Curriculum Kernewek

Cornwall Agreed Syllabus 2011

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+ Guide to local stories and places

Cornish Stories are part of an oral storytelling tradition, shared by cultures around the world. These stories were told and passed on through generations and for many storytelling was a greatly anticipated feature of a family gathering, feast day or community event. Storytellers, or 'droll tellers' as they are also known, continue to tell their stories at gatherings and events today.

Some Cornish stories began to be collected and written down by antiquarians in the nineteenth century and continued interest in the stories has ensured that many more have been recorded and published. Whilst the stories are available to read, Cornish droll tellers are keen to keep storytelling traditions alive and maintain that the way a story is told is as important as its plot.

Many stories mention specific places or sites and reveal customs and beliefs attached to them. Some of the myths explain how Cornwall was created and elements of its landscape were forged. The legends have an historical flavour and tend to be located in a specific period, for example, the tales of King Arthur. There are plenty of unusual characters in the stories, including the little people (piskies, spriggans, buccas, and knackers or knockers), who bring mischief and mystery by tricking or helping people. Many of the stories have a moral, although some have been adapted to incorporate Christian values, for instance the maidens turned to stone for dancing on a Sunday.

Cornish stories feature:

+ giants – a good example is Cormoran who was responsible for collecting granite rocks from the moors and piling them up to create St Michaels Mount.

+ mermaids – like the Mermaid of Zennor who pays a visit to St Senara's Church and captivates local man Mathey Trewella who follows her, never to be seen again.

+ piskies, spriggans, buccas, and the knackers – types of little people with different characteristics for example malevolent, mischievious, playful or bringers of good luck.

+ legends/historical stories – for example King Arthur, Tristan and Iseult and the Cornish saints.

+ human characters – like Tregeagle, Madgy Figgy or Jack the Giant Killer.