The Nachtkrapp and others

Stories passed down often shape our perception of the past and present. They serve as warnings, guidance, and inspiration for life’s toughest lessons.

Edited by : Nada Shaheen

It is what drives us towards or away from a certain action or idea. A young child whose opinions are but a naive trail of thoughts, yet unshaped, has no way of forming them without an outside stirrer. Any sort of influence can play that part. Folklore may be one of the most important factors shaping any person’s thoughts and opinions.

What is folklore?

Folklore is a collection of fictional stories about animals or people, of cultural myths, jokes, songs, tales, and even quotes. It is a description of culture, which has passed down verbally from generation to generation in any written or oral form. It is also known as folk literature or oral traditions. Folklore depicts the way main characters manage their daily life events, including conflicts or crises. Simply, folk literature is about the individual experiences from a particular society. Although some folklores unfold universal truths, it is also concluded that unfounded beliefs and superstitions are basic elements of folklore tradition, therefore; they have a strong impact.

Many of us remember family stories being passed down throughout generations, but there are many other stories that we tell just as often, like folklore, fairy tales, urban legends, historical events, and legends that have a way of sticking around for years and even centuries.

Some stories withstand the trial of time and become an entity; a mark, recited repeatedly without any heed to the current era, race, gender, or background. They tell a story that is important to the person sharing it, because within, there is a lesson to be learned, a moment to re-live, and an emotion to share. Such stories are carved into your memory; think about the countless times your grandfather sat you down and descended deep into his memory, reciting numerous details of his relentless war memories. These times could have been tedious, but you cannot deny the feelings swirling inside of you as he narrated. These feelings could have been relief that those days are over, sheer sympathy, or even some of wonder.

Do folklores tell the tales of the past? A journey once lived? How different life was before our generation existed? Have you been told stories about various other countries?
Or maybe urban legends about creatures that shouldn’t exist, dangers that lurk for those who disobey, or fortunes for those who follow the cultural expectations passed on by elders?

What makes a great tale from the past so great?

It’s a blend of tradition, brilliant storytelling, and the moral of a story, sprinkled with a bit of suspense, dusted with fear, anger, love and hope, a touch of wonder, along with a smear of doubt that’s topped off with a little bit of magic.
This entire assortment makes a story long-lived; a story that’s not just re-told, but a story that demands to be shared because it would be a shame to forget. When a story dies, it takes a little part of history along with it, a part that we desperately need to hold on to. Consequently, you share your stories with the ones you deem worthy, the ones whom you presume will share it again or anyone who will benefit from it.

How does it affect us?

Stories passed down often shape our perception of the past and present. They serve as warnings, guidance, and inspiration for life’s toughest lessons. They are the stories that parents use to sway their children’s’ frail, naive young minds to get them to stop or start doing something.

A good example of a warning and guidance story passed down is one that parents used to tell kids in Germany back in the 80’s. Children often lost track of time and insisted on playing after sunset. Thus, tales were told by their elders of a creature called the “Nachtkrapp” which translates to “Night Raven”. The Nachtkrapp, as they were told, was a fearsome creature, tall and swift, that hides in the shadows of the night. Asleep throughout the day, it leaves its nest by sundown and hunts for any children left outside without their parents. When it comes for you, you’ll hear leaves rustle, a crow-like sound, and the sound of flapping wings. When (not if) it catches you, it will take you back to its nest, where it eats you alive, ripping your limbs off first and ending his feast by pecking your heart out and devouring it. Cruel, right? But it worked; the children were home every night before sundown. They respected the tale simply because they didn’t want to find out its legitimacy. I bet those children will tell the same story to their own children. Why? Because it worked, works and will work again if the story is told in a proper and dramatic way.

Then there is the oldest tale in the book used to put a child to sleep: tell him to close his eyes or they might just fall out. This thought is petrifying to only imagine. It is not surprising that children would hold them in as tightly as they can and fall asleep in the process. This tale is usually frowned upon, as the child is scared for his eyes and this fear may cause emotional damage. The perspective of this story is that it teaches kids to sleep and care for their eyes. The aim is achieved easily and all eyes remain safe (so if you want to put your siblings to sleep, just focus on their eyes; it makes life easier).

What can we learn from fairy tales?

The Brothers Grimm were revolutionaries of their time, weaving morals into gruesome stories for the greater good. The original fairy tales should not be confused with the happily singing Disney versions we show our children today. The true fairy tales were cruel and dark, even twisted; but the Brothers Grimm had mastered the art of capturing an audience with a story, a supply of basic emotions, adding magic with a sense of relatability, and of course, a lesson learned. They understood that great tales needed to be written down because word of mouth by its very essence is unreliable. Have you ever played the whisper game? If you have, you’ll understand how “The moral of the story is to never take sweets from a stranger” can become “The story was told by a sweet major. On that account, they wrote their stories down, told them to anyone who wanted or needed to hear them and thus created a legacy.

Goldilocks and the three bears is that story we all read as children, perhaps without paying much attention to the darker meaning behind it. It was used to scare children so they wouldn’t go inside a stranger’s house.

Fairytales have lived this long and will continue to live because they not only address the evil and it’s extents, in whichever form they may take in this world, but they also tell us that we have the power to defeat it and that we can overcome even the worst of the worst. They have created a need to be passed on.

There the myths that we all distrust, but a part of us wish to believe in just a little, such as Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, or the tooth fairy. We all know they don’t exist, but they are embodiments of meaningful messages: family, hope, and happiness. So we stretch the truth a little; we play secret Santas with our friends, parents buy their children presents, they paint the eggs and spread them around the house, or they leave money under their children’s pillows in exchange for their fallen tooth.

We can simply add a tinge of reality to a forged myth and it may give us hope, happiness or even the required amount of fear to keep us safe.

Evergreen means that the story is laid out and told in a way that won’t just affect one generation but multiples, just like fairytales still matter today.
What stories do you want to pass on to the coming generations? Is it just one story or a collection of memories and stories from when you grew up? Perhaps there are many stories worthy of being passed on in your family. Don’t let your family’s stories die. Keep them alive for the next generation so they can have the opportunity to learn from, laugh at, and share these stories.


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