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The Cultural Transmission and Evolution of Folk Narratives

Tehrani, J.J.



J. Kendal

R. Kendal


Folk narratives—such as fairy tales, legends, and fables—are products of tradition, rather than individual authors. As they get passed on from person to person and from generation to generation new variants evolve, some of which catch on and generate new traditions, while others soon fade into extinction. Folklorists have long been interested in documenting and reconstructing these processes, but have often been stymied by the limitations of the folklore record. Cultural Evolution has brought powerful new concepts and methods to investigate the transmission histories of folk narratives, from comparative phylogenetic analyses of the relationships among similar tales from different cultures, to experimental studies of how stories mutate and evolve through oral transmission. This chapter reviews these contributions and considers prospects for future research into the cultural evolution of folk narrative traditions.


Tehrani, J. (2023). The Cultural Transmission and Evolution of Folk Narratives. In J. Tehrani, J. Kendal, & R. Kendal (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Cultural Evolution (C39S1-C39P96). Oxford University Press.

Acceptance Date Mar 7, 2023
Online Publication Date Jul 18, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Jul 19, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jul 19, 2025
Publisher Oxford University Press
Pages C39S1-C39P96
Series Title Oxford Handbooks
Book Title Oxford Handbook of Cultural Evolution
ISBN 9780198869252