The difference between mythology and folklore can be quite subtle, and the terms are often used interchangeably by both laypeople and established scholars. One common method that may be used to differentiate between the two terms, however, is for someone to consider the scope of a story and use this to distinguish between mythology and folklore. Mythology usually refers to something extremely grand in scale and scope, often covering a wide geographical range and thousands of years. Folklore, however, is usually smaller in scale and is often thought of as the mythology of common people, though these stories can be just as well known.
Both mythology and folklore share many ideas and aspects, though these terms can be used to refer to fairly different concepts. The scale and scope of the stories told in these types of systems are often used to differentiate them. A story’s scale does not necessarily refer to the number of people aware of it, but rather to the nature of the story itself and the types of events and characters found within it. This scale can change over time, however, and so a transition can potentially occur between folklore and mythology.
Mythology is typically considered to have a much larger scale than folklore, and to involve titanic events and characters. A story told about the creation of the universe or how the world was made is usually referred to as mythology. Similarly, the characters in mythology are often larger and more impossible figures than characters commonly found in folklore. Both mythology and folklore involve fictional stories and characters, but the people in myths are often divine or immortal beings who fight fantastical monsters and are involved in events that shape the very nature of the world.
In contrast, folklore usually arises on a smaller scale and involves more intimate surroundings, events, and characters. Folklore stories usually involve local surroundings and events, such as an explanation for how a nearby forest was created or the birth of a king who once lived in a particular region. The types of adventures and deeds performed by these characters are also frequently smaller in scale, such as a battle that gives a local mountain its name or types of local fantastical creatures. This distinction between mythology and folklore can be blurry at times, however, such as in instances in which smaller tales become larger ones, like the development of famous fairy tales or the Arthurian legend.