Legendary Felines

Cat Folklore

Animals have long been part of folklore. They are often used in mythology, fairytales, legends and fables to teach us how to respect what is of value to our particular community. In many cases they can show us what’s important by portraying what happens when beliefs, customs and traditions aren’t honored. Among the most common animals are cats. Whether trickster or hero they are credited with possessing extraordinary talents and strengths.
That’s why, domestic or wild, they have long held a seat of importance in some of the world’s legendary and well-known empires. Ancient cultures revered them as mythical. Many believed that these four-legged animals were gods who could communicate with other deities on behalf of humans.
Here are 3 legendary felines:
  1. Brunswick Lion: A legendary German symbol. According to legends and through the stories that were handed down through generations, Henry the Lion witnessed a noble fight between a lion and dragon while on a pilgrimage. Henry joined the lion in its brawl with the dragon and helped the lion in assassinating the dragon. The lion then accompanied Henry in its way home. After his master’s death, the lion starved himself and dies mourning because of the death of his master. In honor to the lion’s loyalty to his master, the people of Brunswick built a statue.
  2. Lynx: This wild cat features prominently in Native North American mythology. Known as a “keeper of secrets” it is believed to have a mysterious and deceitful characteristic. Imbued with the power to see through objects, it is associated with the psychic power of clairvoyance and unveiling of the hidden truths.
  3. Sphinx: A mythical creature famous for having the body of the lion and a human-like head. According to Greek traditions, it also has the rump of a lion and the wings of a great bird. In many folk tales it is cruel and merciless. For example, with its Sphinx Riddle it has the ability to cause suffering for those unable to answer solve the riddle. Egyptians also have there own version of the sphinx. However, unlike the Greek version, it is human and uses ferocious strength to guard temple gates.     Because they are basically nocturnal, cats have also been linked in people’s minds with witchcraft and paganism. Their feline prowess continues to be a mystery that can be either a blessing or a curse, depending upon who is telling the story.
    Here’s a look at some cat folklore:
  • English schoolchildren believed seeing a white cat on the way to school was sure to bring trouble. To prevent the bad luck, they were to spit or turn around completely and make the sign of the cross.
  • In 16th century Italy, people believed that if a black cat lay on the bed of a sick man, he would die. However, they also believed that a cat will not remain in the house where someone is about to die - if the family cat refused to stay indoors, this was a bad omen.
  • Sailors used cats to predict the voyages they were about to embark upon. Loudly mewing cats meant that it would be a difficult voyage. A playful cat meant that it would be a voyage with good and gusty winds.

Summer Family Folklore

 Summer Adventures

Summertime is the perfect season for family adventures. Vacations, family reunions, weddings, day trips, summer camps and more are filled with stories about certain people, places and things that are important to you. You want to remember these treasured memories because they have special meaning and because you often want to share them with others.

You don’t need to be a folklorist or a brilliant literary writer to capture these summer experiences and transform them into family folktales. You don’t even have to be an adult to preserve these personalized accounts of real life adventures and activities.

In fact, all you need is a basic understanding of what folktales are and some examples of ways to create them that can be tailored to any age group. 

Folktales are stories based upon real life experiences. Unlike historical documents they are not necessarily based upon fact; but rather grow out of your feelings and impressions about those experiences.  For example, a folktale about Uncle Bill’s deep sea fishing trip might focus upon how hard he fought to bring in a large fish or upon how funny it was to see him huff and puff as he reeled in his fishing line.

However you describe your summer stories, they can be categorized into various themes, also known as folktale motifs that everyone is familiar with. Using the example of Uncle Bill’s fishing trip, here are a few of the more common motifs:

  • The fish that got away
  • A brave fisherman
  • Fishing as a favorite sport

When you sit down to capture what you recall, remember that there are many easy-to-follow techniques you can use:

  • Make a list that you might later expand upon (for example: picnic near the lake, warm sunset, playing cards)
  • Write a few paragraphs or a short poem
  • Draw images, using colors that are expressive

Children in particular enjoy drawing pictures. Ask them to tell you their stories and write down what they say next to the drawing. Then plan an “exhibit” or “reading” at a later date so that they get to share their folktales.

If more than one person, or child, is creating a family folktale about the same person, place or event it is important to remember that not everyone in the family will have the same memories. Some may recall what is funny while others may recall what is sad about the same event or person. There may even be disagreement about what actually happened. That’s O.K. because folktales are personal interpretations.

For an unusual family folktale project, consider having everyone in the family write about different aspects of a vacation and then put them all together as a family folktale book. Emily can write about the bears at the zoo and Sean can write about the kangaroos. At a family reunion, consider having everyone write something they remember about other family reunions.

No matter which summer adventures you choose to focus on, you can create family folktales that will last more than a lifetime.

Fairytales For all

Enchanting and Educational

Fairy tales are a form of folklore. Varying from culture to culture these stories about a magical time and place have always been enjoyed by people of all ages.

Charming stories of prince and princess who, with the help of supernatural beings like elves or fairy god mothers, find true love, make moral decisions, and face their fears and defeat mythical beasts in one form or other are characters almost everyone can identify with.

They often take place “Once Upon a time” in a “Far Away Land”. The generic nature of setting and time represents a time and place not of the present. The where becomes less important than the theme, the plot of who did what to whom and why. These mythical or magical logistics of when and where make it easier to the listeners and/or readers to easily identify with the characters, their trials and their successes.  

The events in fairy tales show by example what can happen when one does or does not follow the rules or do the right thing. They offer guidance about how to handle difficult situations and they teach the importance of hope, creativity, and imagination.

A fairy tale can be a story that is far- fetched and it can also be true but might not ever happen again. Here are a few examples of unique and exciting fairy tales from around the world.

Indian: How the Raja's Son won the Princess Labam - A love story of how a lower class man wins the heart of the lovely princess. 

Russian: The Magic Swan Geese - A story of a brother and sister who get in trouble with the evil geese and have to find their way home. 

South American: How Night Came - A South American tale of how night was created in this world.

African: The Magic Ring - A story of the value of an important possession.