If ever a book revealed how storytelling was integrated into a community I would have to say it is Marie Campbell's Tales From The Cloud Walking Country; a book I wouldn't have known of it hadn't been a reprint of "The Girl Who Married a Flop-Eared Hound in a Reader's Digest collection.
The story had caught my attention for a couple of reasons; the first being that it was an interesting blend of traditional fairy tale, with a very American touch; the second being because I have a young hound.
The story has a king getting lost, and coming upon a talking hound, that asks to marry one of his daughters. It then proceeds fairly normally in that the youngest does marry him, which turns the hound into a man, but then she has to seek him because she broke a taboo.
If I had thought that tale intriguing I wasn't prepared for the actual book.
Marie Campbell taught in the eastern Kentucky mountains between 1926 and 1934, and had the foresight to listen to the old tellers, and to collect what she heard. And from what she says in her introduction, this book was the first of a series, though I have not found any others.
She focused this book on the fairy tales, the marchen she collected. The seventy plus stories were either handed down by the tellers' families, or provided by seasonal help, or other visitors. It is fascinating to see how many of the old world touches linger, like kings and princesses, but their favorite foods are those of the region. Basically you can see how the stories were shifting - not only because of region, but as they began to merge pieces of various stories. And that is without the effects of memory, which also came into play in some cases.
Another thing the book made me aware of, though in a rather indirect way, is how these "fairy tales" were obviously prevalent on an even broader scale. They not only were providing entertainment to rural communities, but they had entered what the narrators called "blackguard" tales. Basically the fairy tale had also entered the strictly male terrain of the dirty tale. In several cases the male narrators would tell part of a fairy tale, but just end it because what they had heard wasn't fit to tell a young teacher.
Not something a storyteller can use, but it reaffirms for me that once these tales, in many forms, were offered for a wide, wide audience. They were not just for the children.
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
I am a Springfield, IL based storyteller with a fascination for how folklore travels, and for history.