Two creatures with the respective faces of a cat and owl flying in a star-strewn night sky.

Selections from Victorian Folklore

Lead Developer: Indu Ohri (Boston University)

Student Developers (Boston University): View List

Digital Developer: Adrian S. Wisnicki (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Date (publication and updates): 2023

Lead Developer: Indu Ohri (Boston University)

Student Developers (Boston University): View List

Digital Developer: Adrian S. Wisnicki (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

  1. Overview
  2. Student Developers
  3. Works Cited
  4. Page Citation
  5. Lead Image Details


This page features pedagogical materials designed by students in one of Indu Ohri's classes (2022). The materials offer plot synopses, explain key contexts, and investigate the composition process behind selected Victorian folklore collections. Such collections were frequently the first vehicles for sharing people of color's voices with western readers because colonial administrators would gather folklore from local co-authors/co-creators whom they often failed to acknowledge.

The materials on this page are meant to guide a general scholarly audience of educators, graduate students, and college students who may be unfamiliar with these folktales as well as to enrich the public’s knowledge about Indigenous folklore. The materials comprise files containing plot summaries and keywords describing individual folktales from six collections.

In Fall 2020, Ohri was inspired by Rojaunee Chatterjee, Alicia Mireles Christoff, and Amy Wong’s article “Undisciplining Victorian Studies” (2020) to teach courses and design assignments on British writers of color. She had studied Victorian literature as centering white Eurocentric perspectives and culture; this article completely revolutionized her perception of who the field could encompass to include non-western writers and creators of color.

In discussion with Adrian S. Wisnicki, the creator of One More Voice, Ohri then designed student assignments that would complement the folklore subsection in the bibliography of One More Voice. This work was built on Ohri’s research and teaching on Victorian and Edwardian women’s ghost stories and supernatural fiction from around the world at the University of Virginia.

Ohri wanted students to approach the folklore collections using scholarly methods and frame these materials ethically as they worked to undiscipline the field of Victorian Studies. As she has written, students are scholars who can engage in academic best practices and furnish major discoveries to Victorian Studies through their reading, writing, and presentations (Ohri 2022).

In spring 2021, Ohri taught an introductory literary seminar, “Uncovering 19th- and 20th-Century British Writers of Color,” (ENGL 2599-001) at the University of Virginia in partnership with One More Voice. This class centered on expanding students’ and the public’s knowledge about, first, the folklore of colonized subjects and, second, supernatural fiction by writers of color under British rule or western imperial influence between 1868 and 1930.

The students used One More Voice as a source for their course readings and for the focus of their final projects, an anthology and video series. They worked collaboratively in small groups to generate materials that were peer-reviewed by their classmates and two graduate students for the anthology Unsung Voices of Color: An Undisciplined Anthology of Folklore and Supernatural Fiction, 1868-1930 (forthcoming). This anthology contains annotated bibliographies, headnotes, and videos that critically frame excerpted texts from Japan, India, South Africa, and Jamaica.

During this period, colonial administrators collected and published folklore with the help of local co-authors (often uncredited), and such collections frequently had problems with translation, transcription, and accuracy. The anthology and video series open up beyond such Eurocentric perspectives by foregrounding the voices of Indigenous groups and people of color who shared their traditions with the British, coauthored folklore collections, and wrote their own supernatural fiction.

The excerpted fictional texts in the anthology include Rabindranath Tagore’s “The Hungry Stones” (1895), Onoto Watanna’s Tama (1910), H. G. de Lisser’s The White Witch of Rose Hall (1929), and Solomon Plaatje’s Mhudi (1930). The folklore selections derive from Mary Frere and Anna Liberata de Souza’s Old Deccan Days; Or, Hindu Fairy Legends, Current in South Asia (1868), George McCall Theal’s Kaffir Folk-lore (1882), Lafcadio Hearn and Setsuko Koizumi’s Kotto (1902), and Walter Jekyll’s Jamaican Song and Story (1907).

The current page presents a series of files with plot summaries and relevant keywords that Ohri’s students developed in “Literature and Art from the Industrial Revolution to the Digital Revolution” (HU 104, secs. 1-3) during summer of 2022 at Boston University.

Each student read one folktale and devised a short plot summary of important events and characters and 3-5 keywords underscoring the tale’s major concepts, themes, or Indigenous terms. In addition, some students contributed extra materials such as keyword definitions and long plot summaries. The “bonus” essay by Macie Parker contextualizes the folktale “How Kimyera Became King of Uganda” more fully in terms of social hierarchy.

The materials here made available include:

  1. Maori Lore: The Traditions of the Maori People, with the Most Important of Their Legends (1904) (PDF | Word)
  2. My Dark Companions and Their Strange Stories (1893) (PDF | Word)
  3. Old Deccan Days; Or, Hindu Fairy Legends, Current in South Asia (1868) (PDF | Word)
  4. Polynesian Mythology and Ancient Traditional History of the New Zealand Race, as Furnished by their Chiefs and Priests (1855) (PDF | Word)
  5. Specimens of Bushman Folklore (1911) (PDF | Word)
  6. Swahili Tales, As Told by Natives of Zanzibar, with an English Translation (1870) (PDF | Word)
  7. Bonus: Macie Parker, “‘How Kimyera Became King of Uganda’: The Story of the Young Hunter Who Grew up to Become King” (PDF | Word)

All the materials here are published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC BY 4.0 Deed) and so are available for immediate use in the classroom.

Student Developers

The following students were all a part of “Literature and Art from the Industrial Revolution to the Digital Revolution” (HU 104) in the summer of 2022 at Boston University and helped develop the pedagogical materials listed in the prior section.

  • Section 1: Cordelia Callaud-Guyart, Morgan Doyle, Kerry O'Gara Donovan, Matthew Gin, Arly Gomez, Isabella Kyprios, Anna Li, Michael Li, Yingqi Li, Katherine Liu, Luke Mager, Margi Lonergan, Catherine Lou, Guerdon Ligon, Mildred Orellana, Mitchel Petrovsky, Shreya Sharma, Arjun Sharma, Rui Wen
  • Section 2: Rosie Baron, Annalise Chai, Teagan Foulke, Hailee Helfrick, Katherine Jiang, Jonathan Lee, Jonathan Li, Haoyi Liu, Pavana Manoj, Aaron Mulligan, Victoria Nnadi, Macie Parker, Richard Quach, Madison Roost, Aaryan Sharma, Jason Silva, Timothy Thai, James Thompson, Olivia Vegliante, Lena Yang, Leo Yuan
  • Section 3: Lou Arrouays, Elizabeth Bright, Alexander Camacho, Sijia Chai, Theodore Chen, Emma Claire Everett, Janiyah Flagg, McKayla Glave, Carrie Huang, Dylan Huang, Emma Kline, Erica Lee, Lewis Levy, Nicholas Lim, Denny Liu, Lincoln Liu, Rachell Paz, Ava Pizziferri, Sophia Rosa, Nabeeha Samater, Miko Ukaji, Jack Wallace, Tammy Xie, Weiyi Yang, Sara Yazdi, Eric Ye

Works Cited

Chatterjee, Ronjaunee, Alicia Mireles Christoff, and Amy R. Wong. 2020. “Undisciplining Victorian Studies.” Los Angeles Review of Books, July 10, 2020.

Ohri, Indu. 2022. “Sara Ahmed’s Politics of Citation and Student Scholarship: Uncovering Indigenous Coauthors of British Folklore Collections.” Victorian Studies 64 (2): 292–96.