements of British vocal works, arranged for a different cast or instrument. National American musical instruments can be considered:

  • banjo string instruments, chord zither (autoharp), varieties of zither dulcimer and autoharp, guitar;
  • pincollo – reed Indian flute;
  • maracas – shock-noise instrument like a rattle;
  • kuika – a leather drum that makes squeaky sounds;
  • trutruku is an instrument shaped like an alpine horn.

The modern epic folklore of America has united different forms of creativity of peoples: stories about natural disasters and supernatural phenomena (especially about voodoo), legends and mythological stories, numerous types of fairy tales and fables about animals and birds.

American folklore

The most popular heroes of American epics, historical stories and legends are super cowboy Bill, the “sea wolf” captain Stromalong, the lumberjack giant Paul Bunyan and his companion bull Baby Blue. Mythical creatures in fairy tales and folklore theatrical performances are represented by the horned hare Jackalope, the sea monster Chessy, the evil wolf-like Chupacabra, the cannibal spirit Wendigo. Widely known almost all over the world are the American analogue of the European St. Nicholas Santa Claus and the semi-mythical marmot Phil, according to legend, predicting the coming of spring.

Indian folklore

It is believed that the impetus for the development of folklore in India was given by the sacred text Samaveda, written at the beginning of our era. It said that legends passed down from generation to generation and music that connects the human soul with nature were given to people by the gods. Today, India has a huge number of epic works preserved in the oral tradition and recorded in Sanskrit, they cover the entire centuries-old history of the people. One of the main folklore monuments are the poems “Mahabharata” and “Ramayana”.

Indian songs and dances are very melodic and have a special, bewitching rhythm. Among ethnic Indian musical instruments:

  • tabla and darbuka drums;
  • sarangi string instrument;
  • plucked sitar and sarod;
  • the bansuli family of bamboo flutes;
  • zurna – a reed woodwind instrument with a double reed and a bell;
  • singing bowls – a musical instrument from the group of bells.

Indian folklore

Folklore of African peoples

Among the folklore traditions of the world, the creativity of the peoples of Africa is rich and diverse. Music, dances, epic tales and visual arts in African tribes developed in close connection with each other, and in the absence of writing they carried not only aesthetic and educational, but also informational load.

A characteristic feature of African epic folklore is mythology and primitive simplicity. In the plots of fairy tales, epics and legends, sages often serve as heroes, whose advice helps in family relationships, or tricksters – anthropomorphic creatures endowed with the features of a cunning rogue and mocker.

Folklore of African peoples

Music in Africa is used in rituals and religious ceremonies, it sounds on holidays and on weekdays. Africans believe that melodic sounds have a life force, a special form of energy that governs all living beings. The complex rhythmic combinations characteristic of African music are created by percussion instruments: drums (there are about a dozen different types), xylophones, tambourines, castanets, shakers.

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