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Meaning Of Folktales and Major Themes For 2023

Meaning Of Folktales and Major Themes For 2023

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Folktales or storytelling began with the advent of civilization. Generations heard and experienced the power of the word through oral expression. Oral interpretation gave way to the written word when cave paintings, and stone tablets, became the means of conveying and preserving the story.

It was not until the end of the middle ages when Gutenberg invented the printing press that the ordinary person was instructed to read the written word. Prior to that time, folktales or storytelling were the primary sources of literary instruction and entertainment (MacKinney, 1996). However, limited research has been done on the effects or influence of storytelling on children’s learning in Nigeria.

The importance of folktales or storytelling has been demonstrated in the results of over 75 educational research (Wood, 1994). Gold and Gibson (2001) emphasize that storytelling is the foundation of literacy development. They also state that storytelling demonstrates the relationship between the printed word and meaning and invites the listener into a conversation with the author.

Trelease (1994) says that folktales or storytelling fosters the desire to read independently. It is like a TV or radio advert for literature. Folktales or storytelling time encourages children to grow as readers and broadens the types of literature they choose to read. The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading stories aloud to children (Anderson et al. 1985).

The concept of folktales

Folktales are stories in the oral tradition, or tales that people tell each other out loud, rather than stories in written form. They’re closely related to many storytelling traditions, including fables, myths, and fairy tales. Every human society has its own folktales; these well-known stories, handed down between generations, are an important way of passing along knowledge, information, and history.

The concept of songs

A song originating among the people of a country or area, passed by oral tradition from one singer or generation to the next, often existing in several versions and marked generally by simple, modal melody and stanzaic, narrative verse.


  1. The theme of love

The theme of love is one of the most predominant themes in African folktales because they seek to explore the love for nature and other creatures from God this can be seen in the story “One must always marry a man whose origins are known” thus :

In this village, there was a formidable hunter. This hunter fell in love with this young girl. But she did not want his love. In those days, the wild animals of the forest were transformed into human beings and came to the market. They came out to sell or store provisions there. These animals were, for example, tigers, hyenas, panthers or lions. One day, one of these human-looking animals courted the girl.

Immediately, she accepted and followed it home. Recall that, to take the human form, the animals borrowed the limbs of the body as well as the head. While he was going down to his home with the girl, he put his feet, his arms, and his head back on their owners. Now he was rolling on the ground next to the girl. They reached the bush. The young girl found herself in the midst of the great animals, which sometimes took on a human form, sometimes an animal form. So, she was afraid. However, she had no choice but to stay.

She cooked them. These animals sought ways and mean to find fault and devour it. One day, they gave him cereals for food. They told her that to serve everyone she should call him by name. But they knew she did not know them. Woutoutou, a bird of this forest, understood the shenanigans of these animals. Woutoutou whispered the names to the girl. She called the names without a problem when serving food. They could not, therefore, charge him to overflow that day.

The hunter of the village of the young queen went hunting and found himself in the forest where the young girl was. He made a promise to her to return to the village. The hunter returned to the village. He made a box in human form on the measurements of the girl. He returned to the forest to put the young girl there when all the animals had come out of the forest. On the way back the hunter with the crate on his head crossed a few animals including the one who had brought him into the forest. The animal, seeing the hunter, sang this song:

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(Goun song)

What means “Isn’t that Amboja?”

The hunter replied

(2nd song in Goun)

Which means “It’s like her but it’s not her?” So they went over and the hunter took the girl back to her parents. The girl’s parents were so happy to see their child again. They were also proud of the hunter’s heroism. So they gave him their daughter’s hand in marriage. That is why we do not marry a man overnight.

  1. The theme of wisdom,

wisdom is one of the major themes that is portrayed in folktales in my society thus could be seen in the tale of the “tortoise” the story goes thus Once upon a time, there was a great famine as a result of a strange drought in the Tortoise’s land. It was only the rich that could afford the barely available food. Poor Tortoise thought deeply as to how to make his family survive the famine.

He had been informed that food was available in a far-distant land known as Abam. Tortoise prepared himself and embarked on a journey to the land. He would get food for his household at all costs. It was a journey of about seven market days. Immediately he entered Abam, the people took him to their king because they had heard many stories about his mischiefs. They knew about his cunning and mischievous activities.

The king told Tortoise that he must perform a task for him if he wished to stay in his domain throughout the period of the famine. Tortoise asked the king to just state the task and he would carry it out accordingly. The king told Tortoise that he heard he was very wise and could deceive anyone. He said he would put Tortoise to the test in order to ascertain the truth in all that he had heard about him. He gave Tortoise a grain of maize and asked him to obtain a wife for him with it within seven days. If Tortoise failed, he would be killed; but if he succeeded, he would be made a chief in the kingdom.

Meaning Of Folktales and Major Themes For 2023

Indeed, the task seemed very difficult for Tortoise; but he was equal to the task. He always found his way out. He had done, perhaps, more difficult things in the past. Yes, it was such a challenge that proved a strong man, Tortoise thought. He was not in doubt of his mental capability to surmount the task before him. Then Tortoise paid obeisance to the king and set out for the journey. Tortoise got to a village towards sunset; he pleaded with an inhabitant of that village to accommodate him in his house for the night. After some careful consideration, the man agreed to allow him to spend the night in his house; but he was inwardly suspicious of Tortoise.

He only decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. When Tortoise saw that the man had granted his request, he dipped his hand into his bag and brought out the grain of maize. He told the man that it was a special grain given to him by the spirit of his late father; that the grain could yield more than seven sacks of grains if planted. The man believed it was a special grain since it came from the spirit world. Tortoise asked the man to let him keep the grain on the ground of his open compound so that the gentle light of the dying sun could shine on it, as instructed by his late father’s spirit. The man obliged him.

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As soon as Tortoise dropped the grain of maize on the ground, one of the men’s cocks sighted, ran, picked at, and swallowed it. This made Tortoise weep too bitterly. The man consoled him, but he wept even more. He asked Tortoise what should be done. He told the man that the only remedy to the situation was to let him go with the cock, so that he could get his grain of maize when the cock excreted. He promised to return the cock when he had gotten his grain. The man accepted Tortoise’s suggestion.

In the morning, Tortoise left with the cock. He proceeded with his journey. At sunset, Tortoise entered another village. He met a man and begged him for shelter because it was getting dark. The man granted his request, took his cock, and kept it in his goat and sheep pen. This gesture made Tortoise very happy because things seemed to be working themselves out. Deep in the night, Tortoise woke up and went straight to the animal stable. He quietly strangled the cock and ran back to bed.

  1. the theme of greed,

folktales in our locality full of themes of greed and Greed is an uncontrolled longing for an increase in the acquisition or use of material gain; or social value, such as status, or power this could be seen in “Greedy Anansi” This is a story about a boy. His name was Anansi. There was a great famine in the country where Anansi lived. Anansi and his little brothers and sisters were very hungry.

The boy could not think of anything but food. “This hunger will kill me!” he often said. One day he went out of the house and walked to the seashore. “I shall try to catch a little fish,” he thought. He sat on the seashore watching, watching, watching – but nothing came. Then suddenly he saw a green island in the sea. Anansi climbed into a little red boat. And soon he came to the green island. He got out of the boat, stood under the tree, and looked up at big nuts high above him. He tried to climb up the tree and get the nuts, but that was not easy. He tried again and again. But he could not get the nuts.

The nuts were laughing at him! “I’ll get you, my dear nuts!” he said. And he tried again and again to get the nuts. At last, he got one nut. “Now I have you!” he cried. He tried to throw it into his little boat, but the nut fell into the sea. “Well, there are many more nuts in the tree,” said Anansi. But the second nut fell into the sea, too. Seven times that happened. Seven good big nuts were in the sea! The wind carried them far far away. The boy cried and cried. But nuts have no ears! They did not come back. Then Anansi went to the forest. He saw a little house there. An old man came out of the house.

Meaning Of Folktales and Major Themes For 2023

  1. The Theme of Deceits,

in our society, deceit is seen in so many folktales for example in the tale “Why the Bat flies by Night” A bush rat called Oyot was a great friend of Emiong, the bat; they always fed together, but the bat was jealous of the bush rat. When the bat cooked the food it was always very good, and the bush rat said, “How is it that when you make the soup it is so tasty?” The bat replied, “I always boil myself in the water, and my flesh is so sweet, that the soup is good.”

He then told the bush rat that he would show him how it was done; so he got a pot of warm water, which he told the bush rat was boiling water and jumped into it, and very shortly afterward came out again. When the soup was brought it was as strong and good as usual, as the bat had prepared it beforehand.

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The bush rat then went home and told his wife that he was going to make good soup like the bats. He, therefore, told her to boil some water, which she did. Then, when his wife was not looking, he jumped into the pot and was very soon dead. When his wife looked into the pot and saw the dead body of her husband boiling she was very angry and reported the matter to the king, who gave orders that the bat should be made a prisoner.

Everyone turned out to catch the bat, but as he expected trouble he flew away into the bush and hid. All day long the people tried to catch him, so he had to change his habits and only came out to feed when it was dark, and that is why you never see a bat in the daytime.

  1. The Theme of Betrayal,

 in most of the folktales in my society, the theme of betrayal is seen in most of the tales, the reason for this is to show that betraying is not a good habit in society and should be avoided, this is seen in the tale of “Why the Sun and the Moon live in the Sky” thus Many years ago the sun and water were great friends, and both lived on the earth together. The sun very often used to visit the water, but the water never returned his visits.

At last, the sun asked the water why he never came to see him in his house, the water replied that the sun’s house was not big enough and that if he came with his people he would drive the sun out. He then said, “If you wish me to visit you, you must build a very large compound; but I warn you that it will have to be a tremendous place, as my people are very numerous, and take up a lot of room.” The sun promised to build a very big compound, and soon afterward he returned home to his wife, the moon, who greeted him with a broad smile when he opened the door. The sun told the moon what he had promised the water, and the next day commenced building a huge compound in which to entertain his friend.

Meaning Of Folktales and Major Themes For 2023

When it was completed, he asked the water to come and visit him the next day. When the water arrived, he called out to the sun and asked him whether it would be safe for him to enter, and the sun answered, “Yes, come in, my friend.” The water then began to flow in, accompanied by the fish and all the water animals. Very soon the water was knee-deep, so he asked the sun if it was still safe, and the sun again said, “Yes,” so more water came in.

When the water was level with the top of a man’s head, the water said to the sun, “Do you want more of my people to come?” and the sun and moon both answered, “Yes,” not knowing any better, so the water flowed on until the sun and moon had to perch themselves on the top of the roof. Again the water addressed the sun, but receiving the same answer, and more of his people rushing in, the water very soon overflowed the top of the roof, and the sun and moon were forced to go up into the sky, where they have remained ever since.

Meaning Of Folktales and Major Themes For 2023


In conclusion, stories from Africa have traditionally been passed down by word of mouth. Often, after a hard day’s work, the adults would gather the children together by moonlight, around a village fire, and tell stories. This was traditionally called ‘Tales by Moonlight’. Usually, the stories are meant to prepare young people for life, and so each story taught a lesson or moral.

Mr. Harrison

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