Sunday, October 16, 2011

Louisiana Folklore: Myths, Legends, and Folktales by Angie Kay Dilmore

I recently attended a lecture by Keagan LeJeune, Associate Professor of English at McNeese State University, on the topic of Louisiana folklore. I’d never given much thought to the differences between myths, legends, and folktales – I think I always considered these words to be somewhat interchangeable. But according to LeJeune, there are distinct differences.
The umbrella term – folklore – encompasses the traditions, literature, knowledge, art, dance, and stories of a particular culture. It is what defines us, and can be found in music, paintings, quilts, and of course, words.
Myths imply the traditional sacred stories of a culture, of gods and heroes. They often strive to explain natural phenomena or the beginnings of time. Native American Indian folklore is richly mythical. An example is the story of Earth Diver, where a crawfish digs up earth from the water so that land animals have a place to live.

Legends are stories that reside in our believable past. The stories may not be 100% true, but they are rooted in historical reality. Examples of Louisiana legends are the many tales told of Jean LaFitte and Huey Long.
Folktales have a once-upon-a-time ring to them. They are often told to children in an attempt to teach a moral or life lesson. They are often humorous and have surprise endings. Examples of Louisiana folktales would be Blanche and Rose and Compair Lapin, Louisiana’s version of Br’er Rabbit.

And if we wanted to, we could make a fourth category of Louisiana folklore stories . . . Boudreaux and Thibodeaux jokes.
Mr. LeJeune has published a book, Always For the Underdog: Leather Britches Smith and the Grabow War.

Angie Kay Dilmore is a freelance writer originally from Pittsburgh Pa., and has lived the past several years in southwest Louisiana. She freelances for various local magazines, the children’s magazine market, and contributes regularly to Boys’ Life. Angie reviews books for LitStack, a literary website featuring publishing industry news, essays, reviews and commentary. She also writes picture books, poetry, and is working on a middle grade historical fiction. You can find Angie blogging at The Trials and Triumphs of a Transplant.


  1. I enjoyed learning the difference between Myths, Legends and Folktales, and loved the way you applied Louisiana to your examples. I now realize the family stories I have been compiling and sending to my relatives would be classified as Legends, since I hear so many different versions from family members.