The Greenwood Encyclopedia of World Folklore and Folklife
[4 volumes]
by William M. Clements, ed.
December 2005, 1972pp, 8 1/2x11
4 volumes, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-0-313-32847-3
$461, £355, 401€, A632
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-0-313-09140-7
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Designed for students and general readers, this massive encyclopedia authoritatively reviews the folklore and folkways of cultures from around the world.

There is no better way for students to learn about cultural diversity than to study the folklore and folkways of different ethnic groups. The work of over 200 expert contributors, this massive encyclopedia authoritatively and engagingly surveys folklife and traditions from around the world. Each of the four volumes covers the countries and cultural groups of a particular continent or geographical region, and the first volume also includes 39 topics and themes central to world folklore. Each of the more than 170 culture or country entries explores the background, belief system, oral and theatrical traditions, material culture, and contemporary concerns of a particular culture. Each concludes with an extended list of further readings. A generous selection of maps and illustrations makes this encyclopedia especially attractive to students and general readers.

China . . . Malta . . . Madagascar . . . Wales . . . and Texas: these are among the many exotic, distant lands that capture our minds and imaginations. In an era of increasing globalization, students, general readers, and business professionals need to know about the world and its varied ways. So too, a knowledge of world cultures is fundamental to an understanding of America’s ethnically rich society. Folklore isn’t just about the long ago and far away. It’s about the here and now, and there’s no better way to learn about cultural diversity than to study the folklore and folkways of different ethnic groups.

More than just Cinderella and other fairy tales, folklore encompasses the whole realm of traditional beliefs and activities that define a culture. The most comprehensive work of its kind, this massive encyclopedia engagingly and authoritatively surveys folklife and traditions from around the world. Through its vast scope and lengthy entries, it transcends other references on particular national or regional folklores and is the most ambitious undertaking of its type. Organized in four volumes, the encyclopedia provides convenient access to information about folklore generally and to the traditions of particular regions:

Along with the expertise of the contributors, of Volume Editor William M. Clements, and of Advisory Editor Thomas A. Green, the encyclopedia draws upon a distinguished board of internationally recognized scholars, including: Roger D. Abrahams, Cristina Bacchilega, Gillian Bennett, Mary Ellen Brown, James R. Dow, Alessandro Falassi, Barbro Klein, Peter Knecht, Natalie Kononenko, Frances M. Malpezzi, Margaret Mills, M. D. Muthukumaraswamy, Gerald Pocius, and John S. Ryan.

Because folklore is the essence of daily life, this encyclopedia addresses the curriculum needs of high school students and is also an indispensable resource for teachers. In addition, anyone researching folklore in a public library will find this the first place to look for detailed information about cultural traditions around the world.


  • Brings together the knowledge of more than 200 specialists from around the world.
  • Provides 39 extended entries on topics central to world folklore.
  • Details the folklore and folkways of roughly 170 cultural groups.
  • Entries discuss the background, beliefs, oral and theatrical traditions, arts and crafts, and contemporary concerns of each cultural group.
  • Each entry cites numerous works for further reading.
  • A generous selection of maps and illustrations makes world folklore come to life.
  • A list of entries and a cumulative subject index, repeated in each volume, offer convenient access to the vast body of information contained in the encyclopedia.
  • A selected, general bibliography directs students and general readers to the most important broad studies of world folklore.
  • A glossary defines key terms, theories, and concepts.


Library Journal 2006 Best Reference, January 1, 2005


"According to the preface, this impressive multivolume work aims to survey the world's folklore heritages in a way that emphasizes the international nature of folklore in general....while placing folklore within particular cultural milieus. Thirty-nine essays cover the technical language of folklore scholarship and serve as a kind of preface to the more than 200 main entries. These are arranged geographically by continent and region. A standardized protocol describes the individual groups. This format and strategic geographical arrangement allow readers to compare groups that are likely to come into contact with each other. Many of the authors are important scholars in the field. The signed articles conclude with bibliographies, and each volume ends with a cumulative index to all four volumes. This set pulls together disparate materials that will be useful for undergraduates writing on specific ethnic groups or advanced scholars seeking to map global connections. Recommended. College and university libraries supporting lower-division undergraduates through faculty/researchers."—Choice, June 1, 2006

"Each volume includes maps and illustrations as well as a list of all entries and a complete subject index for the entire set. Contributed by more than 200 specialists, the scholarly essays make up bibliographical references and cover the important folklore of the specific society represented, including its geographical setting, sociocultural features, ethnohistorical information, belief system, sports and games, artistic expression, and the effects of modernization and globalization....A valuable reference work for students and general readers seeking an understanding of the cultural heritage of the various societies of the world."—Library Journal, April 1, 2006

"Altogether, this encyclopedia represents a major new step forward for folklore studies. It clearly belongs in every collection aiming to give serious treatment to world cultures."—College & Research Libraries ^BSelected Reference Works, 2006^R, March 1, 2007

"An outstanding feature of the encyclopedia is that it can claim to be truly representative of world folklore. More often than not, reference works that aim to cover world folklore in fact give the lions share of attention to the cultures of the West, but Clements does not give us a lineup of the usual suspects....The encyclopedia is exceptionally well designed. Well-chosen illustrations and maps and plenty of white space on each page make reading a pleasure. Most important for a reference work, the reference apparatus is comprehensive, detailed, and accurate. This is a very usable encyclopediasomething that is not always true of large reference works....In short, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of World Folklore and Folklife is a triumph. This is a work to browse in for hours; even a veteran folklorist will discover much that is surprising and new about world folklore in these pages. It is practical to use, a joy to peruse, and a work that all folklorists can be proud of."—JFR Journal of Folklore Research, January 1, 2007

"Any attempt to gather together folklores and customs from around the world is, to say the least, an extraordinarily ambitious project. The Greenwood Encyclopedia of World Folklore and Folklife tackles the challenge admirably."—Reference Reviews, August 1, 2006

"Starred Review This set is a cohesive and organized examination of folklore and folk life around the globe....This resource proved to be addictive. What began as a simple perusal became an absorbing read. Readers will be both fascinated by the unusual, such as the dicing game used to distribute a dead person's possessions, and cognizant of the familiar, in proverbs and songs that sound recognizable. Highly Recommended."—Library Media Connection, December 1, 2006

"The complex world of folklore in all its variegated guises as manifested around the world--in music, oral traditions, dance, foodways, religion, sports and games, arts, architecture, and crafts--is richly covered in this monumental set. Each of the articles attempts to demonstrate these folkways in the culture under discussion. The whole is well written and brings a tremendous amount of information together in a much-needed format....This outstanding encyclopedia is recommended for scholars and researchers, both new and old, and should be in academic and large public libraries."—MultiCultural Review, September 1, 2006

"This material provides a wonderful opportunity to show students what they have in common with others and what makes each culture different."—School Library Journal, October 1, 2006

"Clements, with Thomas A. Green as advisory editor, have selected and edited an impressive guide to the world's folklife and folklore, with each of the four volumes devoted to different continents. Volume 1 is on Africa, Australia and Oceania; Southeast Asia, India, Central and East Asia, and the Middle East are in v.2; Europe is found in v.3; and North and South America are the subject of v.4. In addition, v.1 contains a useful series of two- or three-page essays on 39 issues of concern to the field, including antiquarianism, archives, diffusion, gender, hero, hybridity, nativism, race, and trickster. The entries are each devoted to either a people or a specific place, with discussion of topics that can include geography and history, stories, tales, historic tradition, social structure, beliefs, religions, poetry, proverbs, music, dance, food, and the differences found between urban and rural areas. Many b&w photos are included throughout."—Reference & Research Book News, May 1, 2006

"William M. Clements edits The Greenwood Encyclopedia of World Folklore and Folklife, a hefty four-volume reference college collections will welcome as a definitive, thorough guide to world cultural diversity....An outstanding collection, World Folklore and Folklife is recommended as a pick for any library holding seeking reference material on the topic - even if only one representative collection were considered."—Midwest Book Review/Internet Bookwatch, May 1, 2006

"The aim, as stated in the preface, is to examine folklore within the broad contexts of cultural areas and the more narrow contexts of specific societies. The scope and arrangement of the volumes fulfill this intention....While this work will not provide comprehensive treatment of folklore, it will certainly work well in combination with other sources in the field. It has a combination of clear writing and scholarly intent that will serve well as an entry point for research in public and undergraduate libraries."—Booklist/Reference Books Bulletin, May 15, 2006
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