Home of The Folk Horror Podcast, and miscellaneous writings by Candle-Ends (Neil).
There isn’t really any reason to say that the custom of the Hobby Horse originated in Padstow, Cornwall. Hobby Horses are found all over England, and very similar customs in other countries as well, throughout Europe and even into Asia. Perhaps these are very ancient customs that spread throughout Eurasia as the domesticated horse spread?There doesn’t seem to be any reason to believe the truth of the legend that the Obby Oss scared away the French in 1346. I haven’t been able to find out how old this story is.“Hobby Horse” is the English name for these characters, but different languages have different names. I would suspect, then, that Padstow in Cornwall would have called its Obby Oss something different back in the days when the people of Cornwall spoke Cornish, a Celtic language related to Welsh, instead of English. In some parts of Cornwall the local Hobby Horse is called “Penglas”, which is Cornish for “Grey Head”. The phrase “’Obby ‘Oss” is just the English “Hobby Horse” pronounced in the local Cornish dialect.I remember that one folklorist actually found that there were six different things that the term “Hobby Horse” could refer to in England. Hobby Horses have a tendency to show up in all kinds of British folk customs, such as folk dances, processions, and folk plays. So often this means that two or more originally separate customs have at some point been combined, so I don’t think it would be possible to say for sure what the “original” Hobby Horse custom looked like.The term came to also be used metaphorically. People would be said to be “riding their own hobby horse” if they had some particular interest that they pursued obsessively. This is the origin of the modern English word “hobby”.Remember that the sport played on Shrove Tuesday in many places in in England is the original game of “Football”, going back to the Middle Ages. Every other sport in the world called “Football” is a descendent of this medieval English sport.I am concerned that you and Mike seem to insist anyone wearing tweed cannot be the real “folk” of England, and must be academics or rich folks. I really think that many of the real “folk” of England wore (and still wear) tweed. At least one person in the trailer for The Moon and the Sledgehammer is wearing tweed, for example.What the guy with the puma (or was it a cougar?) made me think of was reports from different places in England where folks have insisted they have seen a large feline, such as a puma, in the English countryside.Also note that fox-hunting has not been banned in England. What was banned was hunting foxes with a pack of more than two dogs. Basically, the English decided that the old fashioned method of foxhunting did not meet English standards of “fair play” because the fox would be badly outnumbered.You mentioned that the film has some type of blackface performance. I would have to see this again to know what it is. In the United States we associate blackface with the American tradition of Minstrel Shows, and so the custom of blackface is seen as racist in America. But there are many folk customs in England (and other countries) that involve blackened faces. Most of these have no connection with the American minstrel show tradition, and some may have no connection with Africans or other darker-skinned ethnic groups. It isn’t therefore safe to automatically assume that any use of “blackface” is automatically racist. (On the other hand, the American minstrel show tradition did also reach England, and had some influence on English entertainment. Blackface minstrels performed on British television as late as the 1970s, and were very popular).But I am not sure if any of my comments help us really understand the film ARCADIA . . .