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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.
- Folklore: A broad term used to refer to the traditional beliefs, myths, tales, and practices of a people, which have been passed down orally (or via other non-written means such as dance, theater and etc.).
- Myth / Mythology: The particular category of narrative deals with the point where the human world blends with the supernatural; the stories often feature interactions between gods and human beings. In oral cultures, these narratives often speak of the origin of things -- the creation of the world, the creation of the things in the world, the ways in which human beings came to live in specific places, the ways in which human beings came to possess technologies like fire. The main characters are often gods or demi-gods.
- Legends: A traditional narrative that is believed to have an historical basis.
- Fables: A story with a moral point. Often includes animals that speak or act as humans.
- Tales: The term "tales" is sometimes used interchangeably with "legend," "myth" or "folklore." Also sometimes "folk tales" or "fairy tales."
- Cosmogony: Theories specifically about the origins of the universe.
- Cosmology: Theories more generally about the universe, throughout its existence, rather than specifically about its origins.
- Origin: Having to do with ancestry based on scientific evidence of migration.
- Antiquities: Generally refers to scholarly works that discuss "pre-history" (the era before written histories of a place are available). Sometimes used to refer to things like archeological reports.
- Ethnology: A branch of anthropology that deals with the division of human beings into races and their origin, distribution, relations, and characteristics.
- Juvenile literature: Use this term to look for children's books. It is a style of writing often used to share folklore.
- Oral Tradition: Describes material that is based on spoken rather than written sources, which is how these stories were originally shared.
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.
Marshall Islands legends and stories by
Call Number: GR385.M34 M3 2003
Publication Date: 2003
Legends and stories from throughout the Marshall Islands. Each story includes a credit and biographical sketch for the person who provided the story to the book's compiler.
Stories from the Marshall Islands : Bwebwenato Jān Aelōn̄ Kein by
Call Number: GR385.M37 T63 2002
Publication Date: 2002
The author, Jack Tobin, was an anthropologist who spent most of his life in the Marshall Islands. The stories here are those that he collected from Marshall Islanders. Also included is a very useful introduction that talks about the history of the islands, their culture and society.
Voices of Pohnpei by
Publication Date: 1995
Produced by the Micronesian Seminar in Pohnpei, FSM, this documentary weaves origin stories from Pohnpei together with scientific theories on Pacific migration. Film is freely downloadable from the Micronesian Seminar website (http://www.micsem.org/), but requires a downloaded program (also free) to view.
Micronesian Legends by
Call Number: GR383 .F56 2002
Publication Date: 2002
Legends from the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, Palau, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands are interwoven with historical interludes and beautiful woodcut illustrations.
The Land Has Eyes [film] by
Call Number: Available online with UHM login.
Publication Date: 2006
Though it is set in modern Rotuma, the film is woven around an origin story. When you follow the link above, it will take you to the Voyager record for the film. Scroll down to the "holdings information" at the bottom of the page and click on the link for "UH Manoa Streaming VIdeo" and follow the instructions to watch online. Hint: Try searching either the name of the film or the name of the goddess, tafate'masian, in Google Scholar or in OneSearch -- you may find information on Rotuman life or history in the reviews of this film that were written in scholarly journals like The Contemporary Pacific.
The Fish of Maui by
Call Number: Pacific PZ8.1.G67 Fi 2011
Publication Date: 2011
How Māui fished up the North Island of New Zealand (Te Ika a Māui)
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.
- Folk literature
- Oral tradition
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.