Heart of Albion
Reviews of Explore Folklore
'A howling success, which plugs a big and obvious gap'
... a most valuable modern folklore primer. [...] this book fills a long-overdue need in British folklore.
Bob Trubshaw has done us all a service with this book. Explore Folklore is a lively, lucid and entertaining overview of a highly visible yet curiously elusive subject that ranges from song and dance, festival, tradition and custom to jokes, superstitions, proverbs, contemporary legend and 'friend of a friend' stories. Some of it is highly visible and obvious, but the bulk of the folklore iceberg is made up of things we engage in every day without thinking about it. The range and complexity of folklore is compounded by the theories folklorists have developed to explain it. And the theories are changing all the time, just like the subject matter.
All right then, if we must, let's explore folklore. As it turns out, this isn't actually a book stuffed with twee wizards and elves. An early chapter on folklore 'theory' sees Trubshaw doing a good job of explaining how and why 'folklore studies' came about, and giving a capsule account of Vladimir Propp's seminal taxonomy. There are interesting discussions on assumptions in the field, such as that British folklore customs must inevitably have evolved from pagan rites. Morris dancing, it turns out, was only invented in the mid-15th century, when it 'became a fashionable craze in the courts of western Europe', but most people now assume it derives from some ancient fertility rite. Odd how once-faddish inventions attain an aura of historical and cultural authority.
This book is a first-rate introduction to the murky subject of folklore. Bob Trubshaw succinctly runs though the common misconceptions that abound in popular understandings of folklore and why they have arisen. He then gives an overview of the various aspects of culture that have come to be thought of as folklore and takes us through the main academic theories that have been developed in the last 20 odd years regarding them. The issues and definitions contained within are specifically to do with British folklore. However, the underlying problems and attitudes that the examination reveals, are more general and could apply to many disciplines. This book is highly recommended for folklorists, antiquarians, historians, pagans and anyone interested in cultural studies or the development of ideas in popular culture.
I just wanted to let you know that Explore Folklore is brilliant. It is excellent to have a proper theoretical exploration of folklore. It is also very readable (even unputdownable!) and deserves to be the standard work in the field. Congratulations on producing something so brilliant and well-researched.
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