The word “folklore” was first used by British writer, William Thoms, in a letter to Athenaeum magazine in 1846.  He believed that folklore in ancient times had been shared by all members of a society.  As most ancient people lived in small, enclosed, rural communities; such stories would often relate specifically to the particular group.

Thoms was to advertise regularly from 1850 in his own co-founded publication Notes and Queries the publication advertising his pending release of his book on Folklore.  In an interesting extract from Jonathan Roper’ article ‘Thoms and the Unachieved “Folk-Lore of England”’, Folklore, 118: 2, 203 — 216.  Roper explains how the actual publication of Thoms work was never to come to fruition.

Early in 1850, an advertisement appeared at the back of issue 19 of Notes and Queries, beginning with the following words: “Preparing for immediate publication, in 2 vols. small 8vo. THE FOLK-LORE OF ENGLAND. By William J. Thoms, F.S.A. . . . ”. A book on English folklore by the founder of folklore might well be imagined as destined to be a key work in the history of folklore studies; but no such work was ever to appear, and the set of advertisements heralding the work seem to have sat unremarked in the back matter of Notes and Queries for a century and a half. The advertisements continued to appear regularly in Notes and Queries through the spring and summer of 1850 (although latterly the word “immediate” was removed)

Robert Baron and Nicholas Spitzer’s 1992 publication of the Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press (pp.1-2) describes Folklore as usually concerned with the mundane and everyday, shared between small groups with a common identity and usually shared in an intimate gathering.  These tales forge identity to themselves and others.

Folklore is thus often translated into traditional arts & craft, and these stories and skills are passed down from generation to generation.  But as populations increase, and as technological advancements were made, people were able to travel greater distances and migrate into larger towns.  To a certain extent, the old folktales lost their intimate meanings and relevance, but with a greater mix and more diverse culture, as in the evolution of language, in time folklore evolved into more complex legend.

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