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The Oral Traditions of Ghost Stories and Epics

The Oral Traditions of Ghost Stories and Epics

Author: Amy Cyr
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La Llorona: A Mexican Folktale

This is a Mexican folk tale that has been told by many people to the younger children of their villages. They told this story to protect the children from the dreaded weeping woman "La Llorona". This was a student made film.

Source: Elijah Adson-Holmes, YouTube

Teaching the Epics through Ghost Stories

Our oral tradition of telling ghost stories, with which most students are familiar, builds a useful bridge to the oral tradition of the ancient epic narrators. Students begin by examining ghost stories and brainstorming a list of qualities that make the stories vivid and interesting. They then use a literary elements map as they write a ghost story they have heard, but have never seen written, and then share their stories orally with the class. Finally, students explore the genre of epics and how they are related to oral storytelling.


The conflict in a ghost story is usually the issue that makes the human return in ghost form (e.g., La Llorona’s despair over killing her children). It may be a violation of the code of behavior that the story seeks to illustrate. 


Think about the ghost as the main character (e.g., La Llorona in La Llorona: The Weeping Woman), or focus on the reaction of a key character in your story who is affected by the ghost 


The resolution in a ghost story typically involves the ghost's return and the details of the haunting (e.g., La Llorona’s crying for and taking any child abandoned by a river). Remember that the haunting in a ghost story usually relates closely to the conflict and code of behavior. 


Students may have more than one setting to think about, the present time period that the ghost haunts and the past time period when the ghost was a living person