As children we were all, you will probably agree, blessed with a plethora of folk stories, folk songs, myths and legends. The first songs we heard and learnt by heart were nursery rhymes- Little Jack Horner, Wee Willie Winkie, Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush and Pop Goes the Weasel, though most of us had no idea what they were on about half the time. Mulberry Bush? What the fig is a mulberry bush? Rice I can understand… But tuppeny rice? And half a pound of it? What, does it cost fifty pence? It’s fair to say that metric measures and the introduction of decimal currency have turned Pop Goes the Weasel into an impenetrable dinosaur- But back to the matter at hand… Our early stories were fairy and folk stories- The Brothers Grimm, Jack and the Beanstalk, Puss in Boots; whilst the rest of our stories were littered with elves, goblins, witches and all manner of other beastly, folkloric creatures. Our childhoods were steeped in folklore and fantasy.
Some of our childhood traditions and stories, particularly the nursery rhymes, are only a couple of centuries old. Pop Goes the Weasel dates to the mid seventeen hundreds. Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush is a century later. Many of the folk stories, however, are as old as the hills. In some cases, for example if you live in North Wales, those folk stories are the hills.
All our childhood traditions and stories and creatures come together to form a rich cultural legacy, a tapestry which we are all well aware of and can recite and recall even into adulthood. But as adults we tend to dismiss all of it as exclusively for children, as nonsense, something to put to the back of our minds. Unless we’re reading or watching fantasy we cast aside elves and goblins in favour of more rational fair. But should we leave it all for the children or should we be prouder of this aspect of our heritage? Should we not embrace it all a bit more?
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