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Unit 5: Folk Literature Epics. What is folk literature? Folk literature refers to a body of cultural knowledge and beliefs passed from one generation.

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Presentation on theme: "Unit 5: Folk Literature Epics. What is folk literature? Folk literature refers to a body of cultural knowledge and beliefs passed from one generation."— Presentation transcript:

1 Unit 5: Folk Literature Epics

2 What is folk literature? Folk literature refers to a body of cultural knowledge and beliefs passed from one generation to the next, both orally and in writing.

3 What are your favorite types of folk literature? Myths Fairy tales Epics Fables Folk tales Folk songs/spirituals Legends Tall tales

4 What are the purposes of folk literature? Folk literature can –entertain readers –enlighten readers by sharing the human condition or experience –provide readers with an escape from reality –help readers learn about themselves and others –teach readers lessons in morality –allow readers to explore diverse cultures

5 Characteristics of Folk Literature Like fiction, folk literature has the elements of characters, plot, setting, and conflict. Folk stories also have their own distinct characteristics, including –stereotypical characters (such as good/evil) –plots that focus on an initial problem, a quest to solve the problem, and the tasks and obstacles involved in the journey –settings in olden times and faraway places –supernatural and repetitious elements

6 Early Folk Literature Every early culture around the world created its own folk literature. Learning about these tales and songs can provide insight into the cultures that produced them.

7 Early Folk Literature Much of the world’s early folk literature originated as part of the oral tradition. –The oral tradition is the passing of a work, an idea, or a custom by word of mouth from generation to generation. Early stories were composed as poems, songs, or prose tales.

8 Early Folk Literature Some early folk literature stories helped ancient inhabitants of Earth understand the unknown world around them. Other tales told of gods, goddesses, and heroes in their cultures. Still other stories related human experiences, ideas, and emotions to serve as moral lessons.

9 Influences of Folk Literature As centuries passed, these early stories became the inspiration for many writers. These writers borrowed the characters, events, and ideas for their own works. –William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet refers to several ancient myths. –W. B. Yeats’s ballad “Song of Wandering Aengus” draws on the legends of Aengus, the Celtic god of love.

10 Influences of Folk Literature The characters and events in early folk literature have also inspired artists. Many painters have drawn their subjects from mythology. –For example, the fall of Icarus, a character in Greek mythology, is the subject of famous paintings by Pieter Brueghel Pablo Picasso Marc Chagall

11 Influences of Folk Literature The influences of folk literature can also be seen in music, drama, and films. What familiar songs, plays, or movies include characters or events from fairy tales, folk tales, legends, or myths?

12 Resurgence of Folk Literature In the past two centuries, there has been a renewed interest in folk literature. Storytelling spans all cultures, values, and ways of life, and has therefore gained worldwide attention.

13 Epics Epics are a very old form of folk literature, dating back more than 2,000 years. These ancient stories have remained popular for their ability to entertain readers. Epics often contain –larger-than-life characters –exotic settings –suspenseful plots

14 Epics Epics are long stories that involve gods and heroes and that are often told in verse. Grand in length and scope, epics are portraits of cultures that provide clues about societies’ –legends –beliefs/values –laws –arts –ways of life

15 Epics and Bards Epics began in the oral tradition, long before there were written historical accounts. The people of ancient Greece often turned to the wandering poets, known as bards, to hear tales of the past.

16 Storytelling of Bards The bards of ancient Greece were masterful storytellers. They would sing or recite long narrative poems about the gods, goddesses, and heroes of days gone by. They would often accompany their tales by playing lyres— small, stringed instruments resembling handheld harps.

17 Storytelling of Bards The bard often improvised the tale, but typically –started with an invocation, or a plea to the Muse (goddess of poetry) for divine inspiration –began the tale in medias res, or “in the middle of things,” with the epic hero well into the journey –used flashbacks to fill in prior incidents –had the epic hero reach a point of defeat but continue on the quest –ended the tale by revealing the epic hero’s fate

18 Epithets and Epic Similes In telling the tale, the bard used many “word formulas,” such as epithets and epic similes. These phrases helped the bard to memorize the tale.

19 Epithets Epithets are brief descriptive phrases that emphasize an important characteristic of a person or thing. In The Odyssey, Homer repeatedly refers to “versatile Odysseus,” “divine Calypso,” and “rosy-fingered dawn.”

20 Epic Similes Epic similes are extended comparisons that go on for several lines. Epic similes are also known as Homeric similes. Like epithets, epic similes were memorized and repeated by the bards each time they told the story.

21 Example of an Epic Simile The epic simile below compares the turning of Odysseus’s hot spike in the Cyclops’ eye to the turning of a shipwright’s drill in planking. I drew it from the coals and my four fellows gave me a hand, lugging it near the Cyclops as more than natural force nerved them; straight forward they sprinted, lifted it, and rammed it deep in his crater eye, and I leaned on it turning it as a shipwright turns a drill in planking, having men below to swing the two-handled strap that spins it in the groove. —from The Odyssey, by Homer I drew it from the coals and my four fellows gave me a hand, lugging it near the Cyclops as more than natural force nerved them; straight forward they sprinted, lifted it, and rammed it deep in his crater eye, and I leaned on it turning it as a shipwright turns a drill in planking, having men below to swing the two-handled strap that spins it in the groove. —from The Odyssey, by Homer

22 Bards and Their Audience As the ancient Greeks listened to the tales of the bards, they were filled with awe and fear. They strongly believed that the gods and goddesses in these stories exerted a powerful influence in their own lives—for better or for worse.

23 The Ancient Bard, Homer According to legend, the greatest of the ancient bards was Homer. Homer produced two famous works: The Iliad and The Odyssey. These are considered the most important epics in the Western tradition of folk literature.

24 Homer’s Epics The Iliad and The Odyssey provide us with insight into the world of the ancient Greeks. These exciting stories are told in memorable, poetic language. Their plots raise questions about humankind’s relationship with the world.

25 The Iliad The Iliad tells the story of the Trojan War, a battle fought in around 1200 BCE by the Greeks and the Trojans. The Trojans were inhabitants of Troy, which is now part of Turkey. For ten years, the Greeks attempted to conquer Troy but could not penetrate the city walls. Finally, one of the soldiers—Odysseus— devises a plan to defeat the Trojans.

26 The Iliad Odysseus and his companions erect a Trojan horse and place it outside the city walls. Believing the horse is a gift from the Greeks, the Trojans bring the horse into the city. The Greek soldiers hidden inside the horse unlock the gates of Troy. The soldiers then let in their comrades, who eventually defeat the Trojans.

27 The Odyssey Homer’s other epic, The Odyssey, picks up where The Iliad leaves off. This story describes the ten-year voyage of Odysseus and his men from Troy back to Ithaca. In this epic, the characters confront vicious monsters and deadly temptations as they make their journey.

28 Epics share certain characteristics, including –larger-than-life heroes, or characters with superhuman strength and courage –diverse, exotic settings –plots that focus on the hero’s difficult journey or quest to achieve a goal –conflicts involving struggles with gods or monsters that test the hero’s strength and wit –themes that impart wisdom or morality to humankind Characteristics of Epics

29 Epic Hero Central to the narrative of an epic is the main character, known as the epic hero. An epic hero is an archetype, or type of character, that has been appearing in the literature of the world since ancient times.

30 Qualities of an Epic Hero Historically, an epic hero is a male of royal lineage who possesses certain qualities that help or hinder him in his quest. These traits include –courage –arrogance or pride –resourcefulness –intelligence –faithfulness –vulnerability

31 Epic Hero Although an epic hero possesses these human characteristics, he also has extraordinary or supernatural abilities. These abilities allow him to conquer monsters and other demonic creatures.

32 Contemporary Epic Hero Through the centuries, the definition of an epic hero has changed. Contemporary epic heroes may –be male or female –emerge from any social status –undergo a spiritual, emotional, or physical journey

33 Epic Hero Cycle The structure of an epic follows a distinct pattern known as an epic hero cycle. In an epic hero cycle, the hero is charged with a quest that tests his or her worthiness. This quest typically involves a battle with an evil force.

34 Epic Hero Cycle Along the journey, the epic hero often enters a supernatural world and is assisted by many mythical creatures. Just when the hero feels defeated, he or she gathers resolve and eventually succeeds. In the end, the epic hero often ascends to the throne.

35 Ancient epics are still relevant in contemporary society. After reading an epic, ask yourself: –How does this epic offer insights into ancient cultures? –How does it forge connections among diverse cultures? –What aspects of humanity are shown in the choices and actions of the characters? –What lessons in virtuous behavior are evident? SUMMARY: Epics


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