- Opie, Peter Mason
- (1918-1982)Apart from a brief army career in his early twenties, Peter Opie's life was devoted to collecting and studying folklore, especially children's lore, on which he and his wofe Iona became world-famous authorities. Using both library research and fieldwork, and drawing on information from many correspondents, they assembled materials from which were built a series of scholarly and elegantly written books, which are recognized as essential reference works in their respective fields: The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (1951), The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren (1959), Children's Games in Street and Playground (1969), The Classic Fairy Tales (1974), and the posthumously published The Singing Game (1985) and Children's Games with Things (1997). The card-indexes kept by Peter and Iona also formed the basis for the latter's Dictionary of Superstitutions (1989, with Moira Tatem).Peter and Iona's work began at a time when folklore studies in England were at a low ebb, and made a startling impact, both in its meticulous pursuit of historical accuracy and its painstaking recording of contemporary material from children of school age. Never had the systematic gathering of material on such a large scale been attempted in England, and the results were an impressive testimony to the vigour and constant development of tradition. Their use of printed sources was also exemplary in its precision.Peter Opie was President of the Anthropology Section of the British Association for 1962-3, and President of the Folklore Society for 1963-4. Poor health, however, forced him to husband his strength; he lectured rarely, and concentrated on research, writing, and his superb collection of early children's books and toys, part of which is now in the Bodleian in Oxford.
A Dictionary of English folklore. Jacqueline Simpson & Steve Roud. 2014.
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