So. Folktales. Before we just jump on in and start with some of my favorite retellings, we've got to talk about something very important - we've got to have a common vocabulary. Here's the thing: if I just tell the stories without giving you some terms and phrases first, you'll miss out on some of the good stuff. And with folktales, some of the terms and phrases are the good stuff.
Phrases that relate to people:
Henwife: According to a pretty in-depth internet search, a henwife is a townswoman who had chickens. This is not the whole story. In many folktales, the princess or queen or young man go to ask the henwife for advice. Why? Because keeping chickens was the least of what these ladies did. First of all, the word 'wife' in Old English meant woman. She wasn't actually married to her chickens - but she probably wasn't married to anyone else, either. Most (if not all) of the henwives in folktales are widows or spinsters. Either way, they are old and (currently) unmarried. The old part is important, too - the elderly characters in a folktale are almost always the ones who impart wisdom, advice, and warnings. Henwives might have been the town doctor, the town witch, or both. What is truly important to remember is that a henwife is not just a woman who tends to poultry. She is sought out for her age, her wisdom, and her sometimes supernatural status.
Homunculus: These are little dudes. I say dudes because they are always male - the Latin word originally meant poor guy. Also, the -ulus on the end of a Latin word is diminutive in nature. At some point in literary history, the word came to mean 'minion or little man created by someone to do their bidding.'
Sage: No, not the herb! A sage is a wise person. Usually old. Most of the time, male.
Rogue: A baddy, usually a thief and a liar.
Spinster: An unmarried lady thought to be past childbearing age.
Peasant or Pauper: A poor townsperson.
Miller: This person grinds grain into flour.
Maiden: A girl of marriageable age. Not to be confused with a little maid, which is a little girl still too young to get married.
Smith: A maker of something. A blacksmith makes things from iron or steel, a goldsmith makes things from gold, a silversmith makes things from silver.
Next time, we'll talk about phrases that relate to places and also a little bit about themes. After that - let the folktales begin!