I love folklore.
Every country and culture has a rich heritage of folklore and storytelling. Some are more famous than others and some – many – aren’t given the attention they deserve. There is no tradition of folklore more valid of fascinating than any other, but we all have our personal favourites. One of the joys of the internet is an increased accessibility to storytelling from all around the world. I subscribe to around twenty-five podcasts on myths, legends and folklore, and am always on the lookout for more.
I don’t know what it is about folklore that I love. Partly, there’s a comfort in re-reading the stories I grew up with, but also a joy in hearing an unknown story for the first time. I love how accessible folklore is, often told as it is in short-form, and perfect for reading aloud. Indeed, oral storytelling is the backbone of folklore, and its stories are created to be spoken aloud, told on dark winter nights around a roaring fire.
Just swap the roaring fire for a hot water bottle and cosy blanket, and folklore is still perfect for those dark winter nights.
In Wales, there’s plenty of folklore to be explored. Over the past couple of years, I attended a wonderful theatre performance showcasing Welsh stories, was introduced to New Tales from the Mabinogion, bought several books of folktales, and have rediscovered my love of Welsh folklore.
Folklore is story, and history, and memory. Throughout human history, folklore has offered a way for the marginalised and oppressed to connect with their own history, and to add their own stories. Folklore is an expression of our own humanity – constantly changing and evolving in its tellings and retellings, yet always remaining true to itself. We connect with our own history and our own culture through our folklore, through those stories which stand the test of time, and learn about those of others.
What’s not to love?
A country of stunning natural beauty, with its green hills, its mountains, forests and coastline, Wales is a place made for tales of fairies and dragons, magic and myths. Whilst I can’t hear the tale of Gelert without crying – I’m a dog-lover – I love the tales of mermaids and lands lost beneath the sea, of bird-women and giants and magic wells, of creatures that dwell in the dark depths of a coal mine, and dragons that battle beneath mountains, that abound in Wales. Folklore is not a dead thing, confined to dusty books. Whether it’s the passing on of the oral storytelling tradition, in retellings of the Mabinogion, in modern poetry, or in celebration of Welsh music and song, Welsh folklore is very much alive.
Sarah Jayne Tanner is an author from Herefordshire in the UK, and has lived in South West Wales for over ten years. She started making up stories at a young age, and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She has had several short stories published, and her debut novel, Defiance, is available on Amazon Kindle. She is currently studying for her PhD in Creative Writing, loves dogs, and enjoys walking and knitting. She spends most of her waking moments either reading and writing, or thinking about reading and writing. You can find her on Twitter at @SarahTanner3.
You can read Sarah’s story, Kissed by Lightning, in our first issue.