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Folk Tales

A wonderful collaboration between Swimmer, a Cherokee elder, and James Mooney (1861-1921) created the earliest and most extensive collection of Cherokee Folk Tales. It was first published by the U. S. Bureau of American Ethnology in 1900 as Myths of the Cherokee. Dozens of other books for children and adults collect Cherokee traditional stories, notably Living Stories of the Cherokee (1998) by Barbara Duncan who worked for the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. The first collection of the folk tales of European settlers is Fishers River Scenes and Characters (1859) by Hardin Taliaferro (1811-1875) of Surrey County, North Carolina. Richard Chase (1904-1988) brought mountain tales into the mainstream with a pair of books that have remained in print since the 1940s – Jack Tales (1943) – and Grandfather Tales (1948).  Chase collected his Jack Tales from R. M. Ward, who, like Ray Hicks, a performer of Jack Tales and the subject of more than one book, was a descendant of Council Harmon known as the greatest Beech Mountain, North Carolina, tale-teller. Not all traditional folk tales had male heroes. We are indebted to Anne Shelby for collecting The Adventures of Molly Whuppie (2007). The most scholarly and authentic collector of folk tales was Leonard Roberts (1912-1983). He grew up in the folk culture in Floyd County, Kentucky, and earned a doctorate from the University of Kentucky in folklore!  Another person who grew up in the folk culture and published folklore was May Justus (1898-1989), a prolific author of children’s books who appropriately entitled her collection of folklore, The Complete Peddler’s Pack (1957). Loyal Jones has published a delightful book, My Curious and Jocular Heroes: Tales and Tale-spinners from Appalachia (2017) that takes exception to the many who consider him to be the father of Appalachian Studies. It tells the story and the stories of four he considers his mentors and predecessors in the field: Leonard Roberts, Cratis Willliams (1911-1985), Bascom Lamar Lunsford (1882-1973) and Josiah Combs (1886-1960).                             

-- George Brosi