In the question How to search for patterns/motifs in folklore or mythology, I introduced the concept of motifs/tale-types, which are essentially the folkloristic equivalent of tropes (an example of a motif/tale-type is "man steals fire from gods").

I have a followup question. As folklore/stories are transmitted through time and space (e.g. one community shares a story with another community), I think it's safe to assume that some changes will take place. For example, if a community that believes in dragons shares a story with another community that doesn't believe in dragons, it's possible that the last community might alter the story to replace a dragon with a gigantic squid. The point I'm trying to make is that the unit of motifs/tale-types seems flawed, because the unit of a motif only works if folklore remains constant as it transmits from culture to culture.

Is there a concept that would allow a folklorist to capture how folklore/stories change from place to place (and from time to time)?


This is actually a very specific question. Unfortunately, there is not a word that specifically captures what you are describing: the loss of a motif/trope in an oral tradition from one culture to another. There are some broad terms for how stories change from culture to culture and they are very simple. Cross-culture. Cultural exchange. Oral Adaptation/Adoptions. You have come across something talked about A LOT but not really mastered with a coin of phrase. Maybe you should coin it.


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