Kultur & Literatur
History of Folklore, Fairytales & Monsters

History of Folklore, Fairytales & Monsters

History of Folklore, Fairytales & Monsters

Discover a magical world of folklore, fairytales and monsters! Read about the key historians and folklorists who collected ancient lore, learn about the motifs and structures that govern fairytales, and explore the character types, monsters and creatures that populate them. Plus, rediscover old rhymes and adages for predicting the weather and natural phenomena, explore rhymes and remedies for staying healthy and happy and attracting love, luck and wealth, examine the major categories of the Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index of fairytale themes, and find out why it's so important to learn about and preserve traditions from all around the world.

United Kingdom
Future Publishing Ltd
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2 Min.
popular antiquities

In 1846, the English scholar William J Thoms faced a conundrum. For many years, antiquaries had studied the traditional ways of everyday people, weakly referring to them as ‘popular antiquities’ and ‘popular literature’. Yet, the meanings of these terms were murky; Thoms felt that they did not quite encompass the traditions of olden times, now at risk of being lost. In the face of this dilemma, Thoms came up with a new word – a neologism – to clarify the subject. In his letter featured in the Athenaeum of 22 August 1846, Thoms defined this area of study as ‘folklore’, and a new specialism was born, set to change the study of shared culture forever. Made up of two parts, ‘folk’ and ‘lore’, Thoms intended the word to replace the old…

1 Min.
william john thoms 1803–1885

William Thoms, born in Westminster, England, was a man of great intellect and ambition, publishing his first book by the time he was just 25 years old. Thoms was a clerk at Chelsea Hospital, a respectable but unremarkable profession, with a modest salary. He married Laura Sale in 1828, and the pair had nine children together. In 1838, Thoms became both a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and secretary at the Camden Society in the same year. By 1845, Thoms secured a position in the House of Lords, acting as clerk in the printed paper office. Thoms was a scholar dedicated to antiquarianism, publishing, and of course folklore. Thoms dreamed of putting together a volume of scattered customs, similar to Grimm’s Deutsche Mythologie. After three years running his ‘Folk-Lore’ column in the…

5 Min.
what is folklore?

In the past, folklore was seen to be solely about the ways of the peasantry, and its study solely for the affluent. It was less well regarded than topics like history due its focus on the tales and superstitions of the lower classes, hence less popular. Yet, many scholars like Thoms saw how the traditional ways of the people were falling into disuse: stories lost, songs forgotten, with superstition becoming a thing of the past, and country lore disappearing as people learned to read and write, moved to cities, and farming and traditional crafts gave way to industrialisation. Scholars realised that people employed folklore to pass on traditional knowledge, and took it upon themselves to record folklore to preserve this wisdom. Sayings such as, ‘Rain before seven, fine by eleven,’…

1 Min.
types of folklore

Material lore This includes physical objects that are thought of as traditional crafts, often made by hand or using traditional methods, even if production has become mechanised. Specialised knowledge to create these items passes from person to person. It can include traditional buildings, crafts like corn dollies, as well as items used for work. Verbal lore Myths, legends, fairy tales and folktales all fall in this category, yet other types of spoken lore too: proverbs, riddles and rhymes, through to folk songs and ballads, charms and spells. Even modern jokes and urban legends can be classed as folklore! Customary lore This category covers the performance of certain actions that need to be carried out in expected way, from calendar customs like observing festivals like the Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss festival, to Morris dancing, and other community…

5 Min.
the significance and relevance of folklore

Folklore is, intrinsically, about performance, action and communication. It’s about how our traditions, customs, beliefs and stories all join together in our everyday lives to create a meaningful shared experience. Without this moment where customs and beliefs are transmitted from one person to another, folklore cannot exist. Folklore is experiential; a living, thriving thing that dwells in the spaces between people, and the meanings they fill that space with. Folklore is not just about academics recording old songs, it’s the act of giving a birthday gift, of baking mince pies and the shared experience of eating them. Even folk objects have a level of ‘performance’ that makes them folklore, be that in passing on the skills and knowledge with which they’re created, or in the rituals and customs that surround…

1 Min.
cultural shards

While transmission, and the communication of ideas, are vital aspects of folklore, sometimes folkloric songs, rhymes, stories, objects or customs come down to us without a context. They lose their relevance because they are no longer needed within their culture, becoming defunct and obsolete. Soon people forget, and no longer know what they mean, and they become mere ‘cultural shards’. These folk artefacts are the remnants of traditions of times long gone that are now without context, and therefore without meaning in contemporary culture. Before World War II, all folklore was considered in these terms: purely Before World War II, items like these concealed shoes would be collected and catalogued, but the wider context and meaning of their concealment would be ignored as vestiges of the past, passed down by and to common…