English folklore is a kind of story, told throughout the generations as a way of teaching lessons about a country's heritage. Parents and grandparents pass stories down over the years to keep traditions and practices alive. As with any folklore, English tales are often fantastical, and they've been enriched throughout the years by England's complex history.
Folklore can come in many different forms, from happy stories intended to make children smile and laugh, to stories that act more like fables, providing an education into morals or ethics. Some families even have their own folk stories that trace all the way back to long-forgotten ancestors.
The Purpose of English Folklore
For many people, Folklore is both a way to pay homage to English history and a nostalgic opportunity to remember their heritage. The many political upheavals, revolutions and artistic renaissances that England has seen over the years has produced countless stories - many of which we no longer tell.
While there are many great tales to come out of England, Scotland, and Wales, many of the best stories have been forgotten over the years. You may know the story of Tom Thumb and Robin Hood almost off by heart, but you're less likely to hear about Boggarts, Herne the Hunter or Jack O Kent.
Forgotten English Folklore
Over the years, some folktales have been picked up and re-imagined into more modern stories and films at the cinema, but other stories have lost their appeal as England has evolved.
Here are just some of the stories in English folklore that we don't hear as often.
- Boggarts: A common part of northern English lore, Boggarts are mean creatures known for causing milk to turn sour. Once a boggart attaches itself to a family, the monster will pester those people forever, making their belongings disappear and causing general mischief.
- Herne the Hunter: Herne the Hunter was tasked with defending Windsor Forest during the reign of Queen Elizabeth the first, according to legend. Apparently, after an untold crime, he hung himself in the forest to avoid impending feelings of guilt and shame. Now Herne guards the woods and protects them when the country is in grave danger.
- Faerie Dogs: You might have heard of fairies before, but what about Faerie dogs? A lesser-known part of English folklore, faerie dogs, are said to be creatures that guard the crossroads to other worlds. The dogs are bright green in colour, and they'll bark to ward people away from dangerous paths. If you hear three barks from a faerie dog, legend says that you may be doomed.
- Jack O'Kent: Jack O'Kent is an old folk hero, known for matching wits with the devil. Once, Jack made a deal with the devil to help him build a bridge. The agreement was that the devil would earn the first soul to cross that bridge. After the structure was completed, Jack threw a bone across it, leading the devil to claim a dog as his prize, instead of a human.
- The witch hare of Cleveland: Stories tell of a witch that would agree to show hunters where they could find a hare to chase after they'd had a disappointing day on the fields. The witch's only request was that the hunters should never send a black dog to hunt the hare. One day, during a run with the hare, a black dog came out of nowhere and bit a chunk out of the hare's leg. When the hunters went to apologize to the witch, they found her with a lump taken out of her thigh in the same place the dog had caught the hare.