Tag: Folklore

Companion Dogs as Seers, Healers, and Fairy Steeds

Johnson’s Household Book of Nature, 1880.

When considering dog folklore, we generally think of those stories which feature the Grimm, the Gytrash, or other sinister black dogs roaming the moors in the North of England. But there is more to canine folklore than the ominous black dogs of legend. Companion dogs, such as pugs and corgis, have their place in dog folklore as well.[…]Continue Reading

Mermaids Sightings in the 19th Century

Illustration of a Mermaid, The Brown Fairy Book by H. J. Ford, 1904.

According to historians, tales of mermaids and mermen can be traced back to the Babylonian sea deities Oannes and Atargatis in 1000 BCE. Since then, mermaid folklore has appeared in every era and every culture, from ancient Greece to Victorian England. But mermaid lore was not limited to the realm of folklore and mythology. During the nineteenth century, mermaids appeared with some regularity in art, literature, and music. They also featured in the nineteenth century news, with both sailors and coastal residents reporting real life sightings of mermaids well into the Victorian era.[…]Continue Reading

The Victorian Case of the Turnip-Wielding Trick-Or-Treater

Carving the Pumpkin by Franck Antoine Bail, 1910.

Today, if you don’t wish to hand out candy on Halloween, you can simply switch off your porch light to indicate that you are not at home to trick-or-treaters. Unfortunately, not all trick-or-treaters accept this withdrawal from the holiday with good grace. Some even retaliate by smashing pumpkins in your driveway or against your front door. Disgruntled trick-or-treaters in the Victorian era had similar responses.[…]Continue Reading

The Peacock in Myth, Legend, and 19th Century History

Peacock and Peacock Butterfly by Archibald Thorburn, 1917.
Peacock and Peacock Butterfly by Archibald Thorburn, 1917.

In his 1836 book On the Mental Illumination and Moral Improvement of Mankind, Reverend Thomas Dick calls the peacock “the most beautiful bird in the world.”  There are few that would dispute this description; however, throughout history, there has always been more to the peacock than its dazzling plumage.  At various times and in various cultures, it has served as a symbol of good and evil, death and resurrection, and of sinful pride and overweening vanity.  And much like its avian brethren, the crow and the raven, the peacock has figured heavily in folktales and fables, as well as in countless superstitions that still exist today.[…]Continue Reading

The Victorian Easter Bunny

“In Germany the children believe that the Easter hare places eggs and other presents in the baskets they leave outside the nursery on the eve of Easter.”  The Cornishman, 1892.

Easter Card circa 1908.(Image via New York Public Library)
Easter Card circa 1908.
(Image via New York Public Library)

Though the origin of Easter eggs and Easter bunnies can be traced back to ancient times, the Victorians did not begin to celebrate Easter in the way that we know now until the late 19th century.  It was then that Easter bunnies became fashionable.  Before the 1880s, however, it was in Germany—not in England or the United States—that children believed in the “Easter hare.”  As American author Linda Beard states in her 1893 book How to Amuse Yourself and Others:

“In Germany, too, we should find that children believe as sincerely in the Easter hare as they do in Santa Claus in our country; and the saying, that ‘the hares lay the Easter eggs,’ is never doubted by the little ones.”

[…]Continue Reading