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Introduction to Scottish Folklore

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

Folklore, myth and legend have flourished in Scotland since Neolithic times. Their growth and origin – social, linguistic and philosophical – will be considered, and many specific sites e.g. stone circles and hilltops, will be investigated in the light of their stories. Students will learn how oral transmission gives us information that can be of great assistance to historical and archaeological analysis as well as helping us develop a broader picture of Scotland's past.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

A general awareness of Scottish history and culture is desirable.

Content of Course

1. The role of oral tradition and how we access it.

2. Linguistic, social and economic patterns of Scottish life.

3. Ballads and Songs, Tales and Stories.

4. Continuities in tradition, time-scales and contemporaeity.

5. Legends of the Landscape.

6. Epic figures from Celtic and Germanic sources.

7. Faerie.

8. The turning points of the year and their festivals.

9. Witches, magic and survivals.

10. The Living Tradition.

Teaching method(s)

Lecture based with class discussion.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be able to:

  • Uderstand the extent and vibrancy of what is still an extant tradition in many areas;

  • Locate and access texts and other resources that re of specific geographical relevance;

  • Discuss how Scotland’s different language traditions intermingle and preserve ancient ideas and traditions;

  • Explain of the role of story within oral tradition as both education and entertainment and its relevance to enhanced understanding of Scottish history;

  • Follow through areas of particular personal interest within Scottish heritage and tradition.


Core Readings


  • McNeill, M. (1990; first published 1957-68). The Silver Bough 4 vols. Glasgow: Canongate

  • MacKenzie, D. A. (1935). Scottish Folk-Lore and Folk-Life London: Blackie

  • Ross, A (1976). The Folklore of the Scottish Highlands London: Batsford


  • Cameron. D. K. (1987). The Ballad sand the Plough. London: Birlinn

  • Campbell, J. G. (1994; first published 1860/61). Popular Tales of the West Highlands 2 vols, Edinburgh: Birlinn

  • Cowan,E. J. (1980). The People’s Past.Edinburgh: Polygon

  • McHardy. S.A. (2005). On the Trail of Scotland’s Myths and Legends. Edinburgh: Luath Press

Class Handouts

Handouts will be provided.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.