Water World as Another Home for the English Nation Reflected in the English Folklore

Water World as Another Home for the English Nation Reflected in the English Folklore


  1. Introduction.
  2. The history of Britain’s relations with its «waterworld». Why did it inspire the emergence of the rich English folklore?
  3. The water world in the English folklore: tales, stories fears, prejudices, poems connected with seas, rivers, lakes and their inhabitants.
  4. The English nation’s attempt at trying to preserve its precious «waterworld» both as the natural resource and the cultural inheritance.
  5. Conclusion.

The British are a most curious nation in many aspects. When a tourist from whatever continent comes to visit Britain the first conclusion he arrives at is how bizarre the people living there are. The main reason to their uniqueness will certainly lie on the surface: Great Britain is an island populated by the nation that had to grow up and go all the long way of its history alone being separated from the rest of the world by great amounts of water. This very characteristics turned them into not only a curious nation, but also an interesting and special one, whose history and culture are one of the richest in the world. And the water surrounding the island played not a minor part in its forming. So the British people respect and cherish their «watery» neighbour who from the earliest stages of their history up to now gave them food, drink, work, power, respect of other nations, wealth and after all entertainment. It inspired a huge number of stories, tales, poems, superstitions and prejudices and it has always been worshipped by the people.

The studies of the British culture and therefore understanding of the national character of the English cannot stand apart from the research of its important product — folklore. By culture we mean the result of the social activity of people. Every new generation historically brings its piece into the whole process of the development of culture of this or that nation; so culture collects the values expressed through different means: literature, architecture, music, sculpture, traditions, cuisine, etc. Cultural development of the nation is essential for the development of every person belonging to it, because his understanding and percepting of the world is formed according to the society he grows up in and is influenced by the norms and values of this society.

Arts in general are always meant to bring beauty into the life of people and educate them through it, make them better, kinder and wiser. National folklore is no exception in this sense. Even if it very often does not have a human being as the central figure it still bring forward ethical questions, studies human soul, its moral qualities. Accepting this aspect presupposes that we realize the educational side of the folkloric characters and understand what their creators wanted to tell us, or warn about, or what kind of an ideal they meant to form up. However, each folkloric hero or character is a mixture of a number of different qualities and its nature is not always clear and easy to interpreter. Therefore the aim and the meaning of a character should be searched for in just one side of its complicated semantics.

So the aim of this work is to make a research in the part of a rich field of the British folklore concerning British water world through the means of songs, poems, stories, legends, fears, superstitions, tales. With the help of this material we shall study the changes and development of the English character, language, history and culture.


The field of the country’s economy connected with water was always a great concern for those who ruled it for they naturally attached much importance to it. From the times when the English society was being born and only beginning to take shape kings already would interest themselves in the conditions of trading across the sea. In the eleventh century Cnut on a pilgrimage to Rome took the opportunity of obtaining from the Emperor and other rulers he met there greater security and reduction of talls for his subjects, traders and others, travelling in their lands. Already in the eighth century an English merchant called Botta was settled at Marceilles, perhaps as an agent for collecting goods to be sold in England. The Viking rades of the late eighth and ninth centuries disrupted trade on the Continent, but Englishmen may well have taken part in the Baltic trade opened up by this time. At least, there is no reason to deny English nationality to a certain Wulfstan who described to King Alfred a journey taken to the Frisches Haff; he has an English name.

On the other hand, we hear of foreign traders in England from early times. Bede speaks of London as the «mart of many nations, resorting to it by sea and land», and mentions the purchase of a captive by a Frisian merchant in London. But the strongest evidence for the amount of sea traffic in Frisian hands is the assumption of an Anglo-Saxon poet that a seaman is likely to have a Frisian wife:

Dear is the welcome guest to the Frisian woman when the ship comes to land. His ship is come and her husband, her own bread — winner, is at home, and she invites him in, washes his stained raiment and gives him new clothes, grants him on land what his love demands.