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(E)migrating Legends and Sea Change

Author(s): John Shaw

Journal: Folklore (Tartu)
ISSN 1406-0957

Volume: 37;
Start page: 43;
Date: 2007;
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Keywords: oral storytelling | migration of legend | legends of Cape Breton Island | Scottish Gaelic diaspora | Highland traditions

In northwestern Europe, the migration of legends has been a growingarea of study, exploring their history, development, and geographical/cultural distribution. The past two centuries have been a time of large-scale voluntary or forced migrations that have provided new opportunities for investigating how folklore, including legends, has survived and changed during mass population movements. Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, is foremost among the Scottish Gaelic diaspora communities, established in North America during the Highland Clearances, where oral storytelling traditions have been extensively recorded, and provides a unique opportunity for ethnologists to study survival and adaptation of various folklore genres through comparisons with those surviving in the Scottish Highlands from the early 19th century. This article will examine the kinds of legends that have travelled over the Atlantic; how they have adapted; legends that have sprung up in the new environment; and what distinctive new developments have appeared in post-migration tradition.
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