High-profile appearances for University of Chichester professor

Bill Gray''C120399-2 Ent Folklore  Photo Louise Adams
Bill Gray''C120399-2 Ent Folklore Photo Louise Adams

HAVE you ever wondered why elves are associated with Christmas? Or why we continue to tell stories of bogeymen generation after generation?

Professor Bill Gray of the University of Chichester has made several high-profile radio appearances over the past month to provide answers to these and other fantastical questions.

Bill is the director of the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy, which is based at the university, and a renowned expert in all three fields. Last year he acted as a consultant on the Hollywood film Snow White and the Huntsman.

He appeared on Simon Mayo’s BBC Radio 2 show on December 17 to discuss the association of elves with Christmas. Following that interview, Bill was invited back on the show on January 15 to discuss toad doctors, charmers and other cunning folk. The podcast is available here.

In between these appearances, Bill was interviewed for the BBC World Service programme The Why Factor, for an episode broadcast on Friday, December 21. The podcast is available here.

The episode, which also included top fairy-tale expert Prof Maria Tatar of Harvard University, who’s on the advisory board of the Sussex Centre, explores why we tell each other scary folk stories involving bogeymen, why they’ve been passed down from generation to generation, and why such tales endure across different cultures. You can listen to a podcast of the show here.

Bill said: “The programme is about our fascination the Sackman, the Sandman and other bogey figures. This kind of figure appears in various cultures, which suggests that this kind of scary figure is to do with basic anxieties and issues about how an individual comes to terms with the demands of joining a culture, what the child has to give up, or sacrifice, in order to join a culture, and the fearful consequences if they don’t.”

For more about the Sussex Centre, click here.