Children’s literature

Part II. Forms and genres

 

21. Children’s rhymes and folklore

 

Contemporary and comparative approaches

 

Andy Arleo

 

Children’s folklore, or childlore, may be regarded as the traditional playful speech, behaviour, objects and mental representations (such as superstitions or game rules) that are exchanged by word of mouth among children in their peer groups, especially on the school playground, but also at home, on the street, in summer camp, on the school bus and in other places where children gather informally without close adult supervision. Among the many genres studied under the heading of children’s folklore are play rhymes, satirical rhymes, singing games, secret languages, puns, riddles, tongue twisters, taunts, nicknames, parodies, jokes, stories, games, pranks, beliefs, calendar customs and material folklore. The flavour, functions and mode of oral transmission of children’s folklore are quite different from nursery lore, the adult folklore that aims to educate and entertain the young child (see Opie in this volume), although there is some overlap between the two categories, as when children parody nursery rhymes.