Folklore and History: Using story to understand the past 

storyteller for schools, Folklore and History

Folklore contains many clues to the past, not only events but also attitudes and beliefs.

Stories provide a powerful way of transporting children (and adults) through time and into different situations to help them relate to key events and people from history.

Folklore and History helps children look beyond the surface of a story to think about the actual events that may lie behind fantastical stories.

The term ‘Folklore’ represents an immense and highly diverse collection of stories passed down through the generations. Some are fanciful, some comedic or even absurd. However the way folklore comes about provides a wonderful opportunity to peek into the past.


Even today, whenever something important or shocking occurs, people talk about it to each other. If the news is interesting enough, it is passed from person to person. Over time, each teller adds their little flare or invention in the telling. Some stories begin to grow and take on a life of their own to survive as folklore, or even become raised to the lofty height of a legend. This process still occurs today with stories in the number of urban legends that have come into being.


With the Folklore and History package, Carl shares stories that each have some important historical information within them. By using the storyteller approach the children are captivated by the tale and are often surprised and excited when they discover the real event that gave rise to the story.


Therefore, in the wonderful mix of stories we call folklore, are little gems of oral history. They may be distorted over time but deep within them are clues to how life was in days gone by. The stories can be closely tied to a particular locality to create local legends or they may represent events of national importance.


For example:

  • The children’s Rhyme of ‘Ring a Ring of Roses’ relates to the Black Death
  • The story of Dinas Emrys and the red dragon of Wales relates to the time of Saxon invasion.
  • Geologists and Anthropologists propose that the story of Noah’s Ark could stem from  5.6 million years ago when the Atlantic Ocean broke through the Strait of Gibraltar to create the Mediterranean Sea.

This activity can be further extended into creative projects to reinforce learning or lead to a project on local legends and place names to discover more local history. 

Other Storytelling for schools and learning packages:

Culture and Communication – Using story to explore different cultures

Folklore and history – using story to understand the past

Myth or Legend? Parable or Fable? – knowing the difference

Mabinogion Magic – Exploring the ancient stories of Wales

Fabled Fables! – Using animal stories to explore ethics and morals

What makes ‘Spookey’ spookey? – Storytelling and structure

The never ending story – tales where the children decide the ending.

Hedgerow wisdom - the stories that help us remember


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