Michael Roesch asks, “Doctor Brunvand, why should a student be interested in folklore?”

DR. JAN HAROLD BRUNVAND responds: “Well, I like to think that we have something like levels of culture.  We have a kind of a high-art level, which would include things like, serious novels, and opera, the fine arts, ballet, and we have popular culture, which would be the movies, and the television, the best sellers, and so on.  That leaves out a whole block of the common person’s culture, and that’s what I call folklore. The expressions, the games, the rhymes and parodies, the riddles, the stories, the whole range of things that people exchange person to person that constitute folklore.  It also includes material things.  I’d just give a simple example, simple paper folding toys that kids make.  My granddaughter likes to make little cootie catcher, for example, and tell fortunes with it. Or more elaborate things like elements of folk architecture, like log houses.  And I think with the study of folklore, you’re filling in that whole area of culture that’s overlooked by the students of history, serious fine arts, and even popular culture has its scholars now.  And so, I think it’s important to look at that as well.