Annotated Piece 1 – William Wallace in the Movie Braveheart

The following post is a brief analysis of folklore’s presence in the film Braveheart. It contains several key quotes and examples that indicate how this film showcases the oral tradition of Medieval Scotland.


The movie Braveheart, directed by and starring Mel Gibson, could not have been created without the aid of folkloric descriptions of William Wallace. The movie even contains clear examples of how our understanding of the great hero has been shaped by oral tradition.

Gibson chose to insert several examples of this in action in the heart of the movie. While rallying his troops prior to the movie’s depiction of the Battle of Stirling, a peasant soldier challenges Wallace, accusing him of being a fraud, for, “William Wallace is 7 feet tall.” In response, Wallace replies, “Yes, I’ve heard, he kills men by the hundreds. If he were here, he’d consume the English with fireballs from his eyes, and bolts of lightening from his arse” (Gibson, Braveheart).

Later in the film, the audience sees several instances of these exaggerations connected into one montage. The first scene shows an old man speaking to an assembled group around a fire.

He says to them, “William Wallace killed fifty men, fifty, as if it was one”.  The movie then cuts to another scene where a man is speaking earnestly to another across a tavern’s table.

He says, “Wallace killed 100 men, cut through them like Moses through the Red Sea”

These subtle dialogues may not bear significance beyond its humor to the casual viewer, but to an analyst of Folklore, it demonstrates clearly what was occurring all across the Scottish countryside at that time. Wallace was moving from man to myth. This myth is what we see portrayed in Braveheart, and it is what has been canonized into an essential component of Scottish culture.