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ENG771: Folklore and Literature in Oceania: Introduction

Some Basic Definitions

When searching for Oceanic narratives, it is useful to keep the following definitions in mind, many of which come from the academic discipline of Folklore Studies. When using the library's OneSearch tool, these terms can help to refine your searches for specific types of stories -- though sometimes the terms end up being used interchangeably, they do each have a more specific meaning. One simple way to search for traditional narratives is to do a keyword search a keyword using OneSearch's default search setting ("any field" and "contains"), combining one of the terms below, along with a geographic place (or a deity's name). For instance folklore Palau or myth Tangaroa. A rich source for traditional stories is children's literature -- if you're looking specifically for books of this type, you can start with the same keyword searches and include either "juvenile" or "children" (for instance, folklore Palau juvenile). After you've done your search, you can use the "Resource Type" limit on the left of the search results to types of publications -- books, dissertations, journal articles, etc. -- and call also use these filters to check for resources that are available online. *Note: This type of keyword searching is not a perfect search, for a variety of reasons: For one, authors and publishers don't themselves always use terms like "folklore" and "myth" in the same way that academics do -- in other words, they often use some (or all) of the terms below interchangeably.

Regional Examples

The texts under each of these tabs were found using the keyword search strategy outlined in the "Basic Definitions" box at right. The example are a mix of types of narratives (myths, folklore, legends, etc.) as well as a mix of types of resources (books, films, journal articles, etc.). There are many, many more texts for each of these regions.


By Geography

If searching using OneSearch for the stories of a particular place, try the following keywords, combined with the name of the country/territory/people. For instance: Folklore Samoan or Micronesia mythology

  • Cosmology
  • Cosmogony
  • Mythology
  • Legends
  • Folklore
  • Folk literature
  • Origin
  • Tales
  • Oral tradition
  • History

By Deity

Sometimes, a deity name is unique enough to search on its own, or in combination with one of the terms above. For instance, Tangaroa myth. In other cases, you may need to be more specific. For instance, searching only for "Maui" will not be very effective. Try instead searching for Maui deity or Maui Polynesia legend or etc.