- Hardcover: 432 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition edition (1 Aug. 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 019210019X
- ISBN-13: 978-0192100191
- Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 3 x 22.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 854,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
A Dictionary of English Folklore Hardcover – 1 Aug 2000
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Popular opinion might side with academic prejudice in thinking that there is hardly such a thing as English folklore, and certainly nothing worth studying--just a few superannuated old customs such as morris dancing. Certainly nothing to compare with the rich folk heritage of the Celtic countries. A Dictionary of English Folklore triumphantly proves that viewpoint wrong. It is a wonderful book--lively, authoritative and packed with fascinating information. It both collates the work of many scholars over the last 150 years, and establishes a new ground level for research and comment in the future.
Bot of the authors are leading folklorists who know the field inside out, and readers can have confidence that their views are based on the most reliable sources. They--sometimes reluctantly--debunk various common misconceptions about the origin and meaning of folk customs and superstitions. "Ring-a-ring-a-roses" is not anything to do with the Great Plague--the first English versions were recorded in the 1880s; the New Year ceremony in Allendale, Northumberland, in which the men march through the village with blazing tar barrels, is not a pagan custom--it only started in 1858.
By displacing romantic fancies with hard facts the authors do not take the fun out of their subject. Instead, they bring out with shining clarity the vitality of folklore, and its remarkable ability to adapt to new means of transmission such as the Internet. There are entries here on all kinds of ancient folk customs such as well dressing and harvest festivals, but also on photocopylore, the Tooth Fairy and the folklore of sex.
This is an indispensable reference book that does for English folklore what Jan Harold Brunvand's American Folklore: An Encyclopedia did for that of the USA--providing a reliable summary of modern scholarship in a form that is itself entertaining and provocative. --Neil Philip
"admirable and necessary volume ... There's a danger, as a result of a handsome volume like this, of falling in love with folklore ... counsels against mere enthusiasm, promoting instead knowledge, respect and compassion." -- Independent on Sunday, 30/7/00
"excellent, scholarly but non-technical Dictionary" -- Noel Malcolm, The Sunday Telegraph 16/7/00
Top Customer Reviews
I originally loaned this book out of my local library for research purposes and I read every item listed. It is so interesting and makes you realise how much you are affected by folklore, the little things you say, the superstitions you believe in, it goes on!
Folklore surrounds us and is in our everyday life, whether it is me or somebody else and once you are aware of this you mentally take note. Like how many of us believe in Friday the 13th?
The book is extremely informative and I would imagine this must be a hard subject to research, folklore being as it is! The book focuses on English folklore which makes it more personal for the English enquirer and it is interesting to see places in the book that you know or have visited and had no idea of the history of folklore attached to them. Although I am using this book for a project, it inevitably became of personal use also, I found myself searching for things like "touch wood" something that I've said, and the meaning is there in the book, and very informative with further links, so you find yourself totally engrossed.
As the book is a dictionary it is easy to find what you are looking for, but I read it like a book so discovered many things I knew nothing about. There are entries from Ram Roasting to toothache and from Devil's Dyke to Valentines Day! Subjects to interest everybody. However, due to the reservations made for the book at the library, I have now purchased it through Amazon at a very good price which I think is worth every penny.Read more ›
This book is an excellent resource of folklore, much of which I have been brought of with or come across. This book has contributed greatly to an understanding of the reasons behind so many things that seem commonplace, such as maypole dancing (which I did as a child at school!), making daisy chains, not stepping on the cracks in pavements etc.
It's one of those books which I tend to flick open, read one entry, refer to another & then find myself wanting to explore the subject further.
One other attraction of this book for me is that it's about my home country. It seems a real shame that so many people in England have completely neglected the vast heritage that resides in the soil of the land that sustains them. This book goes some way to redressing this, and will hopefully re-introucde some our customs back into the popular consciousness.
This book also takes into account the fact that folklore is not dead, it carries on creating itself in the forms of urban legends, rumours etc, and that todays gossip could become tommorows legend.
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