Values in European Folktales
This pilot focuses on the study of folktales and the values they transfer. Folktales’ enduring appeal is intrinsically linked to the power of storytelling from time immemorial. Narratives are central to the construction of the self, embodied with memories, emotions, appetites and culture-based values. It is through shared, transmitted stories that we build social identities, judge right from wrong, place value on varied phenomena, and feel motivated to act according to collective beliefs.
Folktales’ motifs are timeless and fairly universal, comprising dichotomies such as good/evil, right/wrong, punishment/reward, moral/immoral, trust/distrust, male/female, etc. As Jesse Graham and Jonathan Haidt note, “people love stories. Cultures rely on stories to socialize their children, and narrative thinking has been called one of two basic forms of human cognition. Successful stories–the ones that get transmitted–are those that fit well with the human mind, particularly by eliciting strong emotions”. Albeit fictitious, folktales are important simulations of reality. The impact of such discernment goes beyond academia and can contribute to a greater sense of societal wellbeing.
The extraordinary variability of tales makes them ideal case studies for cross-cultural comparisons on social dynamics, including cooperation, competition, or decision making. We seek to demonstrate how folktales represent a valuable yet often neglected repository of information for studies about human nature, wellbeing and social dynamics through a cross cultural perspective.