The Definition of African Folktales Revisited

  • Samuel Amanor Dseagu
Keywords: Bascom folktale, definition, contemporary, constestation, African folktales, case study, unsustainability of African folktale definition


Many academics and researchers of African folktales in Africa follow Bascom’s (1965) definition of folktales as fiction that is not taken seriously in traditional societies in contrast to legends and myths which are taken seriously. Citing views of some of Bascom’s contemporaries as contextual evidence, the paper argues that Bascom’s definition was contested in his own time. The paper also uses samples of academic papers and dissertations in Africa that follow Bascom’s definition as case study to demonstrate studies that use Bascom’s definition at the starting point invariably contradict themselves later in their discussions when they treat African folktales as tools of education in traditional societies. The paper concludes that the notion of African folktales as fiction that not taken seriously by traditional societies is unsustainable in the analysis of African folktales and furthermore Bascom’s definition of folktales was discredited long ago anyway. The paper therefore recommends that educators in Africa should regard as fallacious the idea of African folktales as fiction that is not taken seriously in traditional African societies and discard it.


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print ISSN: 2026-6081