Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Start Preserving Those Family Folktales

The holidays are here and in many families the season includes getting together with family and friends.

What a perfect time to start asking questions about the lives of the people you will share the holidays with. Get your uncle to talk about his hobby. How did he get started on it. What about your cousin's artistic talent; did he or she ever display any art? Or maybe your friend became a warrior when she challenged a health care company's decision to not cover the cost of her medical care.

All of these examples are the perfect material for family folktales. You can either take notes or write down later what you recall about the stories people told. In most cases you can probably ask questions at a later date if there's something you need to clarify.

The fun is in capturing stories that have not yet been preserved and then sharing them with others.

The beauty in writing these folktales which are based upon any one of hundreds of folktale motifs (artist, chef, scientist, wizard, first Christmas, funny Christmas, etc.) is that they will last forever. Unlike electronic recording devices that are dependent upon equipment working properly, the written information won't be lost if your computer or camcorder crashes.

Just to be on the safe side, though, make sure you print out any stories you have typed into your computer and/or store on removable flash drives.

So with that in mind, be thinking about the people you are with this holiday season and don't be surprised to find out that almost everyone has a folktale to tell!


  1. This is a great idea. There are so many story tellers in any given family or setting. It would be a wonderful idea to preserve them.

  2. They are both hard of hearing so it makes it difficult to communicate, but I plan to get my dad and my grandmother to talk about their families and childhood when I visit them next time. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. What a wonderful idea. I wish I had written down some the storis my grandpa had shared from his youth. And a great idea for grandparents to write down such stories to leave behind or to record telling a story so you'd have their voice also.

    Barbara Techel
    Award winning author of the Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog Book Series
    My passion is bringing a positive face and voice to animals with disabilities
    Frankie is Official Mascot for National Disabled Pets Day and
    Wisconsin Pet Hall of Fame Companion Dog

  4. This is a wonderful reminder. The stories of our families are the most precious, and too often we ignore this. I have many wonderful memories from the things my grandma and grandpa told me but have never written them down.

  5. Karen, thank you for a thought-provoking post. I hadn't really thought of family stories as folk tales; but after reading your article, I'm seeing them in a new the time my grandfather came to visit and mistook the dog's flea soap for Lifebuoy! Or the time...guess I'd better start writing them down!--Donna B. Russell,

  6. The true beauty of today's family folktale is that it can be preserved as a written piece or as an audio/visual segment. In some cases it's easiest for people to videotape their family members recounting stories.
    One person recently wrote to me that is going to create a blog for her family to post their own folktales.
    What a marvelous idea!

  7. Yvonne,
    Yes, when visiting your family be sure to get them to talk about their stories. The good news is that folktales don't have to be complex or lengthy. Often they are only a page in length.
    PLUS they don't have to be substantiated by historical data as they are stories from the heart.
    Enjoy the process!

  8. Barbara,
    You can still preserve what you recall of the family stories! My grandfather was from the Isle of Rhodes and I recall him talking about camel races in Turkey. I don't remember much more than that but it has been included in a list of mini-folktales that I have collected.
    You could easily do the same thing!
    Best, Karen

  9. Go for it, Cherie! These make wonderful hand-me-down gifts...
    best, Karen

  10. DBR,
    LOL! Okay, you owe it to us to write that folktale. When it's done I'd like to include it as a guest blog. This story is much more than priceless!!!!
    Best, Karen