Saturday 2 July 2016

Since When Was History True?

"I made a heap of all I could find." Nennius

I think Nennius hit the nail on the head when he said that. Being a little bit obsessed with King Arthur it is comforting to know that Nennuis felt that same way I do. Researching Arthur is like going on a treasure hunt with no map. There are many fake X's along the way - think Glastonbury Abbey.

 The site of King Arthur's tomb - oh, hang on a minutes, sorry we made that up!

But, for me, that is part of the appeal, and I don't get upset when I cannot fit Arthur into a little box all neat and tidy. Researching the times of Arthur isn't like researching, let's say the Tudors. The documentation just isn't there. We are relying on folklore - which is sometimes a little bit careless with the truth.

So why bother?

Folklore is important - that's why.

I want to talk about folklore today. In particular, I want to take a moment and think about the importance of folklore in Dark Age Britain.

We all love stories. Why else would there be a need for bookshops or television for that matter? It is entertaining, but also informative - think the History Channel. Stories, no matter what format, are important to us.  The news is just someone telling you a story about current affairs. These stories are vital to our well-being, we thrive on them. We are social beings, we need them.

There were no history books about Britain during the Dark Ages - only a few would have been able to read them if there were. So the only way to pass down our ancestor's history was through verbal stories and the problem with verbal stories, is that the one who is telling them has all the control - they can add things, take things out. They can do what the heck they want.

 Wookey Hole and the legendary Witch - a fine example of folklore.

Once upon a time, our ancestors believed in dragons, giants, fairies and elves. You name any mythological creature and at some point, we believed in them. They were real and they were a massive part of folklore. Even now, if you think about it, we still love everything mythological. Why else would stories like Harry Potter be so popular? Harry Potter is dripping with folklore that we have all but forgotten, so it sounds fresh and new. It really isn't.

Poor little birdie by English illustrator Richard Doyle

Which is why I believe, folklore is as vital to understanding the country I come from, as the history that is documented. These stories are our heritage, but nowadays they are overlooked, forgotten - replaced with the truth. Historical accurate facts only please - none of this folklore nonsense.

Have you ever heard of Gogmago? If you are British, then you should have, but I bet you haven’t because these stories aren't told anymore. Did you know the first inhabitants of Britain came from Troy? No? Maybe? You are in need of a good dose of folklore my friend!

I am not going to talk about Gogmago today; I will leave that for another post. But look what we are missing out on. History has become almost scientific in the telling. Read these sources, look at the evidence, this is what it means. - That was my experience with history in school and university. We could argue a case, but there wasn't much leeway. This was the truth, and that's that, get over it. You cannot argue with history unless you want to encourage the wrath of an awful lot of people.

But Folklore, that's a whole new ball game. Anything goes. Stories have been adapted over time, to suit the audience and of course the agenda. They can sway the masses into thinking what you want them to think - sounds like the news channel doesn't it?! These stories, however, not only try and explain the impossible, but they have forged a nation. They are as much a part of our history as well as our heritage, and it would be a shame indeed if we stopped listening.

 The Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake - the origins can be found in folklore

That’s it, my rant is over! I hope you have a great day!!


  1. I remember feeling the same way about accounts of visions and miracles in medieval sources. They were ignored by historians because they weren't considered factual-- but they were real to people then, and therefore they matter! (I love folklore BTW -- one of my favourite sources is K.M. Briggs' dictionary of folklore.)

    1. Barbara, you are so right - they were real to the people back then and they really do matter! xx


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Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx