Thursday, April 2, 2009

Appalachian Stories and Storytelling

Stories and storytelling have been part of mountain culture since the earliest pioneers arrived. People told stories to while away the time during long winter evenings, or on the porch on hot summer days. Stories were the vehicle that passed on family history, traditions, “old country” memories. They were often used to teach children the accepted rules of behavior. Some stories were cautionary tales, meant to discourage children from dangerous activities. Many ghost stories probably fall into this category.

Storytelling in the mountains has been alive and well for centuries. Many stories have been collected and published in books; still others are still being passed down from parent to child. Below is a list of some collections of Appalachian stories; while it's certainly not an all-inclusive list, it's a place to start if you're interested in the old stories that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Musick, Ruth Ann.
Ballads, Folk Songs & Folk Tales from West Virginia.
Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 1960.
Green Hills of Magic : West Virginia Folktales from Europe Parsons, WV : McClain Printing Co., 1989.

Barden, Thomas E.
Virginia Folk Legends. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1991. Extensive collection of originally collected by the Virginia Writers Project under the WPA.

Chase, Richard.
Grandfather Tales: American-English Folk Tales. Boston, Houghton Mifflin,1948
The Jack Tales. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1943. Traditional mountain folktales and Jack tales, collected by Chase in the 1930’s and 40’s.

Tall Tales, Lies and Mountain Humor
Sutherland, Herbert Maynor.
Tall Tales from the Devil’s Apron
Johnson City, TN: Overmountain Press, 1970.
You may recognize some popular internet jokes in this collection. I’ve wondered if this is the source of those stories. Creative writing by a newspaperman from southern Virginia.

Credle, Ellis.
Tall Tales from the High Hills
New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1957.
Tales collected by Credle in the Carolina mountains.

Harshman, Marc.
Rocks in My Pockets. New York : Cobblehill Books/Dutton, 1991.Based on a tale told by WV storyteller Bonnie Collins

Lepp, Bil.
Inept, Impaired, and Overwhelmed
Quarrier Press, 2001.
The Monster Stick & Other Appalachian Tall Tales. Little Rock, Ark. August House Publishers, 1999. West Virginia’s best living liar, and that's no lie.

Dent, James F.
The Dog with the Cold Nose. Parsons, WV: McClain Printing, 1981
A collection of short anecdotes and jokes.

Ghost Stories
Jones, James Gay.
Haunted Valley: and More Folk Tales of Appalachia. Parsons, WV: McClain Printing, 1979. Ghosts and spirits and strange legends, most of them set in WV.

Deitz, Dennis.
The Greenbrier Ghost and Other Strange Stories. South Charleston, WV
Mountain Memories, 1990 (2nd ed) West Virginia’s most famous ghost story and other tales collected by Dietz and recounted in the source’s words.

Musick, Ruth Ann.

Coffin Hollow and Other Ghost Tales University Press of Kentucky, c1977.
The Telltale Lilac Bush, and Other West Virginia Ghost Tales. University of Kentucky Press,1965. More tales from the queen of West Virginia ghost stories.

Coleman, Christopher K.
Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War. Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 1999. Just what it says.

Price, Charles Edwin.
Witches, Haints and Boogers: Tales from Upper East Tennessee
Winston-Salem: John F. Blair, Publisher, 1992. In other words, ghost stories from the Tennessee mountains.

Gainer, Patrick W.
Witches, Ghosts, and Signs. Grantsville, WV: Seneca Press, 1975.
A fine collection of lore and stories from the Glenville State professor who established the Glenville Folk Festival.

Ballads Online source

Child, Francis J.
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. Dover Publications, 2003. (reprint of the original 10 volumes, published between 1882-1898, in ten volumes.) The premier collection of ballads by one of the most renowned collectors.

Wimberly, Lowry Charles.
Folklore in the English and Scottish Ballads. New York: Dover, 1965 (reprint) A scholarly study of the folkloric content of the ballads that form the basis of most Appalachian ballads.

Sargent, Helen, and George Lyman Kittredge.
English and Scottish Popular Ballads. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1932. A condensed version of Francis James Child’s 10 volume collection of ballads.

Sharp, Cecil J and Maud Karpeles.
Eighty English Folk songs from the Southern Appalachians.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1968. Remember the movie Songcatcher? These are the songs collected by the real songcatchers between 1916 and 1918. Cecil Sharp was one of the first to venture into the mountains to find the old British ballads. Maud Karpeles was a teacher in North Carolina who told Sharp about the singing she'd heard there. The result was their collaboration on several books. Their most famous, English Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians, is currently back in print.

Boette, Marie.
Singa Hipsy Doodle and Other Folk Songs of West Virginia. Parsons, WV: McClain Printing, 1971. Fascinating source notes on songs collected in our state.



Thanks for posting this great resource list.

Janet, said...

Hi Susanne, I've got a book that I didn't see on your list. It's called Appalachian Ghost Stories and Other Tales by James Gay Jones. It's first printing was in 1975.

Granny Sue said...

There are so many good books of Appalachian stories; this list is just the tip of the iceberg, I'm afraid, sort of an introduction to the topic. I do have the book you mentioned, Janet, and it's another good one. I didn't list the one we edited in the writing group either, and I should add it too.

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