H 1627 Folklore


BACKGROUND: The term folklore refers to those aspects of culture that are learned orally, by imitation, or by observation, including traditional beliefs, narratives (tales, legends, proverbs, etc.), folk medicine, and other aspects of the expressive performance and communication involved in oral tradition. The subdivision –Social life and customs, in contrast, is broader and includes not only folklore, but also manners, customs, ceremonies, popular traditions, etc.

This instruction sheet provides guidelines for assigning an array of headings to folkloric works. When possible, the following topics should be brought out: (a) the ethnic, national, or occupational group that originated the folklore, and/or its place of origin; (b) the theme of the folklore; (c) the folkloric emphasis or genre.


These instructions apply primarily to folklore in general. Where specific instructions exist for subdisciplines of folklore that are in conflict with these instructions, the guidelines for the more specific discipline take precedence. For example, for folk music, the instructions in H 1917 apply; for genres of folk literature, such as folk poetry, the standard provisions for literary works presented in H 1780-H 1800 take precedence over these instructions in case of conflict.


It should be noted that certain genre headings, such as Folk literature, Folk drama, Folk poetry, etc., are treated as literary form headings, while others, such as Tales, are treated as folklore headings. Literary genre headings may be qualified only by the types of adjectives appropriate to those headings (usually language), even when they are assigned to folkloric works. Conversely, folklore headings may be qualified only by adjectives designating ethnic groups, even when they are assigned to literary works.


For classification of folklore and folk literature, see F 590.

1. Assignment of headings.

a. General rule. Assign the appropriate combination of the following types of headings to folkloric works:

650 #0 $a [ethnic, national, or occupational group] $z [place] $x Folklore.

650 #0 $a [theme] $x Folklore.

650 #0 $a [heading(s) for specific folklore genre(s)] $z [place].

650 #0 $a Folklore $z [place].

651 #0 $a [place] $x Social life and customs.

650 #0 $a [other topics, as applicable]

Note: The subdivision –Folkore is free-floating.


b. Special provisions.

(1) Collections. Assign to a collection of folklore texts, if possible, the first three categories of headings listed above. Assign other headings as appropriate for the work.


(2) Works that discuss folklore. Assign headings in the first three categories above to works limited to a specific genre, further subdividing the genre heading by –History and criticism (or by more specific subdivisions such as –Themes, motives or –Classification, if appropriate).

To works not limited to a specific genre, assign headings in the fourth and fifth categories instead of those in the third category. Do not use the subdivision –History and criticism under these headings.


2. Explanation of the categories of headings.

a. Ethnic, national, or occupational group.

(1) General rule. When possible, assign headings of the type [ethnic, national, or occupational group]–[place, if appropriate]–Folklore. Examples:

650 #0 $a African Americans $z Louisiana $x Folklore.

650 #0 $a Jews $x Folklore.

650 #0 $a Italians $z Austria $x Folklore.

650 #0 $a Chimney sweeps $z Netherlands $x Folklore.

Do not assign headings of this type for individual nationalities within their own countries. Use instead Folklore–[place] or headings for individual genres with local subdivision, for example, Folklore–Italy [not Italians–Folklore].


(2) American Indians. For American Indian groups, assign a heading for the specific tribe, if any, or for the major group, if the work is not limited to a specific tribe. Examples:

650 #0 $a Cree Indians $x Folklore.

650 #0 $a Indians of North America $z Canada $x Folklore.

The former practice of assigning to works on specific tribes a heading for both the tribe and the major group has been discontinued.

The practice of using the subdivision –Legends under groups of Indians was discontinued in 1994.


(3) Occupational groups. If the work being cataloged discusses the folklore of an occupational group within a single ethnic group, assign headings for both groups. Example:

650 #0 $a Weavers $z Morocco $x Folklore.

650 #0 $a Berbers $z Morocco $x Folklore.


(4) Influence of one ethnic group on another's folklore. Designate the influence of an ethnic group on the folklore of another group by establishing and assigning headings of the following type: [ethnic group]–Folklore–[ . . . ] influences, for example, Finno–Ugrians–Folklore–Slavic influences.


b. Special themes in folklore. If the work has a special theme, designate the theme by means of the free-floating subdivision –Folklore under topics. Examples: 

650 #0 $a Stars $x Folklore.

650 #0 $a Lizards $z Louisiana $x Folklore.

Do not use the subdivision –Folklore under topics that are inherently folkloric, such as Evil eye; Ghosts; Mermaids.

Do not confuse this use of the subdivision –Folklore under topics with the use of –Legends under topics. The latter subdivision is used under a few religious topics, for example, Grail–Legends, but only in connection with published medieval romances and legends. In all other instances the subdivision –Folklore is used both for folkloric texts and for criticism.

The use of the subdivision –Legends and stories under types of animals has been discontinued (see H 1720).


c. Headings for specific folklore genres. The following is a list of typical folklore genre headings, grouped according to treatment category:


 Folklore (General)



 Fairy tales

Folk music
Folk songs

Folk drama
Folk literature
Folk poetry
Nursery rhymes


(1) General provisions. To a collection of folkloric texts in one genre, assign the appropriate genre heading, subdividing it by place if appropriate. See the Background statement on p. 1 for further information on the various treatments discussed below.


For works of criticism, subdivide the genre heading, or the genre heading with geographic subdivision, by the subdivision –History and criticism, for example, Tales–Arizona–History and criticism.

Qualify literary genre headings, that is, headings in the third column above, by language or nationality in accordance with normal literary form heading practice. For translations, subdivide these literary genre headings by the appropriate translation subdivisions, for example, –Translations or –Translations into [ . . . ] (cf. H 2220).


Do not qualify headings in the first column above by language or nationality. For the special rules for qualifying musical genre headings, and use of the subdivision –Texts, see H 1917. Do not use translation subdivisions under headings in either of the first two columns above.

Guidelines applicable to specific genre headings are given below.


(2) Fairy tales. Assign this heading to collections of traditional narratives that typically deal with supernatural beings (such as fairies, ogres, dragons) or supernatural events, and which are often created for the amusement of children. If in doubt as to whether to assign the heading Tales, which represents the blanket term for traditional narratives, or Fairy tales, prefer Tales.


(3) Folk literature. Assign this heading to collections containing three or more folklore genres. For collections of two genres, assign the appropriate headings for the genres.


(4) Legends. Assign this heading to collections of traditional narratives generally regarded by their tellers as true. They may include narratives that are religious (such as those associated with the lives of saints or martyrs, religious objects or beings), supernatural (for example, vampires, werewolves, or ghosts), about individuals (for example, national figures or heroes), or about specific places (such as those emphasizing place name origins, or folk histories).

For legends associated with historical persons known to have existed, assign headings of the type [name of person]–Legends, for example, Crockett, Davy, 1786-1836–Legends.


For texts involving legendary figures, use headings of the type [name of figure] (Legendary character)–Legends, for example, Pecos Bill (Legendary character)–Legends.


To medieval legends involving religious objects, assign topical headings with the subdivision –Legends, for example, Grail–Legends (see sec. 2, above).

Qualify the heading Legends by the names of religions to designate the legends of individual religions, for example, Legends, Christian; Legends, Buddhist.

For legends of American Indian groups, use the subdivision –Folklore under individual tribes and major groups. The practice of using the subdivision –Legends under groups of Indians was discontinued in 1994. Assign the additional heading Legends–[place].


Subdivide the heading Legends or the form subdivision –Legends by the subdivision –History and criticism for works that discuss the genre.


(5) Tales. Assign this heading to collections of traditional narratives that are for the most part fictitious and are told primarily for entertainment, for example, Tales–Nebraska.

For works that are collections of a single tale type, assign a heading of the type [tale name] (Tale), for example, Dragon slayer (Tale). For works that discuss the type, subdivide by –History and criticism.

For tales of American Indian groups, use the subdivision –Folklore under individual tribes and major groups. Assign the additional heading Tales–[place].

d. Folklore. Assign this heading, with geographic subdivision if appropriate, to works that discuss folklore in general or that discuss folklore as a discipline.

Do not assign this heading to a work that deals only with one or more specific folklore genres. Instead, assign headings for the specific genres with the subdivision –History and criticism or the heading Folk literature with the subdivision –History and criticism, as described in sec. 3, above.

Do not use the subdivision –History and criticism under this heading.

When the heading is subdivided by place, assign an additional heading of the type [place]–Social life and customs.


In the case of national groups in countries other than their own (but not American ethnic groups), assign a folklore heading to bring out the place of origin and another to bring out the present location. Example:

650 #0 $a Germans $z Romania $x Folklore.

650 #0 $a Folklore $z Romania.

650 #0 $a Folklore $z Germany.


e. Other topics. Assign other headings as needed. Examples:

650 #0 $a Traditional medicine.

650 #0 $a Literature and folklore.

650 #0 $a Folk dentistry.

650 #0 $a Psychoanalysis and folklore.

650 #0 $a Oral tradition.

650 #0 $a Folklore and history.

650 #0 $a Storytelling.


3. Examples.

Note: Titles are provided in the following examples only to demonstrate a principle of subject assignment, and are not the titles of real works. The subject headings are listed in the order of the categories given in sec. 1.a. The actual order of assignment of these headings is determined by the principles described in H 80.

Title:   A classification of American folk tales.

650 #0 $a Tales $z United States $v Classification.


Title:   Legends collected among the preliterate peoples of Nigeria.

650 #0 $a Legends $z Nigeria.


Title:   Scottish tales and legends.

650 #0 $a Tales $z Scotland.

650 #0 $a Legends $z Scotland.


Title:   Analysis of legends told by Italians in Austria.

650 #0 $a Italians $z Austria $x Folklore.

650 #0 $a Legends $z Italy $x History and criticism.

650 #0 $a Legends $z Austria $x History and criticism.


Title:   Bachama stories and storytelling.

650 #0 $a Bachama (African people) $x Folklore.

650 #0 $a Tales $z Nigeria.

650 #0 $a Storytelling $z Nigeria.

Title:   Folklore of the Jews in the Ukraine.

650 #0 $a Jews $z Ukraine $x Folklore.

650 #0 $a Folklore $z Ukraine.

651 #0 $a Ukraine $x Social life and customs.


Title:   Navajo animal tales translated into English.

650 #0 $a Navajo Indians $v Folklore.

650 #0 $a Animals $v Folklore.

650 #0 $a Tales $z Southwest, New.


Title:   An analysis of Navajo legends.

650 #0 $a Navajo Indians $x Folklore.

650 #0 $a Legends $z Southwest, New $x History and criticism.


Title:   About Afro-American tales in Gullah from Georgia.

650 #0 $a African Americans $z Georgia $x Folklore.

650 #0 $a Tales $z Georgia $x History and criticism.

650 #0 $a Sea Islands Creole dialect.


Title:   Folklore of the Berber weavers of Morocco.

650 #0 $a Berbers $z Morocco $x Folklore.

650 #0 $a Weavers $z Morocco $x Folklore.

650 #0 $a Folklore $z Morocco.

651 #0 $a Morocco $x Social life and customs.


Title:   Iban tales, legends, proverbs collected in Sarawak.

650 #0 $a Iban (Bornean people) $v Folklore.

650 #0 $a Folk literature, Iban $z Malaysia $z Sarawak.


Title:   A collection of tales, songs and poems obtained among the Tuaregs and translated into English.

650 #0 $a Tuaregs $v Folklore.

650 #0 $a Folk literature, Tamashek $v Translations into English. 


Title:   The folklore of garlic among Italian Americans in Massachusetts.

650 #0 $a Italian Americans $z Massachusetts $x Folklore.

650 #0 $a Garlic $z Massachusetts $x Folklore.

650 #0 $a Folklore $z Massachusetts.

651 #0 $a Massachusetts $x Social life and customs.


Subject Cataloging Manual: Subject Headings
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