REVIEW: Nottinghamshire Folk Tales

The book for this blog is a little more niche and I appreciate it’s probably not of interest unless you have some connection with Nottinghamshire, UK, or an interest in folklore. I have both.

But I did say I was going to try to review every book I read this year and I’ve read it therefore I will review it.

Collected and retold by Pete Castle and first published in 2012, there are many stories to entertain you. It is published by The History Press, where you can find books of folktales from what looks like most other counties in the UK as well as from other countries.

This book contains eleven chapters and only one of them is about Robin Hood, which I think is great because there is more to Nottingham than our green-legged friend.

We have sections in here about Nottingham Castle, about fairy stories, love stories, about Nottingham boxers, darker stories of ghosts, vampires and highwaymen and my personal favourites, the Wise Men of Gotham who, it transpires, are not very wise at all.

Castle says that the stories of the numerous stupidities of the people of this very small village just outside Nottingham were first committed to paper in 1540 having been told orally for centuries.

There is a theory – or just another story – that the stories were invented by the people of Gotham itself to prevent a Royal Visit. King John was due to travel through the area and the villagers did not want to pay for the great entourage he would travel with to be fed and given lodgings. They invented the stories of the ridiculous exploits of the people of their village in order to ensure the royal party bypassed them, as indeed they did.

The stories gained local, national and then international fame and were so well known in America that Washington Irving used Gotham as a satirical name for New York and DC Comics took that one step further, using it as the name for Batman’s home city. It’s pronounced goat-ham here, but I still like the connection.

The eleven chapters are also divided into separate stories so this really is a book you can dip into and out of at will.

Where possible Castle has detailed an early source for the folk tales as well, which I find particularly interesting.

All in all, a pleasant read for those interested in folk tales, my home county, Robin Hood or even perhaps Batman.

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