Encyclopedia of Folk Heroes
by Graham Seal
December 2001, 347pp, 7 x 10
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-57607-216-5
$96, £74, 84€, A132
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-1-57607-718-4
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Meet Mad Dog Morgan, the Australian bushranger; Kabadaluk, the Yugoslav beggar boy who marries the princess; Mulan, the Chinese heroine who dresses as a man to join the army. This remarkable assembly of heroes, outlaws, tricksters, and fools is a testament to the human imagination.

A wide-ranging and detailed investigation of folk heroes, both fictional and historical, from the earliest times to the present, taken from societies throughout the world as they exist in folktales, folksongs, customs, speech, and other folklore genres.

From Paul Bunyan to Stagolee, from Queen Mab to the Tooth Fairy, every culture has created folk heroes. But as often as not, these “heroes of the people” accomplish their goals with methods that are anything but heroic—like the American liar hero Davy Crockett, or Galloping Jones, the Australian drinker and bank robber. Then there’s the Irishman Finn Mac Cumhal, whose heroism, like that of Rip Van Winkle, was based on oversleeping.

In this new collection, readers will enjoy a wildly colorful parade of nearly 400 thieves, tricksters, simpletons, and dragon slayers from around the world. Despite appearances, these “heroes” perform a crucial social function: they allow us to question what is right and what is wrong, to challenge what is legal and what is illegal, to deal with who has power and who does not, and to manage the contradictions and conflicts inherent in all cultures.


  • Spotlights 366 folk heroes, from old acquaintances like Bluebeard and Casey Jones to new friends like Bunuwas and Chokanamma
  • Includes 51 illustrations—paintings, drawings, and photographs
  • A timeline documents the earliest known appearance of each hero
  • A general index combined with indexes by heroic type and by country/culture make research easy
Graham Seal teaches at Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia, and is the author of numerous books and articles on folklore and cultural history.


"A strong introduction defines the attributes, qualities, and origins of a folk hero as well as cultural and communal interpretations of heroism . . . this entertaining and wide-ranging work is a valuable addition to most libraries."—Library Journal, February 1, 2002

"[A]n impressive discussion of the current thought and definition of folk heroes in culture and history."—American Reference Books Annual, January 1, 2003
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