Folk tale: what it is, its main characteristics and structure


What is a folk tale?

It is known as folk tale to a type of narrative that is characterized because it is transmitted from generation to generation, that is, it is part of the oral literature, hence it receives its name because of the ease with which it can be spread in a given region, as well as reach even a wider scope.

The folk tale is a creation of a collective, since they continue to be formed as they pass through each of the people who, in turn, build the story according to their memory. It is a type of literature that begins within the oral literature but that, later, is recorded in writing, since they were memorized by narrators dedicated to spread them.

Main characteristics of the folk tale

The following is a series of characteristics that will allow us to distinguish this type of oral literature from others that also fall into this category. Its most important features are:

About the author

This type of literature is distinguished mainly because it lacks a recognized author. As we mentioned, the folk tale is constructed and takes shape in each person who recites, tells or remembers it, as he or she tends to add terms or modify it according to his or her language and context, so that it can continue to be applied in that area. That is why the folk tale does not have a specific author to whom the creation of the work is attributed.

Diversity of themes

Another important aspect of the folk tale has to do with the variety of themes it can include. However, a great part of this type of tales are oriented to different areas of human life. Thus, an important compilation of folk tales tells us about joy, sadness, revenge, heroes and villains, among many others.

On the other hand, we also find folktales that usually deal with issues related to protagonists who must overcome an obstacle, a villain who causes trouble, among others. These tales always end with a happy ending.

Intention of the folk tale

Although the purpose of this type of oral literature may vary according to the modality or subject matter, most of them have been distinguished for being oriented to teaching or explaining aspects that are difficult to understand. That is why this type of literature is passed from generation to generation, generally from parents to children or from adults to children, to teach about a subject, for example about morality, beliefs about life, etc.

Cultural approach

The rapid dissemination of folktales allows them to reach other regions and with it, other cultures. That is why, in addition to the construction in each member of the community, the folk tale takes shape according to the context in which it arrives, thus showing the culture of the area in which it is built once it arrives. However, there are elements that prevail, so that in many areas and cultures the tales can be very similar.

What is a folk tale

Structure of the folk tale

In the same way that the narrative genre has established a scheme for storytelling, the folk tale follows this scheme that facilitates storytelling. Thus, the structure that follows is usually the following:


It consists of the first part of the tale in which we begin with the presentation of the main characters. This part is very important because it determines what is going to be altered or what the characters are going to face and which is developed in the following part of the story.


It is the central part of the story in which all the conflict initially raised takes place with the characters who have also already been introduced. In this section the most important events of the whole story take place, the moment in which the characters face a certain situation.


After the development of the main problem of the story, the last part consists of solving this event. In this way, the denouement sets the climax of the situation where everything takes its assigned place and ends the narrative.

The folk tale is a type of literature that, according to its theme, has been classified in other formats, although these will be more visible in written literature, where they appear with a defined scheme. However, it is usually attributed initial subgenres such as fairy tales and tales of customs, to which many experts point out that it is developed in the costumbrista literature.

To learn about other types of oral literature, remember that in our section you can find them all. Also, much more information will be available to continue learning about the literary world.