Reformed folklore?
Cautionary tales and oral tradition in early modern England
in The spoken word

Cautionary tales of the judgements God visited upon flagrant and incorrigible sinners circulated widely in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England: stories of sabbath-breakers, swearers, drunkards, adulterers and other ungodly livers struck down suddenly by the avenging arm of the Almighty. Recycling older materials and incorporating new ingredients created a distinctive body of tales and stories which might legitimately be described as a corpus of Protestant legend and folklore. Recent folklorists have rejected the misguided persuasion of their predecessors that folklore was a pure distillation of the untainted spring waters of continuous oral tradition. Oral tradition filtered into the printed collections of God's judgements in a variety of ways. The notion that God actively intervened in human affairs to reward the good and discipline the wicked was by no means an innovation of the post-Reformation period, but such beliefs were bolstered by Calvinist theology.

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The spoken word

Oral culture in Britain 1500–1850

Editors: Adam Fox and Daniel Woolf
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