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GEORGE FRAMPTON - Discordant Comicals: The Hooden Horse Of East Kent 

GEORGE FRAMPTON - Discordant Comicals: The Hooden Horse Of East Kent 
Ozaru Books ISBN: 9780993158773 

Outside its role in a morris team, the hobby horse is a rare beast. Padstow and Minehead have their May ‘Osses and in Wales the Mari Lwyd is making a comeback. With his book Discordant Comicals, George Frampton (singer, researcher and contributor to these pages) illuminates the North East corner of Kent and its mid-winter custom of hoodening, a Christmas house-visiting tradition involving singing, disguise and a cavorting three-legged ‘hooden’ horse.

Frampton takes as his starting point another book, The Hooden Horse, by Percy Maylam (1909). Where Maylam documents the sad remnants of a disappearing tradition, Discordant Comicals celebrates both hoodening history and its popular revival.

The early chapters provide an insight into the history and possible origins of hoodening, before we get to the core of the book examining the tradition as recorded in different towns and villages. The following chapters on the subsequent hoodening revivals clearly benefit from his personal experience of hoodening and involvement with the folk scene in the area. The final chapter looks at wider aspects and contexts. His very readable research is backed up with generous quotations from the older source materials. This approach is much more valuable and interesting than the common practice of citations and precis.

A quarter of the book is given over to appendices, all seven of them. Whilst some are the kind of lists and gazetteers we might expect, the others are individual studies in their own right. The first gives us the words and music for the songs used in the tradition. Appendix E is of special interest to the hobby horse enthusiasts, with descriptions and photographs of the original and revival animals. Other appendices look at ‘Goodening’ and the mumming plays used by some of the revival Hoodeners.

Discordant Comicals is a welcome and important addition to the rather small canon of literature exploring our ‘beasts of disguise’ traditions. The central characters may be a horse and a man dressed as a woman, but the plot reveals a tale of rich cultural heritage.

Stephen Rowley


This review appeared in Issue 132 of The Living Tradition magazine