History: Myths and Legends of Cambridgeshire and the Fens

Ref: C2223585

Exploring some of the popular myths and legends of the county and the Fens, that have been passed down to us by oral storytellers and are now in print, including who told the stories, where they were told, and when.

Course aim

To explore of the beliefs and history of Cambridgeshire and the Fens through the diverse and fascinating myths and legends that have been passed down to us by oral storytellers.

Who is the course for?

This course is aimed at anyone interested in local history and the tales that were once part of the oral landscape. You do not need prior knowledge or specific study skills, just an open and enquiring mind.

What topics will this course cover

The course covers a number of myths and legends, the places where they are set and the people who might have told them, in 7 weekly sessions. Each session will look at a different aspect of the oral history of the county: • The definition of Myths and Legends, the old storytellers and storytelling • Tales of the Gogmagog Hills and Wandlebury • Hereward the Saxon and the Fenland rebellion against William the Conqueror • Tom Hickathrift and the Giant on the Smeeth • The Tales of King John, the loss of his treasure and his death • The Brotherhood of the Grey Goose Feather and 17th century gossip • Rural tales, What next, paperwork and storytelling Hand-outs will be provided each week providing a summary of each session. Learners will be encouraged to participate in discussions.

What will it be like?

WEA classes are friendly and supportive. You will be encouraged to work together with your fellow students and tutor. You will be asked to share your ideas and views in the class and work with the group to give and accept feedback in a supportive environment. The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you to be actively involved in your learning. You may be asked to undertake work to support your course outside of your class.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

1. Identify and discuss several local Myths and Legends. 2. Discuss the importance of the oral tradition as a means of passing on information about places, morals and behaviours. 3. Examine story content and comment on how the oral tradition affects tales. 4. Compare and contrast variants of tales particularly those found in more than one location. 5. Apply skills developed in the course to other local myths and legends, in print, video and audio.

How will I know I'm making progress?

Regular recaps with open questions, discussions and feedback from the tutor plus Learner Forms. Learners are also encouraged to keep a folder during the course into which they can place their hand-outs, worksheets and notes made during the course.

What else do I need to know, do or bring?

Students are encouraged to bring a notepad and pens to sessions, along with a folder in which to put handouts etc.

Reading and information sources

The tutor will provide the texts required, so prior reading is not required. Books and articles will also be provided for students to borrow during the course. A weekly hand-out will also provide information on related websites or books. However any student wishing to carry out background reading, or browsing, is advised to consult at least one of the following: • W H Barrett - Tales from the Fens (1963) and More Tales from the Fens (1964) • Christopher Marlowe – Legends of the Fenland People (1926) • Polly Howat – Tales of Old Cambridgeshire (1990) and Ghosts and Legends of Cambridgeshire (1998) • Geoffrey Dixon – Folktales and Legends of Cambridgeshire (1987) • Maureen James – Cambridgeshire Folk Tales (2014) • George Ewart Evans - Where Beards Wag All: The Relevance of the Oral Tradition (1973) • Wentworth Day, James - Rum owd boys(1974)

What could the course lead to?

This course could be a springboard to further study in local history, folklore or related subjects with WEA or another provider. A visit to an oral storytelling event would also be a good way to contextualise the study. A ‘What Next’ hand-out will be provided to all learners at the end of the course listing local places to visit, websites and other information or courses that may be of interest.

Download full course outline

History: Myths and Legends of Cambridgeshire and the Fens Course Outline


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  • are paying the standard fee or are on any of the qualifying benefits
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  • have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2016
  • have read and accept the standard terms and conditions
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