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1001 Stories Collection

The Pedlar of Swaffham

1001 The Pedlar Of Swaffham Maria Teneva
Added on 02nd July 2020

Oral tradition Folktale from England

UK and Ireland Family Folk and fairy tales
1001 , Audio , Text

Following your dreams is the theme of this traditional English story.

Story

A pedlar dreams that standing upon London Bridge will bring him luck, but when he arrives his hopes are disappointed. He tells the story of his dream to a man on the bridge, who laughs at him but when in return the man tells the story of his dream the pedlar realises that what he seeks may be closer to home than he thought.

Why we chose it

The Pedlar of Swaffham was part of The Story Museum’s original audio collection and is a favourite story of many storytellers. It was one of the stories included in our 2018 Christmas production Wish.

Where it came from

The story comes from Swaffham, a town in Norfolk. The pedlar may be based upon the real, historical figure, John Chapman, who is listed in the 15th century Black Book (at Swaffham Church Library) as having paid for the new north aisle and spire of the Church in 1462.

Where it went next

It is a story that has been frequently retold. Kevin Crossley-Holland includes it in his collection Between Worlds and it can also be found in Tales of Wonder and Magic edited by Hugh Lupton and Niamh Starkey.

Swaffham has not forgotten the pedlar. In the church there is a statue of the pedlar with a pack on his back and his dog by his side. He is also featured on the town sign.

Associated stories

Similar stories can also be found throughout Europe and the Middle-East. Though the setting may be different, the basic story of following the dream remains constant.

A more familiar story about a poor man setting out to seek his fortune is Dick Whittington.

Added on 02nd July 2020

Oral tradition Folktale from England

UK and Ireland Family Folk and fairy tales
1001 , Audio , Text

Story Resources

  • The Pedlar of Swaffham story text PDF (189.789 KB)
    Download