Notes on LC's Treatment of Folklore-Related
Subject Headings,
One Person's Tale is Another Person's Legend

Document sections

Introduction Subject heading and subdivision terms


These notes, written primarily for copy cataloguers, cover folklore and works about folklore.  They are intended to supplement the Library of Congress Subject Cataloging Manual:  Subject Headings, section H1627, “Folklore.”  They are not intended to elucidate it fully, nor can hard-and-fast guidelines be provided for distinguishing types of folklore and their different treatment in LCSH.

Cataloguing folkloric materials presents at least two basic problems:

  1. There are often inherent elements of subjectivity in deciding the nature of folkloric material and the most appropriate genre to assign to it.  Questions involved may include:

    There are frequently no hard and fast answers to these questions.

  2. LC’s definitions of different genres of folklore, and its pattern of treatment, can be quite complex and, to some ways of thinking, sometimes inconsistent.

Copy cataloguers should generally accept the existing subject headings in records for folkloric material, unless they feel very strongly and can cite specific evidence that the interpretation of the original cataloguer was incorrect.

In other words, please do not agonize!

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Subject heading and subdivision terms

Folklore Folk literature
Tales Legends
Folk drama, Folk poetry

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Subcategories, or genres, of folklore are not handled consistently by LC.  See Subject Cataloging Manual, H1627, “Folklore,” table on p. 3.  Some genres are treated as literary headings, while others are not.

Among the most common genres: