Lusty Knaves and Vile Children – A Review of Tudor Folk Tales

AD Whatever period of history you study, there are basic human traits which transcend time. That’s why when The History Press offered me a copy of Tudor Folk Tales by David Tonge I jumped at the chance. I LOVE Tudor History but didn’t know anything about its folk tales – what timeless and universal stories would I uncover?!

Tudor Folk Tales

In Tudor times the ‘common sort’ were no different from us, laughing together, mocking each other and sharing bawdy tales in tavern yards, marketplaces and anywhere else that people came together. These stories were later collected in the cheap print of the period, and professional storyteller Dave Tonge has sought them out to assemble here.

While not the most prominent of historical sources, folk tales evoke a sense of place, culture and social history. The stories help in showing how society viewed itself and also conveys their notions of justice and morality. It’s a great way to study the lives of ordinary people in history.

The Book

I must admit when I was first approached to review this book I thought I would be receiving a simple collection of Tudor folk tales – how wrong was I?!

Tudor Folk Tales is actually a book of two halves. In every chapter the stories are broken down into two parts. The first part is the historical context behind that specific story, using court records from Norwich as supporting evidence. The second part is the Tudor folk tale itself.

Tudor Folk Tales

This structure allows readers to gain a basic level of knowledge so that they can fully analyse and understand the hidden meanings in the folk tales. Without this extra info I think the ‘ordinary’ reader with no historical background could potentially be put off by ‘undecipherable’ stories.

The folk tales are broken down thematically by chapter. There are chapters looking at the role of women, ‘masterless youth‘, religious people and many more. I particularly enjoyed the chapter entitled ‘Fact or Fiction, Truth or Lies?‘. It’s about real Tudor people and the folk tales surrounding them. This blurring of fact and fiction – when histories become more like stories – can happen over time with the passing on of oral histories.

Tudor Folk Tales

My Verdict

An interesting little book, that would make a great gift for the Tudor history enthusiast.

One of the reasons I enjoyed this book is because it provided me with a strong link to a very distant past through timeless and universal stories. There have always been – and will always be – humans who fall foul of lust, greed and other sins. Its human nature.

Many, many thanks again to The History Press for reaching out to work with me. But – as always – all love of Tudor History is my own!

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