I won’t be diving too deep into things in this post, just going over a little bit about what happens when stories that were originally passed down orally are written and compiled. Oral folk traditions are incredibly important to most cultures in this world, and have always been a part of the human experience. In many cultures, oral tradition is still a major factor in their cultural expression. Different cultural styles are seen in different legends, and this can be traced even as far back as the Indo-European languages that only remain in fragments today.
Writing Folk Legends Down
A lot happens when an oral folk legend, or other oral tradition, is written down. First, it becomes a good way of preserving that cultural piece while also taking it out of context. Oral traditions are meant to be told, well, orally. When you begin to write these stories down they sound clunky and unnatural because they were developed based on the cadence of speech, especially speech in a particular language of origin. Writing and translating these stories can remove important aspects such as how certain parts of the tale should be told in a certain type of verse.
Still, the preservation of these tales–with an explanation of the original context–does help maintain records and historical knowledge of the cultures they originate in. The tales can be utilized by historians to determine what social values were most important to that culture, and surmise important legendary figures that would influence members of that culture. This creates a historical precedent, and generates primary sources for historians that derive from the mouths of the culture.
I know this is an awfully short post, but it isn’t meant to be a comprehensive discussion. I simply wanted to point out the double sided coin that is transcribing cultural folk legends. On the one hand, you can preserve tales of cultural importance so that members of that culture and others may be exposed to them. The other side of this is that should the culture itself not survive, or transform in a radical way, these tales may be left without important context. But isn’t it better to preserve something rather than lose it all?