Investigating the 'Legends of the Carrs'
: a study of the tales as printed in 'Folk-lore' in 1891

  • Maureen James

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This study investigates the content, collection and dissemination of the Legends of the Cars, a group of tales published in Folk-Lore in 1891, as having been collected in North Lincolnshire from local people. The stories, have been criticised for their relatively unique content and the collector, Marie Clothilde Balfour has been accused of creating the tales.

    The stories are today used by artists, writers and storytellers, wishing to evoke the flatland and beliefs of the past, yet despite the questions raised regarding authenticity, neither the collector, the context or the contents have been thoroughly investigated. The tales have also, due to their inclusion in diverse collections, moved geographically south in the popular perception.

    This thesis documents the research into the historical, geographical and social context of the Legends of the Cars, and also validates the folkloric content and the dialect as being from North Lincolnshire. The situation within the early Folklore Society prior to, and after the publication of the stories, has also been investigated, to reveal a widespread desire to collect stories from the rural populations, particularly if they demonstrated a latent survival of paganism.

    Balfour followed the advice of the folklorists and, as well as submitting the tales in dialect, also acknowledged their pagan content within her introductions. Shortly after the publication, she became a member of the Folklore Society, and though she continued to collect stories these appeared not in Folk-Lore but in the popular collections of Jacobs.

    The story collecting methods used in the late nineteenth century and the narrative content of the Legends of the Cars, have also been explored to demonstrate clear links to the oral rather than literary traditions. These factors have been set alongside an exploration of the life of Balfour to highlight her potential motivations.

    Using clues within the introductions, I believe I have managed to locate the tellers of four of the stories, and whilst the original creators of the narratives may never be known, their influences have placed these tales firmly within the Ancholme Valley, a fact that is of growing interest to the people of the Lincolnshire Carrs today.
    Date of AwardApr 2013
    Original languageEnglish

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