All literature can be traced to oral tradition, a term that refers to storytelling that was passed down verbally from one generation to the next. Legends, fairy tales, folk tales, and even epics stem from oral tradition.
Before literacy was widespread, a few educated writers decided to write down versions of oral stories within their culture. These include lengthy works like Beowulf or shorter ones like Grimm’s European fairy tales. In these cases, oral tradition inspired print literature.
In modern-day society, oral tradition still impacts the written word. Storytelling is integral to community and culture building, and people often form a connection with stories before ever learning to read or write. As a result, most authors draw inspiration from the craft of oral storytelling, in such diverse forms as a rumor or a childhood bedtime story.