Mudcat Café message #4018023 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #166858   Message #4018023
Posted By: Anne Lister
08-Nov-19 - 05:18 PM
Thread Name: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
Subject: RE: Folklore: Rumpelstiltskin, thousands of years old?
Thank you, Steve - This could easily turn into a whole study section on medieval entertainers, and I'm up for that (!), but returning to the question of story/folk tale and the transmission of all manner of oral literature and music - we simply don't know enough about what happened in less formal settings. Shonaleigh Cumbers is able to tell us about the drut'syla tradition from her own Netherlands Jewish family background, where an enormous body of tales, organised into cycles and sub-cycles, were passed down from grandmother to granddaughter (and she's engaged in telling the stories to audiences and recording them orally, as they were never written down), and she and her husband Simon Heywood keep coming across variants of these stories in different places, sometimes within the Torah or other sacred books. I highly recommend going to hear Shonaleigh, by the way. We don't know whether there were similar tradition bearers in other cultures, but it seems reasonable to suppose there were. These were trained storytellers, but not necessarily professionals (in the sense of being paid). So whether in any given community there was "the storyteller" who would be the only one to remember and re-tell the stories or whether the stories were remembered by several within the community, and how this connected with the stories which found their way into written form we will never know. Possibly a suitable comparison would be between professional stand up comedians and that person in the pub who has a stock of jokes.
I just wanted to knock the old chestnut of "people didn't travel much" on the head - it's about as accurate as that old rubbish that people all died much younger, or were much shorter, in past generations. [in case you didn't know, the "dying young" stuff is based mostly on "the average age" for dying, which is skewed by infant mortality rates, death in childbirth for women and death from diseases which are now preventable or curable. And the height question is often based on surviving suits of armour, which survived because the young person in question grew out of them, or short beds, which was because the nobility at times including the 17th century thought it was safer to sleep sitting up!]