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Atlantic Canada Folk Tales and Their Features Essay

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Updated: Aug 24th, 2020


It is imperative to note that the folklore of Atlantic Canada is a fascinating topic for discussion. One of the most important factors that should not be overlooked is that it is rather diverse because various cultures were mixed, and it is possible to trace the origins of some of the tales. The influence of ancestors and settlers is truly enormous, and it is possible to see similarities with the traditions of particular regions of Ireland and England. Folk tales are unique and different kinds of stories originated in various areas.


Pieces about fairies are intriguing and worthy of a discussion. One of the most significant aspects that should not be overlooked is that they do not have wings, and it is one of the core factors that differentiate these tales from nay others. They may appear in various sizes and forms. The fact that they can resemble animals is also worth highlighting. Their primary objective is to deceive people and cause trouble. However, it is necessary to mention that not every single one was bad, but the majority can be described as quite evil. For instance, they may try to show something unusual, and it would lead an individual to an end of the cliff where they can no longer control the situation.1

Another fascinating aspect that needs to be discussed is that people believed that fairies may use a particular type of magic, and people that are hit will have to deal with severe consequences. For instance, disgusting objects such as sticks could appear from wounds that were inflicted. It is paramount to understand that most of these stories had a deeper meaning, and their goal was to teach people about something important. People had to deal with numerous challenges at that time, and it was not an easy task to survive for some individuals. Moreover, these tales have focused on such issues to ensure that people are aware that many dangerous creatures could await them in the forests, and they should be very careful.

One of the core aspects that should be highlighted is that people believed that the powers of fairies should be respected, and individuals were suggested to avoid them to ensure that they are not disturbed. A particular connection with nature can be identified. There may have been numerous instances of people being lost in the woods or water without any explanation, and individuals came up with such stories. It is necessary to understand that communities were not as developed at that time, and many men and women were not well-educated. Some suggest that fairies are not evil, but they are rather unpredictable. They are indifferent towards people but may become incredibly angry in some cases because they do not like it when their peace is not respected. Moreover, their behavior is quite similar to nature. Most of the stories are not about heroes.

They are focused on regular people, and they do not do anything unusual most of the time. For instance, an individual may be picking something in the wood and would hear music that he or she is not used to, and would become incredibly interested. However, they may become lost if they follow the sounds, and it would be nearly impossible to find the way back home. Also, it was believed that they had the power to place a curse on anyone, and it is likely that this is how people explained some of the diseases at that time. Their ability to make people drown was feared the most. Furthermore, people have used a broad range of approaches to protect themselves and believed that charms were quite helpful. The bread was regarded as the most useful because it could serve as a distraction or an offering. Religion was also considered to be incredibly powerful, and objects related to Christianity could be used for protection.

Another fascinating aspect that needs to be noted is that the biggest percentage of tales about fairies takes place during warm periods, and it is yet another factor that connects them to nature. It is possible to identify that these stories were aimed mostly at children, and this approach was most likely used to ensure that they do not go too far because they may get lost. However, the issue that should not be disregarded is that some people took advantage of the beliefs of others and used such tales to cover particular accidents. The biggest problem that should not be overlooked is that there is no consensus on particular the description of fairies because there are many variations of the stories and some of them contradict each other.

Such areas as grounds and paths also should be mentioned. Many people were afraid of such regions and tried to avoid them because it could anger fairies, and it may lead to severe consequences most of the time. Some stories are focused on meeting places, and it was believed that little people participated in discussions when people cannot hear them. People thought that some objects such as caves were haunted by fairies and tried to warn others. The origins of such creatures are intriguing because many explanations are provided. For instance, some suggest that they are angels that have rebelled, and they have to stay on Earth because God has closed the gates.

Most folk tales about phantoms have originated in New Brunswick. For instance, such characters as headless women and hounds were quite common. What is particularly interesting is that some of the stories are incredibly short, and it may be hard to identify what is morale in a particular situation. Some of them are likely based on tales that were told by people, and many believed them. Moreover, such folk tales were shared because individuals were incredibly interested in everything supernatural and related to a higher power. The story about a Dungarvon Whooper is one of the most well-known ones. It is about the cook that was murdered, and it was assumed that screams of a ghost could be heard. Moreover, many individuals believed in it and tried to avoid the area.2 Folklore in Nova Scotia is also well-developed, and such topics as fairies and phantoms are incredibly popular. Most stories also varied in their length, and they could be even as long as few hours depending on the narrator and his or her attention to details.

Many tales were made based on a particular formula, and repetitive elements are also quite common. For instance, one here may have to perform three tasks to progress, and similar narrative pieces can be identified in many works. Moreover, this aspect can be seen in a story about a woman and her sons. The central character has to fight for three days, and this concept also applies when he needs to change clothing.3 Humour is another theme that can be noted in many tales, and most attention is devoted to exaggeration. Jack is a character that is worth mentioning because he appears in many pieces, and it is paramount to note that there is a similarity with the folklore of Great Britain. He is frequently a central hero in most stories and is described as incredibly lucky and adventurous. Moreover, he is capable of overcoming most difficulties with the use of agility. Such characters are smarter than others most of the time, and utilize their knowledge to outwit their enemies. Such stories have been passed from one generation to the other, and, understandably, some of the aspects could have been altered, but this is what makes the culture so rich and diverse.


In conclusion, it is evident that most of the tales are unique, and numerous interpretations are present. The need to study such works should not be overlooked, because it may help to get a better understanding of events that took place at that time. Moreover, they should be viewed as an essential part of the culture that must be respected and appreciated. Overall, it can be seen that most tales were influenced by the lifestyles of people in this region, and the way settlers affected the folklore is also worth mentioning. The traditions are still living, and some people devote a lot of time to studying of these tales, and skillful narrators are highly valued.


Colombo, J. R. (2000). Ghost stories of Canada. Toronto, CA: Dundurn Press.

Halpert, H., & Widdowson, J. D. A. (2015). Folktales of Newfoundland (RLE Folklore): The resilience of the oral tradition. New York, NY: Routledge.

Jarvis, D. (2008). Led astray by the little people. The Telegram. Web.


  1. Jarvis 2008.
  2. Colombo 2000: 49.
  3. Halpert and Widdowson 2012: 13.
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