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Category: Metafolklore (Folklore about Folklore)

A portrait of an anthropomorphic egg from the front and the back

Humpty Dumpty: Metafolklore, Riddles, and Yolks

Posted by: Stephen Winick

This post looks at the history and meaning of the nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty." It considers several popular origin stories for the rhyme, including that it is about Richard III of England, or about a siege engine in the English Civil War. It points out that these stories constitute "metafolklore," or folklore about folklore, and traces their history. It also considers how the rhyme works as a riddle, whose solution is "an egg." It includes many unusual versions of "Humpty Dumpty," many fun stories, and many classic illustrations!

Photo showing a basket of diverse and colorful dreidels

The Truth Behind the Hanukkah Dreidel: Metafolklore, Play, and Spin

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Hanukkah this year will be celebrated from December 18 to December 26. Jewish children all over the world will be playing a gambling game with a traditional spinning top known as a dreidel. Many of them will also be told stories about the origin and meaning of the dreidel, stories which claim that the dreidel once had a subversive purpose or that it was created to commemorate a great miracle. These stories are themselves interesting folklore. Since the dreidel is a traditional toy used to play a traditional game, such stories about the dreidel and game can be called metafolklore--that is, folklore about folklore. In this blog, we'll take a look at some of these stories about the origin of the dreidel and examine the toy's real history.

A woman in 19th century attire with a basket and a rock hammer

She Sells Seashells and Mary Anning: Metafolklore with a Twist

Posted by: Stephen Winick

A little while back, the internet was abuzz with the inspirational story of Mary Anning, a pioneering 19th-century paleontologist from Lyme Regis in England. Some of my favorite blogs and magazines got in on the act: Atlas Obscura, QI (Quite Interesting), Dangerous Women, Cracked, and Forbes, to name just a few, published versions of the …