tourist lore

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In recent decades, the increase in tourism has provided a major new context for the transmission of folklore. Guides leading conducted tours of ancient buildings and historic towns diversify the historical information with colourful titbits of legend, in which murders, treasures, pirates, and ghosts are likely to figure; in some towns, there are specialist ‘ghost tours’ where visitors are led, after dark, to look at reputedly haunted sites and hear the tales attached to them. Hotels and pubs may publicize their ghosts as an attraction to visitors, and innumerable booklets offer ‘Tales and Traditions of X-shire’, where similar material is prominent. Some comes, directly or indirectly, from older books of regional folklore, some from current rumour, speculation, and creative variation on older themes. Naturally, it then feeds back into popular awareness and gets passed on.

There is a lively market for traditional artefacts, especially foods based on local recipes; pubs and restaurants in historic towns often adopt menus and decor exploiting nostalgic links, real or alleged, with past ‘heritage’. Corn dollies are on sale all the year round; wishing wells raise money for good causes; Pearly Kings and Queens appear at events arranged by the Tourist Board. These items or events are generally accompanied by printed hand-outs briefly explaining their traditional basis.

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