Date of this Version
Narodna Umjetnost (Croatian Journal of Ethnology and Folklore Research)
When William Thoms coined and defined the term 'folklore' he unwittingly opened a Pandora's box which neither he nor others could put the lid back on. Definitions of folklore have been pouring out ever since (Ben Amos 1971:3-9; Legros 1962). With this gesture of nationalism Thoms naively thought that he had offered "a good Saxon compound" that would replace the Latin-derived "Popular Antiquities" (1846; 1965:5); but what he actually did was to propose a name to an as yet unborn, or worse, ill-formed, concept. Logically there is no necessary connection between "the manners, customs, observances, superstitions, ballads, [and] proverbs, etc." (1965:5) that Thoms considered to be the substance of folklore. He brought them together into one category on the basis of three factors: the attribution of antiquity, the observation of their approaching demise, and the goal of salvaging them from total oblivion. He considered the cultural elements he enumerated to be of 'olden time', and then drew two conclusions, "the first, how much that is curious and interesting in these matters is now entirely lost, the second, how much may yet be rescued by timely exertion" (1965:5).
Originally published by the Institut za Etnologiju i Folkloristiku (Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research) © 1981.
Ben-Amos, D. (1981). The Cultural Mediators of Folklore. Narodna Umjetnost (Croatian Journal of Ethnology and Folklore Research), 29-35. Retrieved from https://repository.upenn.edu/nelc_papers/145
Date Posted: 19 February 2019
This document has been peer reviewed.