Folklore in the United States
Folklore in the United States
- Simon J. BronnerSimon J. BronnerPenn State University
Folklore in the United States, also known as “American folklore,” consists of traditional knowledge and cultural practices engaged by inhabitants of North America below Canada and above Mexico, states of Alaska and Hawaii, and the territories of American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands. Scholarly and public awareness of American folklore primarily in the contiguous United States followed corpuses of myths, folk tales, and epics in Europe during the 18th century. Although European scholars considered much of the American material, especially in ballads and songs, to be derivatives of European traditions brought by settlers, many traditional forms such as tall tales, hero legends, and indigenous native customs in North America appeared distinctive. In Euro-centered folklore theory, the United States purportedly lacked a peasant class and a shared racial and ethnic stock that fostered the production of folklore. Also affecting perceptions of American folklore was the status of the United States as a relatively young nation, compared to the ancient legacies of European, African, and Asian civilizations. Further, geographically the country’s boundaries had moved since its inception to include an assortment of landscapes and peoples.
Primary folkloristic attention in 17th-century colonial North America was the otherness of Native American groups and their various myths, songs, and rituals. A major question was whether these myths, songs, and rituals reflected a unified culture diffused from Asia or a varied indigenous tribal lore. In the 19th century, awareness turned to the persistence and adaptation of expressive songs and stories of European settlers, enslaved Africans, and Southwest Mexicans. Narratives and buildings appeared to show signs of transplantation from the Old World, although as the New Republic emerged in the 19th century, intrepid Americanists presented cultural evidence of ethnic mixing that formed New World hybrids such as folk tales, games, and barns.
Although folklore in the United States was popularly associated with localized rural practices, folklorists in the 20th century pointed out emergent American traditions that suggested urban, regional, and national identities. Notable examples of distinctive expressions in the United States included the cowboy and railroader song, urban legend, and regional food. The rise of industrialism, transportation technology, and digital communication in the United States raised concerns that commercial popular culture had displaced folklore, but folklorists found that residents maintained folklore as a significant expression of various small-group or subcultural identities. Among the contexts that fostered folkloric production are college campuses, summer camps, and slumber parties. In a society like the United States that lacks collective public rites of passage to enter adulthood, folklore in the form of narrative and ritual in these contexts functioned to guide youths to adult responsibilities. The digital culture of the Internet that became widespread in the 21st century also provided frames for folkloric communication through the conduit of the social network. Although often circulating globally, many combined visual-verbal “memes” and “creepypastas” projected national anxieties. In this period, Americans could be heard and viewed using folklore rhetorically to refer to the veracity and significance of cultural knowledge in an uncertain, rapidly changing, individualistic society. Folklore frequently referred to the expressions of this knowledge in story, song, speech, custom, and craft as meaningful for what it conveyed and enacted about tradition in a socially dispersed, mobile, and future-oriented country.
- North American Literatures
- Children’s Literature
- Cultural Studies
The Continuity and Construction of Folklore
Popularly, many people think of folklore as stories, speech, beliefs, dances, and songs passed through generations, often with the implication that this kind of learning and expression lodged outside of ivory towers is alternately time-honored or faddish, poetic or crude, wise or mistaken, and either common or esoteric knowledge. These different perceptions appear paradoxically alongside one another because of the various ways that folklore has been conceptualized as both material and idea since the 19th century, when the term rose to prominence in Europe and North America. The usage of folklore as a rubric for expressive traditions that can also include customs, crafts, gestures, dances, and buildings, in addition to more familiar stories and songs, is primarily owed to 18th-century European literati and philosophers who challenged the prevalent notion of artistic refinement deriving from the aristocracy.1 They named folklore to represent culture at the grass roots and to draw attention to the artistic and often political claims of common people to nationhood and public or democratic participation.2
Notably, German writer Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803) became renowned for centering his provocative claims for national identity, harmony with nature, and spiritual existence in the rootedness and artistry of European peasant folk expressions.3 Herder’s philosophy famously inspired brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the early 19th century to produce volumes on German stories they recognized as traditional. Stories told by ordinary laborers they called Das Volk or “common people” (peasants and artisans who constituted in their view the authentic core of German peoplehood) in the Hesse-Kassel region fascinated the brothers for political as well as cultural reasons.4
Anthologies of folk songs and stories that informed the Grimms included Lo cunto de li cunti overo lo trattenemiento de peccerille (Neapolitan, The Tale of Tales, or Entertainment for Little Ones, 1634, 1636), Charles Perrault’s Histoires ou Contes du Temps passé (French, Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals, 1697), Antoine Galland’s Les mille et une nuits (French, One Thousand and One Nights, 1704–1717), Bishop Thomas Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765), Walter Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802), and Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Alte Deutsche Lieder (German, The Boy’s Magic Horn: Old German Songs, 1806) reported or translated materials from oral tradition that were modified by literary-minded editors.5 The Grimms claimed to render unpolished narratives faithfully as people told and sang them, and touted the raw aesthetic appeal of unlikely artists. They were not the first to refer to German Märchen, popularly known as fairy tales, but they innovatively included notes that described the connection of the stories to folk beliefs, rituals, myths, proverbs, games, and legends, and listed international analogues toward the goal of showing possible origins, development, and diffusion of the material.6 In so doing, they established the study of an integrated body of genres held together by its connection to tradition and localized culture.7 Following their lead, various literati, often with nationalistic leanings, claimed bodies of lore rivaling the Grimms in Russia, Ireland, Italy, and Finland, among other countries with conflicts between imperial and populist claims for political sovereignty.8
Englishman William John Thoms (1803–1885) usually receives credit for popularizing the term “folklore” for what the Grimms thought of as Volkspoesie (folk poetics) or Volkskunde (folk knowledge). Impressed by what the Grimms had accomplished for Germany, in 1846 Thoms insisted in a letter to the prominent English literary magazine Athenaeum that the inclusive term “folk-lore” would be preferable to the esoteric and clunky sounding “popular antiquities and literature” used in Britain, and more desirable from a proud Englishman’s viewpoint than borrowing German terminology to describe the types of traditions gathered by the brothers.9 Thoms thought that as a historico-literary category “folk-lore” importantly synthesized various items that had been treated separately to the detriment of discussing larger issues of tradition’s role in a rapidly changing, industrializing world. He also hoped in a nationalistic spirit to rival German’s trove of cultural material with England’s. To Thoms, the significance of traditional knowledge passed largely by word of mouth and custom was that as folklore was creatively expressed, it drove identifications of culture, often along familial, regional, national, and ethnic lines.
For Thoms’s European colleagues, folklore from ordinary “folks” deserved study because of the continuity of traditions in everyday life through long stretches of time. They often rhetorically emphasized folklore in contrast to the shallow novelty of modernity and the dry rationality of science. Thoms and others concerned for the rupture with the pastoral past caused by the upsurge of industrialism, the status of spirituality and artistry with the rage for scientism (particularly with the influence of evolutionary doctrine), and expansion of empires over diverse cultures in the 19th century, proposed “folklore” as a term and concept to address peasants and other tradition-centered communities and their imaginative expressions whose persistence in “civilization” raised questions about social and intellectual progress and the valuation of peoplehood globally and locally.
In response to Thoms’s call in 1846, Athenaeum established a “department of folklore,” and during the 1850s books using “folklore” in their titles began to appear. By 1852, Thoms was using the term “folk-lorist” to refer to students of the subject.10 In 1878, Thoms was among the notable British public intellectuals such as Andrew Lang, Max Müller, Joseph Jacobs, Moses Gaster, and George Laurence Gomme to organize the Folklore Society in London.11 To add luster to their movement, they also pointed to the precedent of prominent artistic leading lights working with folk materials, including Walter Scott, Thomas Keightley, and Hugh Miller. In 1886, leading French writer Paul Sébillot adopted le folk-lore as the preferable French term for les traditions populaires (“popular traditions” or “customs of the people”), and its use spread around the same time to Italy, which claimed its own legacy of research into “popular traditions” dating to the 18th century.12 Three years later, an international cast of folklorists including many from the United States descended upon Paris for the first International Folk-Lore Congress, and then in 1891 a larger meeting in London, thus institutionalizing the term describing the broad subject area of traditional knowledge and practices as “folklore.”13
The Americans faced a problem having their stories and songs accepted by their European colleagues as bona fide folklore worthy of aesthetic appreciation and scholarly analysis. The Americans did not boast a corpus of marvelous tales comparable to the Grimms’ Märchen, poetic work measuring up to the grand epics and sagas celebrated in Scandinavia, or ancient myths in the classical tradition of the Greeks and Romans. To be sure, the young republic had a diverse indigenous population credited with possessing myths and distinct belief systems. Yet American scholars working to justify a national identity struggled to show that a national culture composed of settlers from various Old World cultures was more than a diluted migratory mixture of Europe’s traditions.14 By the end of the 19th century, European immigration reached massive proportions and appeared to transform the nation into a multilingual, industrial, multiracial, urban power rather than a unified whole. In the European-centered scholarship of the period, the United States lacked a peasant class and the homogeneous racial and ethnic stock associated with the production of folklore. Historically, the United States was a relatively young nation, compared to the ancient legacies of European, Asian, and African civilizations, and geographically the country’s boundaries had moved since its inception to include an assortment of landscapes and peoples.15 Folklore in the United States, also known as “American folklore,” was at first centered in the maritime and frontier lore of the East. With westward expansion, American folklore referred to traditions of western inhabitants below Canada and above Mexico, including the border regions around the contiguous forty-eight states. With American expansion in the Pacific and Caribbean, folklorists included Alaska and Hawaii, and the territories of American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands in relation to a geographically and ethnically diverse body of lore.
From the organization of the American Folklore Society in 1888, based on the model of the Folklore Society in England, folklorists in the United States in answer to their European colleagues defined their purview along ethnic lines: surviving “Old English” ballads, tales, and speech; African-American traditions in the South; Native American myths and tales; and border material from French Canada and Mexico.16 As with their European colleagues, American folklorists imagined that folklore in the wake of mass industrialization and urbanization needed documentation before disappearing. The organizer of the society, William Wells Newell (1839–1907), defined folklore by its “character of oral tradition” rather than by its nationalistic roots. As he explained, “Lore must be understood as the complement of literature, as embracing all human knowledge handed down by word of mouth and preserved without the use of writing.”17 By this definition, new folklore was not being created, and primarily existed outside of progressive academic and literate society. Newell’s rhetoric along ethnic lines of “folklore in America” avoided the issue of the emergence of national lore that would have been signified by “American folklore.” His delineation of groups implied at once the dominance of the British inheritance and the multiple racial-geographical influences on the formation of the United States.18
Following the evolutionary thinking inspired by Charles Darwin that “higher forms can only be comprehended by the help of the lower forms, out of which they grew,” Newell posed basic questions as to whether lore in America arose independently from Old World and native sources or from emerging streams of tradition in the New World: “What is the reason of the many coincidences between Old World mythologies and the legends of the New World? Do they result from the common procedure of human imagination? Or did the currents of an early tradition flow also through the American continent?”19 The distinctions for investigation on the continent were racial or historical; the task of collection was to recover literary remnants surviving in North America. The analysis he suggested was oriented toward reconstructing a natural history of civilization that could explain the evolution of cultural forms from savage to civilized society.
For Charles Skinner, a writer also from Cambridge, Massachusetts, Newell’s push for America as a setting for collecting “fast-vanishing remains” of ethnic expressions did not go far enough to chart a national culture. Skinner was one of a rising generation of Americanists who connected the protection of culture with the conservation of nature. Other prominent figures included Charles Bird Grinnell (editor of Field and Stream and author of Pawnee Hero Stories and Folk-Tales ) and Henry Wharton Shoemaker (newspaper editor, author of Pennsylvania Mountain Stories , and later the nation’s first official state folklorist [Figure 1), and both of them had literary as well as progressive political interests. They shared a view of the Americanizing influences of the land; mixing and living in the awe-inspiring environment, diverse settlers were certain to gain a new identity called American. Even if the United States lacked a medieval mythopoeic age, they argued, the distinctive, diverse landscape—its wilderness, plains, rivers, and mountains—inspires legend and a spiritual connection of Americans to their natural Edenic environment.20 The threat to this link was unrestrained industrialization, and Skinner witnessed its effect as a journalist for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in the late 19th century. He read in legends of the land a cultural grounding for Americans, that is, a common bond among them despite their social diversity. Mining printed sources of folk narratives, Skinner called his first popular collection Myths and Legends of Our Own Land (1896).21 The addition of “own” created a double meaning of the land as nature and nation. Although he included aboriginal legends as part of “our … land,” his volumes implied that the indigenous lore had been channeled into the cultural identity of a new composite American.
The Americanist folklorists had as a supporting voice United States president (terms between 1901 and 1909) and prolific writer Theodore Roosevelt, who believed that the soil, and the grounding it represented for the flowering of American civilization, were nowhere more evident than in folklore. Enamored with the West and the hardy, rejuvenating values it generated, Roosevelt was especially taken with the effort of Texas folklorist John Lomax (1867–1948; Figure 2) to collect cowboy songs.22 The president became excited at the prospect of the material being elevated to the status of the ancient European sagas he admired so much as a student of classics.23 He also was astute in realizing that these sagas became national symbols as well as sources of literature as they persisted through oral tradition. As a nationalist political leader, he had been looking for a mythology for America that would be “different from all of the peoples of Europe, but akin to all.”24 Although noting the special connection of the United States to England because of a shared language, he considered American culture to be unique because “new surroundings, and the new [racial and ethnic] strains in our blood interact on one another in such fashion that our national type must certainly be new.”25 The pioneer experience in the expanse of the West, he thought, loosened old ethnic and regional ties and reconstructed them into a “medley” sounding an enlivened American identity (Figure 3). In the oral tradition of cowboy songs resonating with high mountains, grand rivers, and vast plains of the frontier and rugged characters on bold adventures, Roosevelt heard keynotes stirring his robust national type.
Reacting to the perception of cowboy songs by ballad professors and public alike as crude and valueless, Lomax originally wanted to call his book Cowboy Songs of the Mexican Border to raise connections to Sir Walter Scott’s classic Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802).26 One can read the epic comparison in Lomax’s romantic characterization of the cowboy as a literary folktype: “Dauntless, reckless, without the unearthly purity of Sir Galahad though as gentle to a pure woman as King Arthur, he is truly a knight of the twentieth century.”27 In response to those in “so-called polite society” who were repelled by the American cowboy’s crudity, Lomax claimed a “Homeric” quality to the frontiersman’s profanity and vulgarity. He admired his democratic freedom of expression, his earthy artistry, his unabashed outspokenness from the “impulses of the heart.”28 Intoning the American soil, Lomax declared that the songs “sprung up as quietly and mysteriously as does the grass on the plains.”29 Roosevelt helped romanticize the image of the cowboy as America’s folk hero with an endorsement of “the real importance to preserve permanently this unwritten ballad literature of the back country and the frontier” as representing “our own national soul.”30 Again raising the nationalistic rhetoric of “our own,” Roosevelt extolled the “appeal to the people of all our country” from the example of expressive and earthy cowboy lore, if not a poetic peasant class. Taking this cue, Lomax called his second volume of American ballads and folk songs Our Singing Country (1941).31 It included material from lumberjacks, teamsters, railroaders, hobos, miners, and southern farmers in addition to cowboys, and with its subtitle of American Ballads and Folk Songs described the living traditions collectively as distinctively American rather than the “vanishing remains” of folklore found in America.
Other Americanists resisted taking a path of touting the gritty lore of the frontier experience to follow in the footsteps of European romantic nationalism. In Philadelphia, a chapter of the American Folklore Society appeared more concerned with charting America’s multicultural mix and the emergence of new community traditions. Reflecting the spirit of Pennsylvania’s colonial founder William Penn’s “Holy Experiment” of pluralism and tolerance, the Philadelphia society’s guide to local collectors stressed folklore more broadly than relics of “oral tradition” and viewed it as more representative of America’s diverse contemporary cultural tapestry than the academic evidence of classical history and literature. The guide offered folklore as “the collective sum of the knowledge, beliefs, stories, customs, manners, dialects, expressions, and usages of a community which are peculiar to itself, and which, taken together, constitute its individuality when compared with other communities.” Its approach was to consider the separation of “every community … from its neighbors by numerous peculiarities, which, though they may at first seem trivial, exert in their mass a powerful influence on the life of the individual and the history of people in the aggregate, or the ‘folk.’”32 The communities that it charted for collection were the “Anglo-American,” “Africo-American,” and “Local Foreign,” comprising the Chinese “quarter,” Italian “quarter,” German “quarter,” international sailors, and “Gipsies.” The chapter sketched out its driving principle of explaining how these separate communities maintained their distinctiveness while having a national identity. Folklore was to the urban chapter’s members “an aid to the just appreciation of the various elements which go to make up a nation.”33
Along these lines of a pluralistic relationship of communities to the nation, Lee J. Vance, writing before the start of the 20th century in the popular magazine Forum on “The Study of Folklore,” argued that the United States provided a living laboratory for investigating multicultural progress. “Our folk-lore is highly composite,” he wrote, “resulting from the great tides of immigration which have rolled over our shores and formed our present strange commingling of races.”34 In 1905, the first book title referring to a national folklore arose from the pen of Karl Knortz (1841–1918), a German-born superintendent of German schools in Evansville, Indiana, who was especially eager to popularize American literature and lore in Germany. His audience for an overview of a national lore was therefore primarily German, and his title Zur amerikanischen Volkskunde was published in Tübingen.35 From his immigrant perspective, Knortz viewed the transplantation of folklore but also viewed—particularly in beliefs and legends around heroic figures such as Abraham Lincoln and the play of children—new cultural forms that he labeled distinctively American and contemporary. Influenced by the Grimms, he began his studies with a collection that he viewed as a Native American equivalent to the Grimms’ compendia of national oral tradition: Märchen und Sagen der nordamerikanischen Indianer (Tales and Legends of the North American Indians, 1871).36 He took notice of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poetic adaptation of indigenous legends and contributed to the appreciation of Longfellow’s literary work in Germany with Longfellow: Eine literarhistorische Studie (Longfellow: A Literary Study, 1879).37 Indicative of a shift of many folklorists toward a pluralistic interpretation of national life, his later titles such as Streifzüge auf dem Gebiete amerikanischer Volkskunde. Altes und Neues (Ramblings in American Regional Folklore: Old and New, 1902), and Amerikanischer Aberglaube der Gegenwart: Ein Beitrag zur Volkskunde (American Superstitions of Today, 1913) expanded to the lore of various immigrant groups and beliefs held across American groups.38
Later social movements beyond immigration spurred folklorists to further atomize the use of folklore as adaptation to myriad social situations that one encounters in modern life. In so doing, folklore was not restricted to a lower level, past epoch of society, or oral communication. It was evident as a result of all social interactions in which practices—including gestural and material—identified a connection among participants and provided them a sense of tradition. The emphasis on identity gained from social interaction and expressed through folklore meant that mobile individuals could belong to many groups simultaneously, and those groups were not limited to certain types associated with an ideal community. Indeed, a research question that American folklorists were particularly interested in was how folklore created the group rather than merely reflecting it. Beginning in the 1960s, folklorists such as Richard Dorson, Alan Dundes, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Linda Dégh, Jay Mechling, Michael Owen Jones, and Elliott Oring presented within immediate experience steel mill workers, corporate secretaries, urban graffiti artists, dormitory residents, Boy Scout troops, office workers, and friends and couples as folk groups in the midst of mass society, respectively, to represent American folklore as much as romanticized, isolated cowboys.39 These folklorists designated social categories involving folkloric production that can be temporary, overlapping, and emergent in someone’s life. Folklore in this view is continually emergent, and collection is therefore not about recovery of perishable texts but instead the visual recording of processes by which folk practices arise in a variety of changing contexts.40 Although often downplaying the “essential” Americanness of this behavior, the approach developed largely in the United States built on the openness and mobility of American capitalist society, the image of a vast diversity of settings and groups in city as well as country (and suburbs), and the perception of individual freedom of expression and movement in a modern democracy.
The different avenues for representing folklore of the United States—as a reflection of native and indigenous cultures; as a sign of transplantation and adaptation from the Old World; as a force in the development of city, state, region, and nation; and as process in everyday and ceremonial life—follows an historical outline of American folklore scholarship with early folkloristic attention to American Indians beginning in the 17th century, concerns for ethnic-regional lore in the 19th and 20th centuries, and turns toward “modern” folklore in the 20th century and 21st century.
Folklore as a Reflection of Native and Indigenous Cultures
The first public realization of folklore in what is now the United States came after the publication of Roger Williams’s book A Key into the Language of America (1643; Figure 4). His title implied that the natives were American by their indigeneity, and folkloric because of the difference they exotically displayed from the European settlers, who Williams assumed constituted a normative culture. Conceived as a dictionary to foster communication with the Narragansett natives surrounding the Puritan settlement after Williams left the colony to form the Providence Plantation in 1636, the book featured not only a translation of terms but Williams’s own observations of the use of phrases and terms in customs and rituals. For example, regarding the word Kíhtuckquaw, for “marriageable virgins,” Williams noted that the natives identify them “by a bashfull falling downe of their haire over their eyes.”41 He indicates the general name they call themselves, translating to what he calls “Folke” or, broadly, “people.”42 As to the question of their origin, Williams gives a belief narrative in their own words of having “sprung and growne up in that very place, like the very trees of the wildernesse.”43 He reports mythological beliefs comparable, he writes, to the English narratives of Adam and Noah and refers to origin myths of earth’s creation by the “Great God Cawtantowwit.”44 Propagating settlers’ folklore about the natives as well as indigenous folklore by them, he suggested their origin as one of the lost tribes of Israel by noting that they possess words “to hold affinitie with the Hebrew. Secondly, they constantly anoint their heads as the Jewes did. Thirdly, they give Dowries for their wives, as the Jewes did.”45 Furthering the biblical metaphor, he considered the English Gentiles dwelling in the tents of Shem (the Jews) and concluded that therefore the English should be sympathetic and morally respect natives’ civil rights.46 In writing of Narragansett “religion, customs, manners, etc.,” he found their knowledge, or lore, to be complex and worthy of respect.47
Curiosity about native languages and contexts for their ritual use sparked considerations of speech, narratives, and songs into the 19th century. The uncovering of myths, beliefs, songs, and tales by non-native collectors was important in American society because of its suggestion of an oral artistry tied to complex religious systems. Prominent among such figures presenting native lore to the American public was Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (1793–1864). While serving as a United States Indian agent in Michigan in 1822, he married a woman of Ojibwa background and learned her native language. He gathered folk songs and stories in the original language from his wife’s family members and then expanded beyond them to collect material on numerous tribes (Figure 5). He established as an outlet for this material the magazine The Muzzeniegan or Literary Voyager (1826–1829), often considered the first serial publication in America of ethnological and folkloristic material.48 Disrupting views of the natives as savage and backward, Schoolcraft wrote that their “oral stories are, generally, very extravagant, often of an allegorical character, and sometimes they even aim at instruction. They are the true presentments of the Indian mind, and show more than any other species of inquiry, or research, their opinions and beliefs on life, death and immortality.”49 In addition to presenting native folklore for linguistic and aesthetic interest, Schoolcraft thus contended that within these folk forms natives project collectively held meanings and symbols that would not be apparent in interviews or observations.
Famed American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882) took notice of Schoolcraft’s sources and composed “The Song of Hiawatha” (1855) based upon stories of an Ojibwa trickster figure, Manabozho (also rendered as Nanabozho and Nanabush, Chikapash among the Crees, and Wīsakehā among the Meskwaki).50 While Longfellow envisioned the story as an epic for America, lacking among the literature of the European settlers, Schoolcraft referred to it more modestly as part of native “cabin lore” consisting of songs, tales, and myths told in domestic rather than ritual or religious settings. Schoolcraft noticed aspects of a folk hero cycle in the figure’s miraculous birth and performance of what he called “the most extravagant and heroic feats.”51 For example, he related the Ojibwa belief that Manabozho came from mythical parentage. His grandmother was reputedly the daughter of the moon. A rival tricked her toward a grapevine swing by a lake, and then pitched her into the water and she fell through to the earth.52 Schoolcraft noticed similarities in other tribes, and although he noted “peculiarities” of customs in each group, he posited a cultural connection among Native Americans as a result of migrations and interchanges from the Southwest to the Northeast. Other observers thought a more likely source was in Asia, from migrations across the Bering Strait and down into the continent.53 Proponents of this migration theory looked for evidence of similarities to southwestern folklore in narratives and customs collected from groups such as the Chukchi of northeastern Asia and the Chinese further south.54 In this view, the European settlers constituted the latest migration of people and culture into the huge, mysterious expanse known as North America, and they had as much right to the land, if not more so, as the previous inhabitants.
The status of Native American lore claimed by some writers as indigenous, unique among the world’s mythologies, and as worthy of social and literary adulation entered into debates among American leaders earlier in the 19th century about the representation of the New Republic. Some members of the revolutionary generation thought that the lack of a mythology, and a distancing from the native culture of Indians, was a virtue for a country seeking, in historian Richard Slotkin’s words, “to be liberated from the dead hand of the past and become the scene of a new departure in human affairs.”55 Others advocated for Native American lore to be integrated into the symbolism of the United States as a sign of the new nation’s distinctive cultural legacy, and future manifest destiny. For patriotic writers such as Benjamin Franklin, the break from the Old World of the United States as a democratic experiment and populist society depended on the suggestion of a unique American character blending native and settler culture. Conceived by writer James Fenimore Cooper as a vernacular “leatherstocking” or pioneer figure, the new American incorporating the folklore of the native idealized harmony with nature and an adventurous free spirit.56 Indeed, even before the revolution, and until the early 19th century, the image of the “Indian princess” graced illustrations of the emerging country, before transforming into a Greek goddess representative of a new classical civilization.57 Although folklorists and writers reveled in the newfound mythology of Native Americans, detractors such as Hubert M. Skinner (1855–1916) argued that “The mythology of ancient America is meager, and is generally of little importance in its relation to literature and art [especially to classical Roman and Greek works], though it possesses considerable interest in connection with geographical names and local traditions.”58
Another argument since the outbreak of “Indian wars” in colonial New England in the second half of the 17th century was waged in emergent folk narratives. Colonists published legendary accounts of women captured by bloodthirsty “pagan savages” that stirred hatred, and elimination, of the natives, while tracts by travelers noted their spiritual, benevolent nature evident in elaborate songs and stories. The colonists’ tracts followed different mythological references before and after the wars.59 Previously, writers depicted English colonization following the plot of the biblical Exodus story, with the New World emerging as the Promised Land. The captivity narratives used the “lost people” legend of Babylonian captivity, with exile from a corrupted England in place of the land of Israel. In these new narratives, the Indians as natural beings were depraved creatures who could not be turned to God or government. French writer Alexis de Tocqueville in his major tome Democracy in America (1835) noted the consequences of this narrative of the Indians being intrinsically immoral and violent as settlers forcing natives into an “inferior position in the land where they dwell” and suffering “the effects of tyranny.”60
Horatio Hale, who followed Schoolcraft with folkloristic studies of native myths, vouched for Native American morality by arguing that the Indians were no more warlike than the Europeans. He wrote: “The persistent desire for peace, pursued for centuries in federal union, and in alliances and treaties with other nations, has been manifested by few as steadily as by the countrymen of Hiawatha.” He even drew comparisons to the deeply spiritual as well as artistic renderings of their mythology by affirming that “The sentiment of universal brotherhood, which directed their polity, has never been so fully developed in any branch of the Aryan race, unless it may be found incorporated in the religious quietism of Buddha and his followers.”61
Native Americans hardly voiced their own interpretations until Francis La Flesche (1857–1932; Figure 6) became the first professional Native American folklorist in the Bureau of American Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution.62 Working closely with president of the American Folklore Society Alice C. Fletcher (1838–1923; president of the society in 1905) on the Omaha culture into which he was born on a reservation, he focused on the distinctive aspects of rituals, songs, and stories within the tribe. He dispelled notions of natives as simple children of nature and illuminated the highly complex systems of tradition at work. He and Fletcher argued for the diversity rather than unity of Native American cultures in the United States, as was evident in comparative fieldwork they conducted with the nearby Osage. In an essay titled “Who Was the Medicine Man?” for the Journal of American Folklore in 1905, he criticized missionaries, many of whom wrote on the folklore of the Native Americans, by declaring, “The idea commonly entertained by the white race that they alone possess the knowledge of a God has influenced the mind of all those of that race who have come in contact with the Indians … So, when they happened to see the Indians worshipping according to their own peculiar customs, using forms, ceremonies, and symbols that were strange, they said, ‘Poor creatures, they are worshipping the devil!’ when in truth the Indians never knew a personal devil until he was solemnly and religiously introduced by the teachers.”63 He also railed against many white ethnologists who made the myths and rituals they reported appear “childish or as foolish.”64 These were principles that Franz Boas, as mentor to many budding folklorists and anthropologists at Columbia University and editor of the Journal of American Folklore, applied in insisting on the historical particularism of each group and the understanding of narratives in the language in which they are performed.65
In the 20th century, The Bureau of American Ethnology in the Smithsonian Institution (BAE) launched a salvage project to record stories, songs, crafts, and rituals from Native Americans because of the assumption that tribal culture had largely vanished. The BAE assigned fieldworkers to record remnants of folk tales and songs from native elders. More interventionist were the Indian boarding schools established by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to “Americanize” native children. In addition, missionaries continued to convert Indians to Christianity and discourage native folk practices that represented rival folk religious beliefs. Thus anthropologist Alfred Kroeber of the University of California, Berkeley, created a national sensation when he declared a member of the Yahi tribe he named Ishi (for “man” in the Yana language) the “last wild Indian” in America. Kroeber recorded folk stories and songs from Ishi with the implication that all subsequent collections of folklore represented the dominance of Euro-American culture.66 Countering Kroeber’s pre-contact view of authenticity in favor of a “dynamic” or “living tradition” approach to native expressive culture, folklorists such as Barre Toelken, adopted by a Navajo family in 1955 found a persistence of folklore and adaptation of new traditions that he analyzed in terms of identity maintenance within, and apart from, a larger American society.67 In addition to recording texts comparable to those in 19th-century anthologies usually amassed from elders, folklorists also considered uses by children of belief systems of social control such as the “skin-walker” (a witch-like figure who shifts into animal form), performance styles and structured communication (such as the reliance on four episodes rather than the three in European narratives) underlying emergent lore such as jokes and legends, and pan-Indian expressions and contexts for folkloric practices such as powwows.68 In these studies, scholars reminded readers that Native American lore remained in the living tradition of the United States. Turning the lens on white society, folklorists also drew attention to rhetorical uses of Native American figures and supposed “Indian legends” in contemporary contexts such as college campuses that supposedly were built upon hunting or burial grounds of natives, and summer camps that drew upon the natural metaphor of American Indians to connect campers to awareness of non-technological life.69
A postmodern phenomenon also attracting scrutiny with implications for American cultural identity breaking with the oppressive or colonial past was the appropriation by Euro-Americans of Native American folklore to shape spiritual traditions within incipient religious movements variously called New Age, New Religion, and neo-Shamanism.70 Folklorists note the influence of popular texts such as Black Elk Speaks (1932), written by a non-native and concerning an Oglala Lakota medicine man, and The Teachings of Don Juan (1968), concerning an apprentice’s experience with a Yaqui shaman.71 In both cases, folklorists questioned the authentic textualization of the narratives integrated into New Age movements and reopened issues of presentation (and translation) raised by the Grimms.72 Biographical approaches to active contemporary bearers of tradition such as Barre Toelken’s native “consultant” or “reflexive collaborator” (rather than the more passive, and less authoritarian sounding noun informant used by many fieldworkers) supplemented earlier campaigns to inventory native texts with life-story recording.73 The New Age movements tended to emphasize universal symbols evident in Native American mythologies, although folklorists typically examined the localized cultural contexts in which they appeared. Rather than dismiss the New Age movements, however, several folklorists have considered the application of Native American folklore in social movements as evidence of a long process of cultural exchange and appropriation that has been taking place since Roger Williams’s dictionary first appeared and drew attention to the complex political relationships between natives and settlers.
Folklore as a Sign of Transplantation and Adaptation from the Old World
While American writers of European descent understood through various popular anthologies the association of Indians with indigenous tradition, in the rising cities of New York and Philadelphia folklorists primarily mused on the creation of a national culture out of the mix of various immigrant groups from Europe. Influential on this development was John Fanning Watson (1779–1860). In Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania in the Olden Time (1830), Watson found what he called “traditionary lore” (including local legends, customs, and beliefs) that in his view arose from the settlement experience rather than from transplantation from Europe.74 Even the Germans who came in large numbers to Philadelphia in the 18th century and formed their own communities, Watson observed, created a New World mixture in a dialect and lore that was distinct from their roots in Germany.75 Blacks showed little evidence of their African tribal origins. Instead of arguing for turning back industrialization, Watson’s hope was for maintaining continuity with the spiritual values of the past as American society underwent material changes.76 Fearing for the loss of this oral tradition in the wake of further modernization, he called for its immediate recovery, and for creating for America what Sir Walter Scott had accomplished for Scotland with his folklore collections and the literature they inspired.77 Understandably, Washington Irving, who was tapping the lode of folklore around his upstate New York home to produce an American literature, applauded Watson’s call. Irving invoked a grounding metaphor to support Watson: “He is doing an important service to his country, by multiplying the local association of ideas, and the strong but invisible ties of the mind and of the heart which bind the native to the paternal soil.”78 The “native” for Irving, however, was the European settler.
Watson’s argument for applying Scott’s techniques to a new environment such as the United States was that the new nation had gone through as many changes in a generation as Europe had in hundreds of years. He wrote, “A single life in this rapidly growing country witnesses such changes in the progress of society, and in the embellishments of the arts, as would require a term of centuries to witness in full grown Europe.” Sharing the stage with Schoolcraft at a ceremony in Philadelphia to honor William Penn’s establishment of religious tolerance in his “Holy Experiment,” Watson related stories handed down to European-American residents of Philadelphia about long-gone, ghostly Indians. He could not find myths to equal those in Schoolcraft’s collection, but he offered beliefs, sayings, and stories that he said represented the formation of a new society out of the mixed multitude of immigrants who came to Philadelphia. He felt he had to defend this material, since, to his eye and ear, it lacked the exoticism, artistry, or antiquity of European folk literature, especially its fairy tales and epics. In his view, the Americanness of folklore was most evident in home-grown legendry of the country’s historic personages and its diverse flora, fauna, and landscape.79
For the founder of the American Folklore Society, William Wells Newell, dominance of the “Old English” inheritance in the United States was conspicuously apparent in children’s games (Figure 7). His thesis was that while these traditional games were disappearing in Great Britain, they thrived in the environment of the United States and came to characterize American play. He explained that “the influence of print is here [United States] practically nothing; and a rhyme used in the sports of American children almost always varies from the form of the same game in Great Britain, when such now exists.”80 Aware of the great influx of immigrants from eastern and southern Europe, he observed that they assimilated to the English-based normative culture. He wrote that “the children of these immigrants attend the public school, that mighty engine of equalization; their language has seldom more than a trace of accent, and they adopt from schoolmates local formulas for games, differing more or less from those which their parents used on the other side of the sea.”81 He referred to immigrant children who speak German in their homes, and play games from “the Fatherland” among themselves, but in contact with English-speaking children, they resort to a common repertoire of English-derived games, including “London Bridge Is Falling Down,” “Follow the Leader,” and “Ring around the Rosie.”82 Challenging this view, children’s folklore specialists pointed out strong non-English traditions in African-American ring and clapping games (“Loop de Loo,” “There’s a Brown Girl in the Ring,” “Hambone,” “Juba”), Pennsylvania-German ball games (corner ball), and Chinese divination and gambling games (dominoes, backgammon, dice).83 Yet these were ethnic groups that had been isolated either because of segregation, discrimination, or settlement patterns.
A similar thesis held for balladry. Folklorists maintained that British folk ballads persisted longer and showed wider variation in the United States than in the British Isles, especially in isolated mountain regions primarily populated by settlers of British background, such as the Appalachians and the Ozarks. American-born Olive Dame Campbell (1882–1954) and Englishman Cecil Sharp (1859–1924) sparked a song-collecting fervor to uncover this hidden trove with the publication of English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians (1917). Campbell and Sharp reported long ballads performed orally in the Appalachian region, such as “Barbara Allen,” “Lord Randall,” and “Fair Margaret and Sweet William,” that Harvard professor Francis James Child had assumed were extinct.84 There were differences in the American corpus, however. Repertoires tended to take away aristocratic references, and singers tended to downplay supernatural content. The existence of the British ballads, folk song collectors subsequently found, was not just an Appalachia and Ozark mountain regional phenomenon. “Child ballads,” so named after the delineation of 305 types in the literature professor’s five-volume collection, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1882–1898), were reported from Maine to Florida and New York to California in the 20th century.85
A number of 20th-century folklore projects sought, on the one hand, to document non-English folk song repertoires to demonstrate the persistence of ethnic cultures in America and, on the other, to identify songs that emerged on American soil to show that the American folk repertoire was not all derivative. Among the emergent singing traditions that indicated cultural resistance to assimilation were Mexican corridos in the Southwest, Pennsylvania-German secular songs, Creole and Cajun songs of Louisiana, and Yiddish folk songs.86 Folklorist George Malcolm Laws (1919–1994) devised an index of American ballads with nine topical categories identified by letters: War Ballads (A), Ballads of Cowboys and Pioneers (B), Ballads of Lumberjacks (C), Ballads of Sailors (D), Ballads about Criminals and Outlaws (E), Murder Ballads (F), Ballads of Tragedies and Disasters (G), Ballads on Various Topics (H), and Ballads of the Negro (I). The index drew attention to ballads purportedly arising on American soil such as Lomax’s well-known cowboy songs (e.g., Laws B1 “Cowboy’s Lament” and B9 “Sweet Betsy from Pike”) and war sagas (e.g., Laws A4 “Paul Jones’s Victory” and “Brave Wolfe,” Laws A7 “Battle of New Orleans”).87 The only ethnic category was for African Americans. It included distinctive American folk songs, many of which entered into popular culture, such as “Stagolee” (or “Stackolee”), “John Henry,” and “Railroad Bill.” Laws also took sides in arguments over the identification of some songs as American or British. An example is the song “Little Mohea” (H8), about a sailor who is tempted by the lure of Mohea, an “Indian lass.” He tells her that he is committed to his “true love” across the sea. Upon his arrival he finds that this love has been unfaithful and he longs for Mohea (also Mohee). Laws lists it as an American ballad, citing Phillips Barry’s theory that it was originally a story of romance between a frontiersman and a native maiden, and then the scene changed when it became a sea song with the Hawaiian island of Maui as a setting (and a possible source for her name). Laws acknowledges George Lyman Kittredge’s assertion that the song derived from a British broadside with the presumption that the print source predated the American version, but Barry argued that the American ballad inspired the British broadside.88 Beyond the academic argument over the song’s genesis are the stakes in the debate of legitimizing a distinct rather than derivative folk tradition that arose from the peculiar conditions of the American experience.
In the digital age, a highly utilized digital source to inventory songs from oral tradition in the English language from all over world and advance academic work on localization and diffusion of folk songs is the Roud Folk Song Index, named after its compiler Steve Roud. It assigns numbers to folk song types and gives each rendering of a song a unique identifier. To build upon earlier work, it cross references to Laws and Child ballad numbers. Another digital index that contains reference information on ballads to aid research on folk song diffusion is “The Traditional Ballad Index” (TBI) edited by Robert B. Waltz. It identifies song types and refers to Roud numbers as well as containing cross-references to Laws and Child ballad numbers.
If Child ballads could thrive in American settings, American folklorists asked, could there also be a related trove of Old World Märchen waiting to be unearthed? Folklorists indeed found versions in Appalachia and the Ozarks of well-known European tale types such as “Bluebeard’s Hidden Chamber” (ATU 312) and “The Youth Who Wanted to Learn What Fear Is” (ATU 326).89 The wonder-tale material could also be heard beyond the isolated mountaineer homes. “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (ATU 325) and “Snow White” (ATU 709) headed a collection of stories taken from Pennsylvania Germans in the 1940s.90 Folklorists excitedly reported a variant of “Snow White” as “Snow Bella” among Louisiana Cajuns, and in New England and New York they located Old World stories of fairies and “little people” from descendants of Irish immigrants.91 Out west, folklorists recorded narratives incorporating “The Princess Who Cannot Solve the Riddle” (ATU 851) from Mexican-Americans, “The Dragon Slayer” (ATU 300), and “The Clever Precepts” (ATU 910).92 Nonetheless, these finds of classical European types in American repertoires drew public attention because of their relative rarity compared to more prominent legendary and song material.
The most noticeable catch in the American folklorists’ net was a slew of “Jack tales,” many provided by the Hicks and Harmon families in North Carolina, called by folklorist Carl Lindahl “the nation’s most celebrated storytelling family.”93 The Hickses came from England and the Harmons from Germany in the 18th century. In subsequent generations into the 21st century, the stories of a boy-hero named Jack who outwits giants, witches, and demons were among the most memorable and lasting. In the 20th century, a number of popular books such as Richard Chase’s The Jack Tales (1943) and complementary recordings spread notice of the tales as an American expression primarily associated with white southerners.94 Although the story of “Jack and the Beanstalk (Giant)” (ATU 328A) is most popularly known, a great number of variations spun around the character emerged. A story attached to the performance of Ray Hicks (1922–2003), called by Lindahl “the most famous traditional storyteller in America,” went by the name of “Jack and the Robbers” (ATU 1525A). It involved a boy who, confronted by robbers who want to kill him, has his life spared by pointing out to the robbers that “I ain’t got nothing, all my little rags is all. I’m just a poor little humble boy.”95 The robbers offer to let him go if he steals three animals, which he does, and then gets paid by the thieves. Unlike European narratives in which the boy’s test is stealing from an aristocrat, in Hicks’s version it is a farmer. Although coming from European tradition, the indigent, scrappy Jack became an American stock figure and a Hicks favorite because of his ability to overcome challenges out on his own. He appeared to epitomize the rugged, resourceful individual who triumphs over larger forces who doubt him.96
Another set of narratives, sometimes set as marvel tales, sometimes as legends, center on the search for treasure.97 Whether hidden because of fabled pirates, eccentric misers, or lost mines, the treasure frequently eludes the seekers at the end of the stories. The treasure commonly has a curse attached, or disaster befalls the treasure hunters. Folklorist Alan Dundes drew a contrast between treasure narratives in the United States and those reported in Mexico to make a point about the way that stories reflected, or reinforced, American values.98 He noted that Mexican collections had an outcome of the treasure being acquired, often to explain the source of a community member’s rise in social status. Dundes posited that these notions of a rise in status owing to the discovery of treasure, or luck, could be called “folk ideas,” and that they constitute a different worldview than demonstrated in the American stories. The Mexican pattern indicates an “image of limited good,” an outlook of fatalism related to the lack of social mobility. If someone is able to rise economically, community members imagine that it must be the result of coming into good fortune through luck.
Dundes interpreted the typical American narrative of not finding treasure as one of an “image of unlimited good.” This folk idea expresses the individualistic, optimistic view that wealth is expandable and therefore people can increase their social status by working for it. An American proverb that expresses this idea is “work hard and you shall be rewarded.” Seeking the treasure, or hoping for luck, in this American worldview, is discouraged. Individuals should be able, expressed proverbially, to “pick themselves up by their own bootstraps.” “If at first they don’t succeed, try, try, again,” and “the more practice they have, the luckier they get.”
The function of treasure tales in the United States did not mean that Americans did not value, or have beliefs about, luck. The pervasiveness of lucky numbers, such as seven, and the unlucky thirteen, in contrast to fortune attributed to eight in Chinese culture (but four is considered unlucky in Chinese because it is homophonous with the word for death), for example, attest to the persistence of distinctive Western-derived belief systems in the United States. Considering the rise of customs surrounding mid-life crisis at the age of forty in the United States in the 20th century, anthropologist Stanley Brandes thought that the idea of forty as a significant quantity representing the end of life had roots in biblical religions of the Middle East. Various scriptures set forty as the number of years wandering in the wilderness and number of days and nights during the great flood, among other references.99 The number, or age of forty, was not statistically a mid-life point in the modern United States but had been culturally constructed as a special number multiplying four, with its symbolism of being more than enough (three represented completeness), and ten, as an official quantity. Alan Dundes also viewed a special status for the number three in American culture, not only in folktales for the typical number of episodes, but also in folk speech (“third time’s a charm,” “three Rs: reading, ’riting, and ’rithmetic,” and “three on a match”) and as a basis of design (ABA, or bilateral symmetry in British-American houses and gravestones).100 He found that this base concept was not universal; the morphology of many Native American narratives featured four episodes, and Asian tales featured five. One interpretation of the emphasis on trichotomy in American culture is that it reflects the human body (head and shoulders), with the implication of expansive human dominion, in contrast to the symbolism of four as the cardinal points (Asian cosmology adds a fifth location in the self).101
An American belief in expansiveness is evident in the association of “tall tales” (known colloquially as whoppers, windies, or lyin’ tales) with oral and visual traditions in the United States.102 A European tradition of comical tales referred to hyperbolic exploits of a Baron Munchausen as sportsman and soldier.103 In the United States, tall tales include stories of ordinary folks who because they live on the frontier describe astounding phenomena matter-of-factly, provide exaggerated accounts of fishing and hunting exploits, serve up anecdotes of colorful “real characters” who fool their gullible audience, and relate narratives of comical demigods associated with intrepid enterprises in the expanding West. In some localities, this recognizable form of storytelling, as well as its associated attributes, are celebrated in “liars’ contests.”104 Sometimes stories might be told using the contest to frame a competitive streak, characteristic of, or mocking, an American “nothing is impossible” attitude (and emphasis on speed in doing it). For example, folklorist Herbert Halpert reported a story from a young warrant officer who set up the tale by saying, “Well, there were two men arguing about how fast they were and to prove his point one of them said he went out to the well to draw a bucket of water.” The trouble was that “as he started away from the well, the bottom of the bucket dropped out.” “No problem,” he said unaffectedly. “He ran to his house, got another bucket and caught the water before it hit the ground.” And the other fellow? He said that he had been out hunting. The narrator explained that “he shot a deer and skinned and dressed it and had it hanging up in his meat house at home before the bullet left the end of the gun.”105 Performances of the stories often appear humorous and suggest a literalization of the phrase “the sky’s the limit.” They also can belie the hardscrabble conditions of settlers who had giant aspirations but struggled mightily.
When visualized, the tall-tale style is evident in doctored postcards and posters that show a giant vegetable, fish, or insect being carried by ordinary farmers with the caption, “How we do things around here.”106 Or fantastic creatures such as the jackalope (a jackrabbit with antelope horns) would be pictured and occasionally mounted as a joke in restaurants and hotels (Figure 8). Its imagery often invites a story along the lines of a tall tale or a “practical joke” (colloquially known as the “put-on”).107 Such fantastic chimerical beasts in “these here parts,” cueing folk speech, announce that the western environment produces strange, unprecedented sights, and the dominant image of hybridization in the animal is typical of the social process for human residents.
Americans often festooned heroes with tall tales in addition to miraculous origin legends. Folklorist Richard Dorson claimed that the real-life Davy Crockett (1786–1836) set the stage for the character of boastful, adventurous “ringtailed roarers” who were admired in tall tales and composed an American mythopoeic “heroic age” during America’s westward expansion into the frontier (Figure 9).108 Exaggerated as “half horse, half alligator,” Crockett supposedly bragged that with a smile he could charm a raccoon down from a tree, but on one occasion he mistook a knothole for the creature’s eye and grinned all the bark off.109 Crockett was revered for emerging victorious in a wrestling match with a mammoth bear and loving his faithful dog Teazer, who could throw a buffalo.110 Tellers of Crockett tall tales often spun the stigmatized vernacular of the backwoodsman into a positive, even celebrated trait, and in the process perhaps satirized the attitude of snooty Europeans or stuffy Easterners toward the crude American everyman.
Raconteurs might offer the related theme of the country bumpkin getting the better of the traveling city slicker, for example, in numerous variations of the “Arkansas Traveler” (also the name of a fiddle tune that is part of the plot).111 In most dialogues, spoken and sung, the journeyman asks an Ozark (or other backwoods location) fiddler playing a tune in front of a rustic log cabin for directions and maybe hospitality. The stranger asks, “How far is it to the next house?” to which the rube saucily replies, “Stranger! I do not know. I’ve never been thar.” The slicker follows up by asking, “Will you tell me where this road goes to?” and gets further frustrated by the hick’s response: “It’s never gone any whar since I lived here; it’s always thar when I git up in the morning.’”112 In some versions, the fiddler incessantly repeats the first part of the tune and the irritated stranger offers to conclude the melody. After he completes the tune, the settler offers the traveler hospitality.
The confrontation between the traveler and the hillbilly became iconized in the American cultural imagination largely through popular prints in the 1870s by Currier & Ives of the “Arkansas Traveller” and “The Turn of the Tune,” apparently based on a painting by Arkansas artist Edward Payson Washbourne (1831–1860). As a skit, the dialogue made its way onto numerous theater stages. Among the most popular productions was Kit, The Arkansas Traveller, debuting in New York City in 1871. It began with the traditional dialogue, and the tremendous popularity of the show into the 1890s contributed to the recirculation of the backwoods folk humor in oral tradition.113 In the era of the phonograph, recording artists with folk roots such as Len Spencer, Gid Tanner, Riley Puckett, J. D. Weaver, and Clayton McMichen issued many versions of the dialogue between 1901 and 1928.114 For many audiences in post-frontier America, whether in the theater, parlor, or front porch, this frontier humor built around the confrontation of city and country, and the stigmatization of the once-proud pioneer yeoman farmer reduced to a “squatter” in the narrative, expressed, or sublimated, national anxieties of rapid urbanization and industrialization.
In the 20th century, characters from the worlds of industry, sport, music, crime, and military increasingly displaced the pioneer subjects of tall tales. Texas oil drillers heralded Gib Morgan (1842–1909), a modern-day Munchausen who performed miraculous feats of drilling and strength.115 Texas folklorist Mody Boatright documented at least fifty distinct tale types attributed to Morgan, including his account of patching up a dog split by charging into a sapling splinter. Morgan put him back together with two legs up and two legs down, which thrilled the hound no end because he could outrun any rabbit in the valley by turning cartwheels.116
The 20th century was also the era of literary folk heroes who might have a basis in folk tradition but who also took a popular-culture turn in newspaper columns, books, comics, and advertisements. Dorson dismissed the national rage for stories of lumbering titan Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe as “fakelore” invented by logging company writers and used during World War II in propaganda to stir militaristic nationalism (Figure 10).117 Questions have also arisen for others of his ilk, such as Pecos Bill (remarkable southwest Texas cowboy), Joe Magarac (extraordinary Pittsburgh steelworker), and Febold Feboldson (giant Swedish-American sodbuster).118 Yet a case has been made into the 21st century for legendary strongmen and strongwomen attached to locally known characters who provide the material for humorous tall tales and awe-inspiring legends with themes of the extent of human limitations in a technological world.
Renowned in both song and story, the African-American hero John Henry (Laws I 1; Roud Folksong no. 790) is a study in the projection of anxieties about machines replacing humans. It features undertones of the racialized, and therefore stigmatized, laborer expressed in American folklore, and also projects the often-stereotyped image of the hypermasculine black man. Other larger-than-life African-American figures such as John Hardy (Laws I 2; Roud Folksong no. 3262), Bad Lee Brown (Laws I 8; Roud Folksong no. 780), and Stagolee (Laws I 15; Roud Folksong no. 4183) were narrated as anti-hero badmen.119 Their motifs of confident defiance, fatalism, and resignation to violence appeared in orally performed narrative poetry identified by African-American tellers as “toasts,” extended rhymed recitations recounting the exploits of animal trickster figures, boastful outlaws, and tragic heroes who purportedly inspired rap and hip-hop lyrics of the 21st century.120 According to many music historians, Stagolee (also known as Stagger Lee and Stackolee) in toast, story, and song is especially influential.121 With considerable bravado, performers relate his story of an unrepentant badman who shoots his old friend Billy Lyons because he beat him in a gambling game. Cecil Brown claims that as a secular oral performance of the streets contrasting with the black preacher, “Stagolee has influenced a new art form in rap music and hip-hop. As an invisible hero, Stagolee is an image of a man who can find dignity in his own country, which seeks to disgrace him.”122 Brown adds the theme of human limitation in an industrial world by observing, “He is an allegory of the oral black man who traveled from the mechanical world and now lives in an electronic information world.”123 Often spoken of in the first person, Stag (raising images of an independent “buck”) is sure to fall, but before he does he lashes out violently at Billy and everyone else: “Yeah, I’m Stagger Lee, and you better get down on your knees and slobber my head/’Cause if you don’t you’re sure to be dead/Billy dropped down and slobbered on his head, But Stag filled him full of lead.”124
The badman figure is a contrast to, or evolution from, the African-American trickster tales made famous by white journalist Joel Chandler Harris in the 19th century.125 After the popularization of his stories related by Uncle Remus, a fictional southern plantation storyteller, folklorists found evidence of Brer Rabbit trickster tales throughout the black South, along with cognate figures such as Aunt Nancy, and traced them to African antecedents.126 Besides inviting interpretations of the tales as animal parables indicating the use of cunning by the oppressed rabbit to escape, the animal stories raised questions about the evidence of the tales of Africanisms persisting in the South despite the suppression of African culture. Folklorists made connections between these stories and West African trickster tales of Anansi the Spider (probably the antecedent of the homophonous “Aunt Nancy” character in black folktales of the Caribbean and Carolina coast).127
Attracting close attention was the iconic “tar baby story” (ATU 175) involving a baby doll composed of tar made by Brer Fox, who is antagonistic to the rabbit (Figure 11).128 The rabbit approaches the tar baby, and angered on hearing no response, punches and kicks the doll. The rabbit gets stuck and is helpless before the fox, who grabs him. The trickster rabbit uses reverse psychology on the fox by pleading with him not to fling him into the briar patch. Convinced by the rabbit that landing in the briar patch is the most painful option for the rabbit, the fox heaves him there, only to find that the rabbit is at home in thickets and is able to escape. Although most studies cite an African origin, folklorists have also hypothesized a genesis in India and Iran, and possible influences from Cherokee, Meso-American, and Caribbean narratives.129 Regardless of its derivation, the animal stories were associated with Southern African-American culture, and the black trickster character made appearances in later jests on the theme of “John and ole Marster,” and toasts such as “Shine and the Titanic” and the “Signifying Monkey.”130
Similar questions about the persistence of ethnic folk forms addressing relationships of the minority with the majority population in the United States have swirled around the Mexican-American norteño corrido (northern ballad). Often traced to medieval romances set in ballad form, corridos about folk heroes and legendary events with political overtones in the contested border region of the American Southwest circulated widely in oral tradition among Mexican-Americans. Mexican-American folklorist Américo Paredes found special significance in songs and stories of Gregorio Cortez (1875–1916), born on the Mexican side of the border but raised in Texas.131 “El Corrido de Gregorio Cortez” first circulated orally in the early 20th century and continued to be sung into the 21st century. According to the legend that inspired the ballad, Cortez was unjustly accused of horse theft by a gringo sheriff, and violence erupted when the law moved in to arrest him. A long chase ensued that added to Cortez’s mystique as possessing extraordinary strength and perseverance. Stories circulated that he had walked one hundred miles and ridden more than four hundred, all the while being pursued by a posse of three hundred men. Eventually Cortez was caught and put on trial. He was acquitted for the murder of one sheriff but not the other. He was sentenced to life in prison, but when pardoned by the governor, his Mexican-American admirers interpreted the events as a triumph of justice for oppressed Mexicans at the hands of gringos in the border region. Indeed, the corrido form calls for a moral lesson and farewell from the singer after giving a salutation and relating the story.
Although corridos became commercialized by recording companies and were broadcast on television and radio, many folklorists point out that the folk process is still evident in an evolution of the folk-hero corrido into the “narcocorrido.”132 Emerging in the 1970s, the narcocorrido features the traditional tripartite corrido structure of salutation, description of events, and moral lesson to relate legends of fabled drug smugglers and dealers and their brazen exploits. Folklorists listen for circulating motifs in the lyrical content within the context of shared folk performance styles. For example, in 2015 when drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán escaped from Mexico’s most secure prison, songs quickly circulated, outside of media outlets, that portrayed him as a Robin Hood figure, and celebrated his rags to riches mythology, his braggadocio in declaring that the authorities could not keep him, and his vanity, or cunning, in escaping without messing up his hair.133 Ambivalence could be heard in the moralizing typical of the genre, including questioning his power gained from brute force, and his obsession with having more money than one could possibly use. As with other popular expressions of ethnic groups with a persistent community presence, folk aspects are couched within an older tradition and the content compared with earlier themes, often to bring out the resistance to assimilation.
Folklore as a Force in the Development of City, State, Region, and Nation
A folkloristic challenge to the idea that the United States epitomizes a unified mass culture marked by the mobility of residents and a social placelessness is apparent in scholarship locating persistent, evolving regional and community traditions despite the image of assimilation and massification. With advances in communication and transportation technology in the late 19th century, many industrialists predicted dissipation of regional differences in favor of a national homogeneity with a standard language and lore. Some historians thought that American cultural, if not ethical, standards in the post–Civil War era emanated from New England with its attendant Puritan values. Others believed that rapid urbanization in the late 19th century suggested a national cosmopolitanism that pushed out folk cultures in America’s rural heartlands and embraced novelty rather than tradition. Yet another movement protested the cultural politics implied in the analogy of “folk is to rural as popular is to urban.” Cities, they argued, harbor distinctive expressive traditions and attachments to neighborhood cultural identities that increasingly defined the populist spirit of the United States through the 20th century.
A major approach to America’s cultural identity rooted in diverse paths of diffusion was folklorist MacEdward Leach’s historico-geographic thesis that American folk cultural regions arose from colonial settlement in major eastern ports of entry.134 The metaphor of “cultural hearth” applied to these ports suggested that they served as locations for cultural exchange between groups, and in the process of migrating inland, the travelers developed a regional culture out of the resulting ethnic mixtures. Leach delineated “five centers of folk culture” that resulted from European colonization: New England, with Boston at the center; the New York region, with New York City at the center; Pennsylvania-Delaware, with Philadelphia at the center; the Tidewater South, with Baltimore and Charleston at the center; and the Deep South and River, with New Orleans at the center.135 In each of these places, different ethnic influences combined to form a cultural hybrid that differed from its separate Old World sources. He used the examples of localized slang and dialect that writers drew upon to create “local color” literature as evidence of attachment to folk regional identity.
Folklorist Henry Glassie elaborated upon the “cultural hearth” idea by tracing the diffusion of rural folk architecture on the landscape of the eastern United States.136 Although Pennsylvania constituted the last “cultural hearth” to form, he thought it was the most important because it fanned north and south, as well as west, and with its diverse roots of English, German, and Irish traditions greatly influenced the formation of the great expanse of the Midwest. He attributed the iconic American “log cabin” to German construction techniques, and its rapid spread in the South and Midwest to adaptation to the wooded American landscape and the migration from Pennsylvania down into Appalachia. With regional formation, residents recognized a constellation of traditions representing distinctive identities, and often outlooks. Some material landscapes that did not evolve as much as the Midwestern pattern because of the economic basis of the region, geographic isolation, or social customs of community separation often developed stronger regional identity. Glassie and others suggested, for example, that Southern and New England, or Yankee, social affiliations are particularly strong in the United States, and concern for folk cultural continuity and preservation are as a result also prevalent in those locations.137
Folk cultural boundaries become less clear past the Mississippi River, but nonetheless community and regional traditions give residents what folklorists refer to as a “sense of place,” or belonging to a community, in contrast to feelings of placelessness in a mass culture. To be sure, ideas of space in the vast West differed from the cultural landscapes in the East. Migration patterns changed as settlers were discouraged by the rough conditions of the arid and mountainous West.138 Besides the identification of a Southwest border region heavily influenced by Hispanic and Native American culture, folklorists and cultural geographers have also recognized the “Mormon Culture Region” centered in Utah and covering parts of surrounding states.139 Its name reflects the predominant population in the area belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but non-religious cultural practices indicate a regional folklore. An example is the “creative dating” folk custom involving elaborate invitations for dates and creative responses in kind. The invitations often use clever puns and other folk speech play and jokes.140 Another is the celebration of Pioneer Day on July 24. It is an official state holiday in Utah on the occasion of the entrance of Brigham Young and his Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 and is also observed by Mormon residents in other states within the West. In modern-day practice, the holiday observed inside and outside of Utah includes parades (involving the re-enactment of entering the region by handcart), rodeos, historical pageants, and fireworks displays aligning the region as the heart of the West.141
Festivals showcasing local traditions are especially important in marking claims of cities, and their neighborhood communities, to distinctiveness. New Orleans’s Mardi Gras festival, dating at least to the 18th century, might be best known nationally. Related to the Catholic Shrovetide practice of a public carnival, the New Orleans Mardi Gras has evolved into a multicultural tourist event with parades and balls, and especially the “Meeting of the Courts” between the “krewes” of Rex and Comus (social clubs that work all year round to produce costumes [Figure 12], parades, and balls for Carnival season) represents a distinctive creolized cosmopolitan identity.142
Festivals do not need to be centuries old to serve an integrative urban function. In Baltimore, Maryland, a grassroots movement in the Hamden section of the city created HONFest in 1994 to celebrate folk speech and the image associated with the area that many writers and civic leaders had stigmatized [Figure 13]. The slang term “hon” (short for “honey”), organizers declared, is a traditional term of endearment in the working-class “Bawlmer” dialect of the city. It also epitomized a comical folk type associated with big hair, teardrop eyeglasses, and excessive cosmetics and costume jewelry, popularized by John Waters’s films.
The urban festival has been a way for residents to spill into the streets and display their collective culture. Although festivals are not restricted to urban areas, in the United States, many events that involve reveling and parading, organized and spontaneous, have been associated with cities.143 Many traditional festivals such as New York City’s annual Feast of San Gennaro (Figure 14), known colloquially as the Little Italy Festival and staged since 1926, and Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day festival, when the Chicago River turns an emerald green (begun officially in 1956), have ethnic connections and develop into citywide celebrations.144 The festivals typically incorporate traditional foods, music, and games associated with the group and, by extension, are emblematic of the city.
The expressive genre that in folk parlance is most associated with the American city is the “urban legend.” Many folklorists prefer terms such as “contemporary,” “modern,” or “belief” legend to indicate that the settings for, and content of, legend telling are not solely an urban phenomenon.145 Yet, in addition to general categorizations of this kind of legend to include cautionary stories of danger (e.g., “AIDS Mary” and “AIDS Harry” stories warning of the consequences of casual sex) and reports of strange events (a hitchhiker who mysteriously disappears and is found to be a young woman who died on the night the driver picked her up), tellers of urban legends often refer to phenomena relating to anxiety over modernization epitomized by the city.146 Most definitions include references to stories set in the present or recent past, and relate unusual, shocking, or mysterious occurrences, with the added feature of sounding, or having been reported, as true. More than offering a report of something that happened, many legend performances in their elaborations of the story invite commentary about the story’s verisimilitude and, often, reference to an implicit troubling ethical or social issue.
Although contemporary legends on issues of social change, technological power, and celebrity culture have been shown to be globally diffused, many belief legends have been associated with peculiar American circumstances. Iconic in the United States, for example, is the legend of menacing alligators or mutating super-alligators overtaking New York City’s dark sewers as a result of residents flushing down a toilet the animals they originally obtained as small cuddly pets.147 The story can be interpreted as a projection of anxiety about animals representing an ancient species being brought into the unnatural city. Sometimes the telling can be a commentary on the deleterious effects of tourism and the commodification of animals (see also the “Mexican Pet” legend of a tourist in Mexico who brings home to the United States what she thinks is a small dog, but turns out to be a dying sewer rat), or symbolically associating the city with its sewers as a location of rot and danger beneath the glitzy surface (for example, the belief that there are as many rats as people in a city, or ten cockroaches for every person).148 New York City—a historic, iconic urban center renowned for both the lights of Broadway and allure of arts as well as notorious for crime and filth—is the most frequent setting for the story, although folklorists have also found similar stories told about Paris.149 These different settings for similar plots raise questions about whether the stories arose independently or are connected as migratory, transnational narratives. In the latter case, folklorists identify the local variations as “oikotypes” (from the Greek oikos, for “ecology”) that respond to particular environments.150
Folklorist Richard Dorson hypothesized that legends, especially more historic ones, are important in inculcating national identity in a nation-state such as the United States that had been formed relatively recently compared to the kingdoms of Europe, with their ancient legacies.151 He argued that while community and regional folklore roots many residents in their localities, their connection to one another across these spaces is maintained through legendry that concerns, in his words, “the special historical conditions” of the United States broadly as a nation-state. He identified themes around which nationalistic historical legends arise: colonization, westward movement, aborigines and slaves, patriotism and democracy, immigration, industrialization, and mass culture. That is not to say that the United States is unique in possessing these themes, but its frontier experience, rapidity of immigration and industrialization during the post–Civil War period, and revolutionary legacy combine in folklore to suggest a distinctive, even exceptional, national identity.152 He cited the legend of Casey Jones, for example, as a classic heroic narrative attached to railroading and the industrial period in the United States.153 The image of the railroad fits the conceptualization of the United States as expansive, and the creation of a transcontinental railroad with a historic meeting of railroad tracks from East and West in Utah conveys a sense of its importance to nationalism, and even the folk idea of Manifest Destiny (divinely inspired for the nation to stretch as an empire from the Atlantic to the Pacific).154
The Casey Jones legend, expressed in song as well as narrative by both blacks and whites, is based on the real-life events of white railroad engineer named Jonathan Luther Jones (1863–1900), who early on the foggy morning of April 30, 1900, outside Canton, Mississippi, sacrificed his life for his crew and passengers by alertly grabbing for the brakes before his Cannonball Express slammed into the caboose of a stalled freight train. Headlines about his heroism and conflicting reports about the causes of the wreck and Jones’s death fueled legends and songs about the incident that passed on into oral tradition. Perhaps best known is “The Ballad of Casey Jones” (Laws G1; Roud Folksong no. 3247) credited to African-American engine-wiper Wallace Saunders, who befriended Jones. Found in many variations, the song follows a familiar ballad structure with a “come all ye” opening: “Come all you rounders if you want to hear, The story of a brave engineer, Casey Jones was the rounder’s name.”155 Devoted to the rails, Casey Jones is immortalized with his last words: “Casey said just before he died, ‘There are two more roads I would like to ride,’ The Northern Pacific and the Santa Fe.” In addition to exemplifying devotion to duty and the quick, bold thinking of the railroad engineer, the song, according to Dorson, transcends regional loyalties through the railroad and venerates the industrial future of the nation.156
One indication of the nationalist industrial symbolism that the song assumed is an often-performed parody credited to renowned labor activist Joe Hill, who contributed “Casey Jones—the Union Scab” (TBI, FSWB102A) It reinterpreted the legendary events in the context of a nationwide walkout of railway employees in the Illinois Central shopmen’s strike of 1911 and was sung as a union folk song for years to come:
The workers said to Casey, “Won’t you help us win this strike?”But Casey said, “Let me alone, you’d better take a hike.”Well Casey’s wheezy engine ran right off the worn out trackAnd Casey hit the river with an awful crack.157
The union song brings out another frequent pattern in American culture of folklore not only offering voices of unity but also of dissent. Folklorist John Greenway pointed out strategies for symbolically using traditional content familiar to listeners to draw attention to social protest movements.158 During the civil rights movement, black spirituals were used rhetorically to express powerful statements of social change. Greenway observed that in the South, union songs often changed the lyrics of gospel hymns—“I” to “We” and “God” to “CIO” (Congress of Industrial Organizations).159 Parodies of popular songs and children’s rhymes frequently enter into folklore, and on picket lines signs alter proverbs to show a different spin on conventional wisdom.160 This tradition of dissenting alteration has extended into digital communication in visual as well as verbal forms. Although social media is associated with global communication, many of the folklorized messages often attached to familiar images (the form, recognized by names such as “Grumpy Cat,” “Bad Luck Brian,” and “Success Kid,” emanating from the United States, is commonly referred to as a “meme”) invoke nationalistic references set against digitally altered photographs of historic national icons such as Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and more contemporary figures such as Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama.161
Folklore as Processes in Everyday Life
For many folklorists contemplating the effects of technology and modernization on tradition, the transcription of an oral text was not as important as documentation of the process or event by which it was produced. With the realization that people in their social interactions produce new folklore as well as invoke it in different forms—material and written as well as oral—folklorists sought to identify folklore in new realities of modern everyday life marked by technological mediation. In this theoretical perspective, individuals encounter multiple situations in the course of a day and relate to the setting and people in it with “performances” that engage folk behavior. For example, saying the greeting “how are you?” is standard in social encounters in the United States. It might appear routine (characterized with the folk term of “small talk”), but the responses of “hunky dory,” “Just ducky (peachy, dandy),” “Fair to middling, mostly middling,” “couldn’t be better,” “can’t complain,” “still among the living,” “still breathing (standing, living),” “fine as a frog’s hair,” “fine as a frog’s hair and twice as fuzzy,” “not dead yet,” and “old enough to know better, and you?” often ritually signal a special social connection between the speakers/texters. Further, the practice contextualizes connotative meaning characteristic of a folkloric frame of action (such as reference to aging, anxiety/“troubles,” lifestyle choices, medical inquiries, friendship or family relations, and insider, localized knowledge).162 Rather than presume an ethnic or regional identity, folklorists toward the end of the 20th century increasingly sought to analyze the myriad situations in which individuals through their lives construct and express various identities.
Folklorists taking a contextual perspective point out that people learn the kinds of performances that are appropriate in modern life, marked by encounters with strangers as well as friends, by understanding the different contexts, situations, or frames that contain social interaction. In line with this ethnographic shift, folklorist Dan Ben-Amos called for replacing previous definitions of folklore as oral tradition or the knowledge of semi-literate or rural isolated societies with the social interactional concept of “artistic communication in small groups.”163 Ben-Amos’s definition emphasized, in keeping with an American concept of folklore, the malleable, emergent nature of traditions according to the manifold social situations of daily life.164 Thus, questions of ethnic, regional, and national folklore shifted from the characteristic genres and types within those rubrics to the situations that foster folklore and the individuals who are likely to create folklore in those frames. In the United States, examples of such contexts that signal distinctive folk processes include college campuses, summer camps, and slumber parties.
College campuses might appear surprising as a folkloric context because students typically reside there for a short time (four years—a period that is symbolically abundant) and are involved in academic learning.165 With a lack of rites of passage from youth to adulthood in American society, the college experience is often viewed as a transitional status, as well as age, from childhood to adulthood. As a result, the identity of the student appears to be total, socially communitarian in dormitory complexes, and confined to a distinct landscape. The cultural challenge in this environment is often to create social bonds among students arriving from diverse backgrounds. On many campuses, the process begins with rituals that strip first-year students of their “home” identities and integrate them into campus culture. At small colleges, there may be events that pit one class against another in competition. At Hope College in Holland, Michigan, for example, the “Pull” is a tug-of-war between first- and second-year students featuring a six-hundred-foot, twelve-hundred-pound hawser rope (Figure 15). The experience encourages bonding with one’s class and engaging in a task collaboratively. Students learn slang and customs of the campus that they associate with a cultural identity. The social relationships might lead to sharing of legends typical of college students nationwide about coming-of-age anxieties, including sexual choices, effects of drugs and alcohol, and dealing independently with authority.166
With more than twelve thousand day and resident camps attended by over eleven million children in the United States, the summer camp is a frequent context for folkloric performances before students get to college.167 Often emphasizing an experience with nature as a reaction to modern technology and urbanization, the camps frequently have legends of a bogeyman kind of figure lurking in the woods. The name and origin of the figure vary; it might include ghosts of Native American chiefs (because of the association with the first inhabitants of the woods), monstrous chimerical animals, or deranged hulking men. The process of creation appears similar in this context; tellers caution listeners to stay out of the woods or surroundings or else this figure will take them away. The cautionary tales have an obvious connection to “boogie-men” who lurk in the dark and serve to keep children from straying away from home. The camp stories are more elaborate but serve similar functions of social control.168
The slumber party is often considered a special American context appealing to preteen and adolescent girls. Attendees spend the night at a host’s house with minimal parental intervention. Typical events in this social frame are legendary exchanges and participation in supernatural rituals or games. Although younger children are thought to be more “superstitious” because of a lack of rational awareness, older youths usually engage in folk magical practices and show interest in ghosts and supernatural phenomena. Folklorists have theorized that these practices result from questioning during adolescence of the boundaries between life and death.169 Adolescents feel invulnerable and vulnerable at the same time, and their awareness of death, despite possessing youthful vitality, is apparent. They became aware of teen suicide and use narratives to question motivations for such extreme responses to stress. At parties they might summon the dead through the use of Ouija boards and séances.170 They might also test their youthful powers by levitating their friends, often with the chant “light as a feather, stiff as a board.”171 Performances of modern legends about bizarre occurrences frequently conclude with invitations to listeners to comment and discuss through the folkloric frame their veracity and the age-related issues of being alone and independent, dealing with mortal danger, and engaging in sex.172
A context that emerges after youth begin driving automobiles is “legend trips” to verify supernatural legends, often in isolated locations (Figure 16). A frequent phenomenon to test is of “gravity hills” that push a car upward even though the brake is on.173 They might go as a group to settings of “spook lights” and creepy cemeteries to dare one another to overcome their fears.174 In the digital era, youth take videos of their adventures and post them for others to comment on the core of belief.175 They engage in telling what folklorists call “personal narratives” that relate individual experiences within American structural and stylistic expectations of the “good story.” Often, events that spark the personal narrative as a folkloric frame are family sagas, workplace dramas, scary situations, social faux pas, supernatural or miraculous experiences (“memorates,” in folkloristic terminology), and sexual encounters.176
Because much of digital communication in the 21st century is not “face to face interaction” characteristic of what analog folklorists referred to as a performative frame of folklore, many analysts reserved performance analysis for communication of verbal art in small group situations, and referred more broadly to folk practices to cover the kinds of expressive processes that could be called traditional. The folkloristic finding was that the Internet as a symbol of mass culture does not displace folk culture. Instead, as a user-driven medium it provides new platforms for folkloric exchange and, in many cases, mediation of traditional knowledge into social networks rather than face-to-face groups. These platforms are often assumed to be global in reach, but they often make use of traditional knowledge and social conduits that are concentrated in the United States. In addition to finding unique manifestations of folk behavior in cyber-environments, such as hackers injecting legendary characters (e.g., “The White Lady of Perion” in MapleStory video games based upon “White Lady” lovers’ lane legends), “creepypastas” and collective creations (horror-related legends posted around the Internet, such as the Slender Man and Ted the Caver), virus hoaxes (e.g., Goodtimes, Dance of the Pope, and An Internet Flower for You), viral “memes” (U Mad Bro, But That’s None of My Business), the comparative microfunctions of communicative topics in analog and digital culture provide material for analysis of joking, legend tripping, and ritualizing off- and online.177 With these expressions in mind, folklorist Simon J. Bronner proposed an action-oriented definition of folklore to cover analog and digital as well as historic and contemporary culture: “traditional knowledge put into, and drawing from, practice.”178
Knowledge or lore is perceived or constructed as traditional, characteristically through its repetition and variation, and connotative evocation of precedent. It can be viewed as distinct from, although sometimes integrated into, the notion of popular culture as fixed in form and commercialized (folklore can also be “popular” and broad-based beyond the small group or subculture). Reference to the actions of “put into and drawing from” suggests the framing of connotative, purposeful enactments as an adaptation from precedent or an outcome of repeatable behavior. This outcome can be material and social as well as verbal. It can be constructed by and enacted for the individual. Popularly, folklore in the United States can be rhetorically used to refer to the verisimilitude, and significance, of cultural knowledge in an uncertain, individualistic world. It frequently refers to the expressions of this knowledge in story, song, speech, custom, and craft as meaningful for what it conveys and enacts about tradition in a future-oriented society.179 That tradition in the United States is old and new, national and regional, transnational and ethnic, persistent and vanishing, continuous and changing, special and everyday, and always expressive and connotative.
Review of the Literature
Commonly used surveys of folklore and folklife studies in the United States since the late 20th century include Folklore: The Basics (2017) by Simon J. Bronner, Living Folklore: An Introduction to the Study of People and Their Traditions (2005) by Martha Sims and Martine Stephens, The Study of American Folklore: An Introduction (1998) by Jan Harold Brunvand, The Dynamics of Folklore (1996) by Barre Toelken, Folkloristics: An Introduction (1995) by Robert A. Georges and Michael Owen Jones, and Folk Groups and Folklore Genres (1986), edited by Elliott Oring. All of these works underscore the essential role of folklore in everyday life and outline documentary methods for the American scene, but Brunvand and Oring give more attention than others to issues of genre and group life, while Bronner and Georges and Jones cover more historical background and issues of theory and practice. Major reference works for the American field include Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music, and Art (2011), edited by Charlie T. McCormick and Kim Kennedy White, Encyclopedia of American Folklife (2006), edited by Simon J. Bronner, and American Folklore: An Encyclopedia (1995), edited by Jan Harold Brunvand. Surveys defining the American folklore field emerged during the 1950s and 1960s, and although dated, should be consulted for perspectives on the Americanness of American folklore. Leading the list is the work of Richard M. Dorson in titles such as American Folklore (1959), American Folklore and the Historian (1971), America in Legend (1973), and Handbook of American Folklore (1983). Dorson also edited Folklore and Folklife: An Introduction (1972), whose coverage extended beyond the United States but includes classic survey essays on various genres by American folklorists. Other resources on the history and practice of American folklore and folklife studies include Simon J. Bronner’s American Folklore Studies: An Intellectual History (1986) and Following Tradition: Folklore in the Discourse of American Culture (1998), and Rosemary Zumwalt’s American Folklore Scholarship: A Dialogue of Dissent (1988).
A good place to start with modern folkloristic theory in the United States is with the paradigm shift in the field from an emphasis on the literary text to the context, communication, and performance of folklore considered as events advanced in Toward New Perspectives in Folklore (1972), edited by Américo Paredes and Richard Bauman. The volume serves as a prologue for 21st-century essay collections such as Tradition in the Twenty-First Century: Locating the Role of the Past in the Present (2013), edited by Trevor J. Blank and Robert Glenn Howard, Eight Words for the Study of Expressive Culture (2003), edited by Burt Feintuch, and The Individual and Tradition: Folkloristic Perspectives (2011), edited by Ray Cashman, Tom Mould, and Pravina Shukla. Volumes that explore the distinctiveness of folkloristic theory from an American perspective include Humble Theory: Folklore’s Grasp on Social Life (2016) by Dorothy Noyes, Just Folklore: Analysis, Interpretation, Critique (2012) by Elliott Oring, Explaining Traditions: Folk Behavior in Modern Culture (2011) by Simon J. Bronner, and Theorizing Folklore: Toward New Perspectives on the Politics of Culture (1993), edited by Charles Briggs and Amy Shuman.
Work in textual analysis still progresses, particularly in literary analysis working with identifying motifs, types, and symbols in folktales. Indispensable to any reference collection of folklore is Hans-Jörg Uther’s The Types of International Folktales: A Classification and Bibliography (2011), a major revision of a classificatory system known by folklorists as the Aarne-Thompson (AT) tale-type index (folkloristic essays now refer to Uther’s numeration of folktale types as the “ATU system”). Another standard reference is Stith Thompson’s Motif-Index of Folk-Literature (1955–1958) in six volumes. Hasan El-Shamy and Jane Garry created a handbook for its use titled Archetypes and Motifs in Folklore and Literature (2005). For American folktales, folklorists often refer to Ernest Baughman’s Type and Motif-Index of the Folktales of England and North America (1966), although much new material has been uncovered and motif-analysis applied, including more on formerly censored folk literature, such as Frank A. Hoffmann’s Analytical Survey of Anglo-American Traditional Erotica (1973).
Folkloristic work on American modern legend is especially vibrant, with numerous books and a journal, Contemporary Legend, devoted to legendry in modern life. Many analysts connect the expression of legends to the anxieties of modern life, including increasing alienation as a result of a loss of community, change in gender roles, and concern for loss of human control as technology dictates the round of everyday life. Among the prominent folkloristic studies exploring such connections are Legend and Belief (2001) by Linda Dégh, The Truth Never Stands in the Way of a Good Story! (2000) by Jan Harold Brunvand, and Manufacturing Tales: Sex and Money in Contemporary Legends (1992) by Gary Alan Fine. Another set of studies explores American legendry in relation to rumors and finds that they often arise to narrate certainty in response to fears of health, global change, and invasion of privacy. Exemplary studies of this sort include Aliens, Ghosts, and Cults: Legends We Live (2001) by Bill Ellis, Once Upon a Virus: AIDS Legends and Vernacular Risk Perception (2004) by Diane E. Goldstein, and Did You Hear About the Girl Who? Contemporary Legends, Folklore, and Human Sexuality (2000) by Marianne H. Whatley and Elissa R. Henken.
Legends also address racial problems, and folklorists often find that narratives arise in legends to interpret racial motivations for contemporary events. Prominent in presenting such scenarios is I Heard it Through the Grapevine: Rumor in African-American Culture (1993) by Patricia A. Turner and Whispers on the Color Line: Rumor and Race in America (2001) by Gary Alan Fine and Patricia A. Turner. Another question raised is the persistence of ghost legends despite the supposed rationality of modern society. In studies such as Putting the Supernatural in Its Place: Folklore, The Hypermodern, and the Ethereal (2015), edited by Jeannie Banks Thomas, Haunting Experiences: Ghosts in Contemporary Folklore (2007) by Diane Goldstein, Sylvia Grider, and Jeannie Banks Thomas, and Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses (2007) by Elizabeth Tucker, folklorists hypothesize that belief in the supernatural actually increases with modernization because of the emphasis placed upon life. Death becomes more fearful and legends arise involving the dead in the midst of life.
Although the bookshelf of folkloristic research of jokes is not as long as the one for legendry, it has made a significant contribution to humor studies. Setting paths in different directions is the analytical work of folklorists Elliott Oring, Gershon Legman, and Alan Dundes. In his books Engaging Humor (2003) and Jokes and Their Relations (1992), Elliott Oring has understood humor arising from “appropriate incongruities” and sought to analyze how those incongruities structured into humorous performances are perceived variously so that what is funny to participants in one situation is not laughable in another. Alan Dundes and Gershon Legman apply a Freudian view that jokes can be read for symbolic projections of anxieties—often sexual and scatological. Dundes in Cracking Jokes: Studies of Sick Humor Cycles and Stereotypes (1987), “The Kushmaker” and Other Essays on Folk Speech and Folk Humor (2008), and Work Hard and You Shall Be Rewarded: Urban Folklore from the Paperwork Empire (with Carl R. Pagter, 1992), and Legman in No Laughing Matter: Rationale of the Dirty Joke (1976) show joking to be about troubling matters. They join other folklorists in noting the way that folklore can provide a “veil of play” that allows individuals to say and act in ways that would be unacceptable in everyday discourse. Exemplary studies of folk humor that interpret jokes as being more than entertainment and providing emotional outlets for aggression, distress, or frustration include The Last Laugh: Folk Humor, Celebrity Culture, and Mass-Mediated Disasters in the Digital Age (2013) by Trevor J. Blank, Of Corpse: Death and Humor in Folklore and Popular Culture (2003), edited by Peter Narváez, and Lowering the Bar: Lawyer Jokes and Legal Culture (2005) by Marc Galanter.
Although folk music studies are often attached to ethnomusicology, folklorists have been especially active in the study of folk songs and ballads as signs of regional and ethnic persistence. Many of these studies also analyze the popularization of folk music to ask about the consequences for communities when traditions are taken out of communities and become commercialized. Often, American folklorists note a hybridization or creolization process as different influences blend to produce mixed forms such as country music, zydeco, and blues. Notable monographs covering such ground in American folk music include James P. Leary’s Polkabilly: How the Goose Island Ramblers Redefined American Folk Music (2006), Ryan André Brasseaux’s Cajun Breakdown: The Emergence of an American-Made Music (2006), and Cecilia Conway’s African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia: A Study of Folk Traditions (1995). Maria Herrera-Sobek’s Northward Bound: The Mexican Immigrant Experience in Ballad and Song (1993) is a prime example of an ethnic study showing the power of song to comment on social movements and often convey political protest. Although the period covered in these studies is contemporary, others collect remaining legacies of song and music to inquire about historical change. Examples are Simon J. Bronner’s Old-Time Music Makers of New York State (1987) and Jennifer C. Post’s Music in Rural New England: Family and Community Life, 1870–1940 (2004).
A number of genres fall under the heading of “social folklife,” including customs, rituals, beliefs, holidays, dances, games, and festivals. Studies of these topics often take an ethnographic approach and emphasize the context of distinctive cultural settings, groups, and ideas. Folklife in these studies serves as special occasions to celebrate tradition, and often to socially bond communities. A strong set of books, for example, interpret American holiday celebrations at local and national levels and find tension between the values implied in home observances and commercial appropriation. In All Around the Year: Holidays and Celebrations in American Life (1994) by Jack Santino, for example, the author, a leading folklorist, notes the social function of holidays as a way to adjust to seasonal change that has been undermined by commercialism. Of the holidays, Halloween garners the most scholarly attention, and folklorists often note the shift of the holiday from children to adult control. A number of folklorists write in Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life (1994), edited by Jack Santino, on the use of play to confront the fear of darkness and decay that occurs during the season. In Groundhog Day (2003), Don Yoder, a leading light of the American folklife movement, observes the shift of the holiday from an expression of German ethnic separation based on a German prognostication belief to a national celebration of leisure and recreation. Folklorists also take the lead in documenting traditions that resist appropriation by mass culture. Alan Jabbour and Karen Singer Jabbour in Decoration Day in the Mountains (2010), for example, explain the persistence of grave-cleaning customs in the Appalachian Mountains with a homecoming function.
Another rubric used by folklife researchers is “material culture,” for architecture, art, craft, landscape, and food, and, increasingly since the 1990s, “visual culture,” covering designs, decorations, and iconography. As with the integrative term “folklife,” material and visual culture also represent patterns across genres, but studies are often based in a type of artifact or practice, or grounded in the material surroundings of a region or community. Some general folkloristic titles that deal with material traditions and behaviors in the United States, for example, are Henry Glassie’s Pattern in the Material Folk Culture of the Eastern United States (1968), Don Yoder’s American Folklife (1976), John Michael Vlach’s The Afro-American Tradition in the Decorative Arts (1978), and Simon J. Bronner’s Grasping Things: Folk Material Culture and Mass Society in America (1986) and American Material Culture and Folklife (1992), which make the case that the built environments people create in turn influence ways of thinking. On the American landscape, a number of excellent studies develop the concept that folk builders serve to establish a cultural landscape that gives identity to residents, and their aesthetics or spatial thinking carries through in decisions about the layout of their places. This kind of thesis is especially evident in solid contributions to material folk culture studies such as Images of an American Land: Vernacular Architecture in the Western United States (1997), edited by Thomas Carter, Homeplace: The Social Use and Meaning of the Folk Dwelling in Southwestern North Carolina (1991) by Michael Ann Williams, Building with Logs: Western Log Construction in Context (1998) by Jennifer Eastman Attebery, and Architecture and Landscape of the Pennsylvania Germans, 1720–1920 (2011), edited by Sally McMurry and Nancy Van Dolsen.
Folk art and craft is a heading that also covers a wide range of materials, processes, and skills. Folklorists working with this genre typically have an ethnographic or behavioral perspective emphasizing tradition and context that is distinctive from art historical approaches stressing the outlandish style and vision of self-taught or outsider artists. Folklorists and ethnologists concentrate on “insider” skilled artists who are integrated into, and produce work for their communities. Many studies emphasize the vitality of handwork even in a post-industrial age in which people are often removed from making things for themselves. The studies are both preservationist in the sense of documenting endangered skills and analytical in asking why some artists and forms persist and indeed continue to adapt their products. Forms that garner the lion’s share of folk art studies are, in order of publication frequency, quilting, pottery, basketry, metalwork, and woodcarving. In Tinmen (2002), for example, Archie Green relates the tin constructions outside of American metalshops as an occupational badge of honor; in The Carver’s Art (1996), Simon Bronner finds that old men are attracted to the making of chains because it deals with their concerns for being unproductive in old age. Jon Kay expanded upon this perspective with other folk art forms in Folk Art and Aging: Life-Story Objects and Their Makers (2016). Concentrating on folk art as ethnic markers, Yvonne Lockwood in Finnish American Rag Rugs: Art, Tradition, and Ethnic Continuity (2010) shows that distinctively designed rugs for Finnish-American families generations removed from the original immigrants provide symbols of identity in a multicultural society.
An area of American folkloristic interest that combines custom and craft is in memorialization, including shrines and markers often characterized as spontaneous or “grassroots.” These structures raise questions about their religious content or their frequent use to provide a public form of mourning, especially for youth who lose their lives prematurely because of an auto accident or violence. Examples of recent folkloristic studies of these structures that often involve ethnographic considerations of how assemblages arise and the beliefs inherent in a memorial at the site of death include Spontaneous Shrines and the Public Memorialization of Death (2006), edited by Jack Santino, and Roadside Crosses in Contemporary Memorial Culture (2002), by Holly J. Everett.
Folklorists have contributed immensely to research on food and medicine, usually emphasizing the contexts of social and cultural traditions. A question that often arises in such studies is the relation of traditional food preparation and herbal and magical knowledge to scientific “hospital” medical and nutritional systems. This question drives the work, for example, of Powwowing among the Pennsylvania Dutch (2007) by David W. Kriebel, and Healing Traditions: Alternative Medicine and the Health Professions (1995) by Bonnie Blair O’Connor, in which the authors find social and emotional needs of people to call upon tradition providing magico-religious functions in times of illness. In a number of folkloristic works, relying on ethnic and regional food traditions that have not nationalized becomes important to indicate a sense of subcultural belonging. This theme is apparent in Cajun Foodways (1992) by C. Paige Gutierrez, Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South (2005) by Marcie Cohen Ferris, and Clambake (1992) by Kathy Neustadt.
Cutting across the boundaries of folklore genres are thematic studies examining recurrent symbols, images, and characters. These thematic studies often show the symbolic significance of certain images in different cultures and make the case for their archetypal hold on a shared cultural imagination. Providing background to a spate of popular films and novels featuring vampires and zombies in the early 21st century, a number of folkloristic works interpret bestial themes and images. Often, the question that arises in works such as Raising the Devil: Satanism, New Religions, and the Media (2000) by Bill Ellis, and From Demons to Dracula: The Creation of the Modern Vampire Myth (2008) by Matthew Beresford, is what accounts for the appeal of, indeed the obsession with, these horrifying characters in the West. In The Vampire: A Casebook (1998), Alan Dundes presents various views, including his own psychoanalytical view that the representation of the vampire story is a projection of guilt in modern society for abandonment of the deceased by youth.
Folklorists have been at the vanguard of scholarship documenting and interpreting America’s cultural diversity since the 19th century. Building on the founding mission of the American Folklore Society to collect the traditions of America’s regional and ethnic cultures, and emboldened by the legacy of folkloristic work by early 20th-century celebrities such as Franz Boas, Elsie Clews Parsons, Zora Neale Hurston, John Lomax, and Ruth Benedict, who published material on the folklore of Native Americans, African Americans, Appalachians, Pennsylvania Germans, French Canadians, and Mexican Americans, among other identities, in the early volumes of the Journal of American Folklore, folklorists in the 21st century have deepened the study of these ethnic and racial communities and extended the folkloristic documentary reach to religious, urban, occupational, organizational, age, sexual, and online groups. A reference shelf on ethnic and religious folklore published since 2005, for instance, could include The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Folklore (2006) in three volumes, edited by Anand Prahlad, Encyclopedia of Asian American Folklore and Folklife (2011) in three volumes edited by Jonathan H. X. Lee and Kathleen M. Nadeau, Celebrating Latino Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Cultural Traditions (2012) in three volumes edited by Maria Herrera-Sobek, and Pennsylvania Germans: An Interpretive Encyclopedia (2017), edited by Simon J. Bronner and Joshua R. Brown.
Folklorists have also been concerned with the cultural meaning of place, and this is especially evident in a long list of titles on American regionalism. Especially active has been writing on the traditions of the American South. A message in representative titles of Wiregrass Country (1997) by Jerrilyn McGregory, Shenandoah Valley Folklife (1999) by Scott Hamilton Suter, and Blue Ridge Folklife (1998) by Ted Olson, is that the South is hardly culturally uniform; it contains many subcultures with distinctive traditions. This argument is extended in The Upland South: The Making of an American Folk Region and Landscape (2003), in which Terry G. Jordan-Bychkov shows that the upland South is culturally differentiated from the lowland South in ways that affect residents’ outlooks toward the land and life. Folkloristic explorations of regions outside the South such as A Shared Space: Folklife in the Arizona-Sonora Borderlands (1995) by James S. Griffith continue this line of inquiry by interpreting the Arizona “border culture” combining Mexican and western American influences as distinctive from the areas north and south of it. A place-related area for expansion on the folkloristic bookshelf is in urban folklore. Some path-breaking studies include City of Neighborhoods: Memory, Folklore, and Ethnic Place in Boston (2016) by Anthony Buccitelli, Land of the Millrats (1981) by Richard M. Dorson, City Play (1990) by Amanda Dargan and Steven J. Zeitlin, and Passing It On: Folklore of St. Louis (2008) by John L. Oldani.
Occupational folklore has been a longstanding concern of folklorists, and a relatively new development has been organizational folklore; that is, the traditions—often organized—of corporations, clubs, secret societies, and institutions. Extending the study of the folklore of American workers, for example, is Timothy R. Tangherlini’s Talking Trauma: Paramedics and Their Stories (1998), which shows that storytelling is essential for conveying the expectations and dangers of the job; Sam Schrager’s The Trial Lawyer’s Art (1999), which shows that “oral arguments” rely on rhetorical conventions and stylistic traditions that can be called folklore; and Nancy Groce’s Lox, Stocks, and Backstage Broadway: Iconic Trades of New York City (2010), which considers the distinctive traditional knowledge and folk practices associated with occupational urban cultures. Organizational studies by folklorists such as Jay Mechling’s On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth (2001) reveal the Boy Scouts to have a culture that is shaped by the boys often separately from the rules and regulations of organizers. A relatively new organizational research trajectory is on military culture, especially in light of changes of the armed forces to a mixed gender and ethnic force. Carol Burke’s Camp All-American, Hanoi Jane, and the High-and-Tight: Gender, Folklore, and Changing Military Culture (2004) and Warrior Ways: Explorations in Modern Military Folklore (2012), edited by Eric A. Eliason and Tad Tuleja, both hypothesize the hold of masculine tradition on the military and the ways that subgroups in the armed forces work toward, and resist, change in rituals, customs, and stories.
Most occupational and organizational folklore titles delve into analysis of gender, and often sexuality, as do many studies of folk groups and contexts. As a focused area of investigation, gender and sexuality are the subjects of a growing bookshelf within American folklore and folklife studies. Contributors to major volumes on gender folklore studies such as Feminist Messages: Coding in Women’s Folk Culture (1993), edited by Joan Newlon Radner, and Manly Traditions: The Folk Roots of American Masculinities (2005), edited by Simon J. Bronner, argue for ideas of masculinity and femininity as social constructions and find a continuum rather than binary between men and women. The constructivist view often enters into studies of sexuality related to gendered identities. Indeed, monographs such as More Man Than You’ll Ever Be: Gay Folklore and Acculturation in Middle America (1989) by Joseph Goodwin and The Fierce Tribe: Masculine Identity and Performance in the Circuit (2008) by Mickey Weems show homosexuals in the United States to be a culture by virtue of a distinctive folklore. The “circuit” in Weems’s title is a large social party scene with its own conventions and performances that Weems ethnographically interprets as a unique construction of American “gay” culture.
Folklorists often couch issues of gender and sexuality in the context of age and family groups. Although children’s folklore has been a vibrant area of study since the 19th century, evident in its own association, which publishes the journal Children’s Folklore Review, research of the distinctive folklore of other age groups and families toward a concept of “the folklore of aging” has been a relatively recent movement. Many of the studies of folk expressions and play of youth since 2000 are concerned with the loss of free play and open spaces and the command of media on children. Ethnographically and historically based studies such as The Lore of the Playground (2010) by Steve Roud and Recess Battles (2010) by Anna R. Beresin find that children still have lots of lore to pass around, but also note changes in the content and function of play. In the praiseworthy ethnically focused study The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop (2006), Kyra D. Gaunt finds sources for African-American musical competence in games and values associated with play such as jump-rope. Inspiring scholarly attention to the folklore of older adults can be found in Listening to Old Voices: Folklore, Life Stories, and the Elderly (1992) by Patrick B. Mullen, who observes that folklore often works as a form of life review. He urges consideration of the narratives of the elderly not as historical documents but as expressions of their present age. The primary folk group, folklorists increasingly realize, is the family, and folklore figures significantly, particularly for a dispersed society such as the United States, or so authors posit in the classic work on the subject, A Celebration of American Family Folklore (1982) by Steven J. Zeitlin, Amy Kotkin, and Holly Cutting Baker.
Besides interpreting the ways that folklore bonds groups and symbolizes community identity, folklorists and ethnologists analyze individual performers, artists, and practitioners to connect life stories, creative and innovative trends, symbolic projections and pathologies, and emotions and personalities to personalized expressions. Folklorists identify styles, innovations, aesthetics, and patterns of traditional artists in relation to their communities and families. Aware of the often-incredible artistry of folk material and its frequent undervaluation in artworlds, folklorists and ethnologists sometimes also offer biographical publications and exhibitions to venerate the masterwork of tradition-bearers. Especially influential theoretically in the life story approach has been Michael Owen Jones’s Craftsman of the Cumberlands: Tradition and Creativity (1989), John Michael Vlach’s Charleston Blacksmith: The Work of Philip Simmons (1981), Robert Isbell’s Ray Hicks: Master Storyteller of the Blue Ridge (2001), and Linda Goodman’s Singing the Songs of My Ancestors: The Life and Music of Helma Swan, Makah Elder (2003).
In consideration of the effect of modernity on folklore and folklife, folklorists have often examined in their scholarship the impact of technology such as the printing press, photocopier, television, and radio. Frequently, the conclusions have been that communication technology has not displaced folklore but mediated old forms and generated new ones. This concept continues with analytical folkloristic studies of the computer, digital devices, and the Internet. Leading the way are two essential collections of scholarly essays edited by Trevor J. Blank: Folklore and the Internet: Vernacular Expression in a Digital World (2009), and Folk Culture in the Digital Age: The Emergent Dynamics of Human Interaction (2012). Monographic studies of American digital-age folklore include Newslore: Contemporary Folklore on the Internet (2011) by Russell Frank (2011) and Legend Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat (2011) by Michael Kinsella.
The core matters of American folklore and folklife studies evident in the literature are on folk groups, bearers, contexts, and genres in face-to-face interaction, with attention to ever-relevant, qualitatively investigated questions of tradition, creativity, imagination, identity, performance, practice, art, and communication. New technology has bred broader field documentation and facilitated “computational folkloristics” with the analysis and mapping of huge amounts of coded material, or “big data.” Whether interpreting the traditions of “virtual” social networks or “real” gatherings, in futuristic corporate offices or around campfires of the past, and indeed among the young or old, folklorists in their scholarship seek answers as a significant contribution to the humanities and social sciences questions of how and why people express, and repeat, themselves.
- Bendix, Regina. In Search of Authenticity: The Formation of Folklore Studies. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997.
- Blank, Trevor J., ed. Folk Culture in the Digital Age: The Emergent Dynamics of Human Interaction. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2012.
- Blank, Trevor J., and Robert Glenn Howard, eds. Tradition in the Twenty-First Century: Locating the Role of the Past in the Present. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2013.
- Bronner, Simon J. American Folklore Studies: An Intellectual History. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1986.
- Bronner, Simon J. Following Tradition: Folklore in the Discourse of American Culture. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1998.
- Bronner, Simon J., ed. Encyclopedia of American Folklife. 4 vols. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2006.
- Bronner, Simon J. Explaining Traditions: Folk Behavior in Modern Culture. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2011.
- Bronner, Simon J. Folklore: The Basics. New York: Routledge, 2016.
- Brunvand, Jan Harold, ed. American Folklore: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland, 1996.
- Brunvand, Jan Harold. The Study of American Folklore: An Introduction. 4th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998.
- Dorson, Richard M. American Folklore and the Historian. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971.
- Dorson, Richard M. American Folklore. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.
- Dorson, Richard M., ed. Handbook of American Folklore. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983.
- Dundes, Alan. Interpreting Folklore. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980.
- Dundes, Alan. The Meaning of Folklore: The Analytic Essays of Alan Dundes. Edited by Simon J. Bronner. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2007.
- Feintuch, Burt, ed. Eight Words for the Study of Expressive Culture. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003.
- Georges, Robert A., and Michael Owen Jones. Folkloristics: An Introduction. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.
- McCormick, Charlie T., and Kim Kennedy White. Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music, and Art. 3 vols. 2d ed. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011.
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- Oring, Elliott. Just Folklore: Analysis, Interpretation, Critique. Long Beach, CA: Cantilever, 2012.
- Paredes, Américo, and Richard Bauman. Toward New Perspectives in Folklore. Bloomington, IN: Trickster, 2000.
- Toelken, Barre. The Dynamics of Folklore. Rev. ed. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1996.
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1. Giuseppe Cocchiara, The History of Folklore in Europe, trans. John N. McDaniel (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1971), 77–94.
2. See Roger D. Abrahams, “Phantoms of Romantic Nationalism in Folkloristics,” Journal of American Folklore 106 (1993): 3–37; and Cocchiara, History of Folklore in Europe, 135–276.
3. Cocchiara, History of Folklore in Europe, 168–186; Simon J. Bronner, American Folklore Studies: An Intellectual History (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1986), 4–7; and William A. Wilson, “Herder, Folklore, and Romantic Nationalism,” Journal of Popular Culture 4 (1973): 819–835.
4. Christa Kamenetsky, The Brothers Grimm and Their Critics: Folktales and the Quest for Meaning (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1992), 55–80; Murray B. Peppard, Paths Through the Forest: A Biography of the Brothers Grimm (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971), 85; Donald Ward, “New Misconceptions about Old Folktales: The Brothers Grimm,” in The Brothers Grimm and Folktale, ed. James M. McGlathery (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991), 91–100; and Valdimar Tr. Hafstein, “Biological Metaphors in Folklore Theory: An Essay in the History of Ideas,” Arv 57 (2001): 7–32.
5. Giambattista Basile, Lo cunto de li cunti overo lo trattenemineto de peccerille (Naples: Neapel Napoli Beltrano, 1636); Charles Perrault, Histoires ou Contes du temps passé: avec des moralitez (Amsterdam: Jaques Desbordes, 1697); Antoine Galland, Les mille et une nuits: contes arabes (Paris: Barbin, 1704–1717); Thomas Percy, Reliques of Ancient English Poetry: Consisting of Old Heroic Ballads, Songs, and Other Pieces of Our Earlier Poets (London: J. Dodsley, 1765); Walter Scott, Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border: Consisting of Historical and Romantic Ballads, Collected in the Southern Counties of Scotland (London: Kelso, 1802); and Ludwig Achim von Arnim and Clemens Brentano, Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Alte deutsche Lieder (Heidelberg, Germany: Mohr and Zimmer, 1806).
6. Cocchiara, History of Folklore in Europe, 187–200; Timon Jakli, “‘Volk’ und ‘Volkspoesie’ als Identitātskonzept und literarische Abgrenzungstrategie bei Grimm, Arnim und Brentano,” Alman Dili ve Edebiyati Dergisi 30 (2013): 5–24; and Jack Zipes, The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012), 21–54.
7. See Elliott Oring, “Theorizing Trivia: A Thought Experiment,” Journal of Folklore Research 33 (1996): 241–244.
8. Cocchiara, History of Folklore in Europe, 238–276; Felix J. Oinas, ed., Folklore, Nationalism and Politics (Columbus, OH: Slavica, 1978); Diarmuid Ó Giolláin, Locating Irish Folklore: Tradition, Modernity, Identity (Cork, Ireland: Cork University Press, 2000), 63–93; Henry Glassie, “The Irish Folklore Commission: International Scholarship, National Purpose, Local Virtue,” Béaloideas 78 (2010): 1–18; William A. Wilson, Folklore and Nationalism in Modern Finland (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976); and Pertti Anttonen, “Oral Traditions and the Making of the Finnish Nation,” in Folklore and Nationalism in Europe During the Long Nineteenth Century, eds. Timothy Baycroft and David Hopkin (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2012), 325–350.
9. William Thoms, “Folklore,” in The Study of Folklore, ed. Alan Dundes (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1965), 4–6; R. Troy Boyer, “The Forsaken Founder, William John Thoms: From Antiquities to Folklore,” Folklore Historian 14 (1997): 55–61; Duncan Emrich, “‘Folk-Lore’: William John Thoms,” California Folklore Quarterly 5 (1946): 355–374; Peter Tokofsky, “Folk-Lore and Volks-Kunde: Compounding Compounds,” Journal of Folklore Research 33 (1996): 207–211; and Gillian Bennett, “The Thomsian Heritage in the Folklore Society,” Journal of Folklore Research 33 (1996): 212–220.
10. A Folk-Lorist [W. J. Thoms], “Folk Lore,” Notes and Queries (January 3, 1852), 5. See also, An Old Folk-Lorist [W. J. Thoms], “A Folk-Lore Society,” Notes and Queries (July 1, 1876), 12; St. Swithin, “Folk-Lorer v. Folk-Lorist,” Notes and Queries (December 5, 1891), 454–455; and W. F. Prideaux, “Folk-Lorer v. Folk-Lorist,” Notes and Queries (December 5, 1891), 455.
11. Richard M. Dorson, The British Folklorists: A History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968), 202–315; and Chris Wingfield and Chris Gosden, “An Imperialist Folklore? Establishing the Folk-Lore Society in London,” in Folklore and Nationalism in Europe, Baycroft and Hopkin, 255–274.
12. Paul Sébillot, “Le Folklore: les traditions populaires et l’ethnographie populaire,” Revue d’anthropololgie 2 (1886): 290–302; Prideaux, “Folk-Lorer v. Folklorist,” 455; Cocchiara, History of Folklore in Europe, 250–256, 332–376; Salvatore Nania, “A Glimpse at the History of Folklore in Italy,” Midwest Folklore 5 (1955): 153–158. Italy also claimed an Enlightenment philosopher predating Herder in Giovan Battista Vico (1668–1744); see Cocchiara, History of Folklore in Europe, 111–113; Isaiah Berlin, Vico and Herder: Two Studies in the History of Ideas (New York: Viking, 1976); and Joep Leerssen, “Oral Epic: The Nation Finds a Voice,” in Folklore and Nationalism in Europe, Baycroft and Hopkin, 24–26.
13. Joseph Jacobs and Alfred Nutt, eds., The International Folk-Lore Congress, 1891 (London: David Nutt, 1892); and Dorson, British Folklorists, 298–307.
14. Prominent among folklorists taking the view that folklore in the United States (with the exception of Native American lore) was derivative of Europe is German-educated Alexander Haggerty Krappe (1894–1947), who was one of the first translators of folktales collected by the Grimms into the English language. See his “‘American Folklore’” in Folk-Say: A Regional Miscellany, 1930, ed. B. A. Botkin (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1930), 291–297. Forcibly countering this “derivative” argument in the 20th century were B. A. Botkin, Richard M. Dorson, and Philip Jordan. See B. A. Botkin, “American Folklore,” in Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend, 2 vols., ed. Maria Leach (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1949), 1: 43–48; Richard M. Dorson, American Folklore (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959); Richard M. Dorson, “A Theory for American Folklore,” Journal of American Folklore 72 (1959): 197–215; Richard M. Dorson, “Folklore in America vs. American Folklore,” Journal of the Folklore Institute 15 (1978): 97–112; Philip D. Jordan, “Toward a New Folklore,” Minnesota History 27 (1946): 273–280; and Philip D. Jordan, “The Scope of Folklore and History,” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 9 (1950): 110–114. For further commentary on the “derivative argument,” see Simon J. Bronner, Folk Nation: Folklore in the Creation of American Tradition (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), 127–176.
15. Bronner, Folk Nation, 3–70.
16. William Wells Newell, “On the Field and Work of a Journal of American Folklore,” Journal of American Folklore 1 (1888): 1–7; Michael J. Bell, “William Wells Newell and the Foundation of American Folklore Scholarship,” Journal of the Folklore Institute 10 (1973): 7–21; Roger D. Abrahams, “Rough Sincerities: William Wells Newell and the Discovery of Folklore in Late-19th Century America,” in Folk Roots, New Roots: Folklore in American Life, eds. Jane S. Becker and Barbara Franco (Lexington, MA: Museum of Our National Heritage, 1988), 61–76; and Bronner, Folk Nation, 15–19.
17. William Wells Newell, “Notes and Queries,” Journal of American Folklore 1 (1888): 80.
18. Newell, “On the Field and Work,” 3–7; and Bronner, Folk Nation, 15–16.
19. William Wells Newell, “Editor’s Note,” Journal of American Folklore 2 (1889): 2.
20. Simon J. Bronner, Popularizing Pennsylvania: Henry W. Shoemaker and the Progressive Uses of Folklore and History (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996); Robley Evans, George Bird Grinnell (Boise, ID: Boise State University Western Writers Series, 1996); and George Bird Grinnell, Pawnee Hero Stories and Folk-Tales (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1961).
21. Charles M. Skinner, American Myths and Legends of Our Own Land (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1896). See also, Richard M. Dorson, “How Shall We Rewrite Charles M. Skinner Today?” in American Folk Legend, ed. Wayland D. Hand (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), 69–95.
22. Nolan Porterfield, Last Cavalier: The Life and Times of John A. Lomax, 1867–1948 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996), 130, 150–152.
23. Theodore Roosevelt, “The Ancient Irish Sagas,” in Literary Essays (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926), 131–142. See also Theodore Roosevelt, “Nationalism in Literature and Art,” in Literary Essays, 325–336.
24. Roosevelt, “Nationalism in Literature and Art” in Literary Essays, 330.
26. Porterfield, Last Cavalier, 147. See also John A. Lomax, “Cowboy Songs of the Mexican Border,” Sewanee Review 19 (1911): 1–18.
27. John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax, Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads, rev. ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1938), xxxix.
30. John A. Lomax, Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads (New York: Macmillan, 1934), vii–viii. In turn, Lomax wrote this dedication: “To Mr. Theodore Roosevelt Who While President Was Not Too Busy to Turn Aside—Cheerfully and Effectively—And Aid Workers in the Field of American Balladry, This Volume is Gratefully Dedicated” (p. v).
31. John A. Lomax and Alan Lomax, Our Singing Country: A Second Volume of American Ballads and Folk Songs (New York: Macmillan, 1941).
32. “Hints for the Local Study of Folk-Lore in Philadelphia and Vicinity” in Folklife Studies from the Gilded Age, ed. Simon J. Bronner (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1987), 71.
34. Lee J. Vance, “The Study of Folk-Lore,” Forum 22 (1896–97): 251.
35. Karl Knortz, Zur Amerikanischen Volkskunde (Tübingen, Germany: Laupp, 1905). A translation into English was published as American Folklore, trans. Helga B. Van Iten and James R. Dow (Middletown, PA: Penn State Harrisburg, 1988). See also Eleonore Schamschula, A Pioneer of American Folklore: Karl Knortz and His Collections (Moscow: University of Idaho Press, 1996). For his views on folklore, see Was ist volkskunde und wie studiert man dieselbe? (Jena, Germany: Schmidt, 1906).
36. Karl Knortz, Märchen und Sagen der nordamerikanischen Indianer (Jena, Germany: H. Costenoble, 1871). See also, Knortz, Aus dem Wigwam: Uralte und neue Märchen und Sagen der nordamerikanischen Indianer (Leipzig: Spamer, 1880); Knortz, Mythologie und Civilisation der nordamerikanischen Indianer, 2 vols. (Leipzig: Frohberg, 1882); and Knortz, Nokomis: Märchen und Sagen der nordamerikanischen Indianer (Zurich: J. Schabelitz, 1887).
37. Karl Knortz, Longfellow: Literar-historische studi (Hamburg: Grüning, 1879); and Knortz, Der sang von Hiawatha (Jena, Germany: Costenoble, 1872). See also his broader literary history of the United States, Geschichte der nordamerikanische Literatur (Berlin: Lüstenöder, 1891).
38. Karl Knortz, Streifzüge auf dem Gebiete amerikanischer Volkskunde. Altes und Neues (Leipzig: Hoppe, 1902); Knortz, Amerikanischer aberglaube der gegenwart: Ein Beitrag zur Volkskunde (Leipzig: Gerstenberg, 1913); and Knortz, Nachklänge germanischen Glaubens und Brauchs in Amerika: Ein Beitrag zur Volkskunde (Halle: Peter,1903).
39. Richard M. Dorson, Land of the Millrats: Urban Folklore in Indiana’s Calumet Region (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981); Alan Dundes and Carl R. Pagter, Work Hard and You Shall Be Rewarded: Urban Folklore from the Paperwork Empire (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978); Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, “The Future of Folklore Studies in America: The Urban Frontier,” Folklore Forum 16 (1983): 175–234; Linda Dégh, “The Roomate’s Death and Related Dormitory Stories in Formation,” Indiana Folklore 2 (1969): 70–74; Jay Mechling, On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001); Michael Owen Jones, “A Feeling for Form, as Illustrated by People at Work,” in Exploring Folk Art: Twenty Years of Thought on Craft, Work, and Aesthetics (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1987), 119–132; Elliott Oring, “Dyadic Traditions,” in Just Folklore, 80–90. See also the general titles, Richard M. Dorson, ed., Folklore in the Modern World (The Hague: Mouton, 1978); Hermann Bausinger, Folk Culture in a World of Technology, trans. Elke Dettmer (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990); Américo Paredes and Richard Bauman, eds. Toward New Perspectives in Folklore (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1972); and Américo Paredes and Ellen J. Stekert, eds., Urban Experience and Folk Tradition (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1972).
40. See Sharon R. Sherman, “Filming Folklore, Present and Future,” Western Folklore 50 (1991): 53–63; and Sharon R. Sherman, “Focusing In: Film and the Survival of Folklore Studies in the 21st Century,” Western Folklore 63 (2004): 291–318. See also Robert Baron, “Theorizing Public Folklore Practice: Documentation, Genres of Representation, and Everyday Competencies,” Journal of Folklore Research 36 (1999): 185–201; Gerald L. Davis, “‘So Correct for the Photograph’: Fixing the Ineffable, Ineluctable African-American,” in Public Folklore, eds. Nicholas Spitzer and Robert Baron (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992), 105–118; Bruce Jackson, Fieldwork (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987); Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, “Folklore’s Crisis,” Journal of American Folklore 111 (1998): 281–327; and Jo Ann Koltyk, “Telling Narratives through Home Videos: Hmong Refugees and Self-Documentation of Life in the Old and New Country,” Journal of American Folklore 106 (1993): 435–449.
41. Roger Williams, A Key into the Language of America (London: Gregory Dexter, 1643), 29.
45. Ibid., 6. On the lost-tribes theory of Native American origin, see Richard W. Cogley, “‘Some Other Kind of Being and Condition’: The Controversy in Mid-Seventeenth-Century England over the Peopling of Ancient America,” Journal of the History of Ideas 68 (2007): 35–56; Tudor Parfitt, The Lost Tribes of Israel: The History of a Myth (London: Orion, 2003), 66–90; and Meghan C. L. Howey, “‘The Question Which Has Puzzled, and Still Puzzles’: How American Indian Authors Challenged Dominant Discourse about Native American Origins in the Nineteenth Century,” American Indian Quarterly 34 (2010): 435–474.
47. The long subtitle of his book, with a reference to customs and manners, was, Or, An help to the Language of the Natives in that part of AMERICA, called NEW-ENGLAND. Together, with briefe Observations of the Customs, Manners and Worships, etc. of the aforesaid Natives, in Peace and War, in Life and Death. On all which are added Spirituall Observations, Generall and Particular by the Authour, of chiefe and special use upon (upon all occasions,) to all the English Inhabiting those parts; yet pleasant and profitable to the view of all men.
48. Richard G. Bremer, Indian Agent and Wilderness Scholar: The Life of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (Mount Pleasant: Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University, 1987); and William M. Clements, “‘All We Could Expect from Untutored Savages’: Schoolcraft as Textmaker,” in Native American Verbal Art: Texts and Contexts (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1996), 111–128.
49. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, “Mental Character of the Aborigines,” in Native American Folklore in Nineteenth-Century Periodicals, ed. William M. Clements (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1986), 56.
50. Chase S. Osborn and Stellanova Osborn, Schoolcraft—Longfellow—Hiawatha (Lancaster, PA: Jaques Catell, 1942); Rose M. Davis, “How Indian Is Hiawatha?” Midwest Folklore 7 (1957): 5–25; Stith Thompson, “The Indian Legend of Hiawatha,” PMLA 37 (1922): 128–140; and W. L. Schramm, “Hiawatha and its Predecessors,” Philological Quarterly 11 (1932): 321–343.
51. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Algic Researches: Indian Tales and Legends, vols. 1 and 2 (Baltimore, MD: Clearfield, 1992), 134.
53. Ibid., 21–26; Charles De Wolf Brownell, The Indian Races of North and South America (Hartford, CT: Hurlbut, Scranton, 1864), 15–18; and James Kennedy, “On the Probable Origin of the American Indians, with Particular Reference to that of the Caribs,” Journal of the Ethnological Society of London 4 (1856): 226–267.
54. George Grant MacCurdy, “Race in the Pacific Area, with Special Reference to the Origin of the American Indians: Antiquity of Occupation,” American Anthropologist 17 (1915): 708–711; Ronald L. Ives, “An Early Speculation Concerning the Asiatic Origin of the American Indian,” American Antiquity 31 (1956): 420–421; William S. Laughlin, “Origins and Affinities of the First Americans,” Current Anthropology 18 (1977): 526–528; and E. James Dixon, Quest for the Origins of the First Americans (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1993).
55. Richard Slotkin, Regeneration through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600–1860 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1973), 3.
56. Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970), 59–70.
57. E. McClung Fleming, “The American Image as Indian Princess, 1765–1783,” Winterthur Portfolio 2 (1965): 65–81.
58. Hubert Skinner, Readings in Folk-Lore (New York: American Book Company, 1893), 15.
59. Slotkin, Regeneration through Violence, 94–145.
60. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. J. P. Mayer and trans. George Lawrence (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), 317.
61. Horatio Hale, Hiawatha and the Iroquois Confederation: A Study in Anthropology (Salem, MA: Salem Press, 1881), 20.
62. Hartley B. Alexander, “Francis La Flesche: The American Indian as Anthropologist,” Isis 73 (1982): 496–510; Hartley B. Alexander, “Francis La Flesche,” American Anthropologist 35 (1933): 328–331; and James W. Parins and Daniel F. Littlefield Jr., eds., Ke-ma-ha: The Omaha Stories of Francis La Flesche (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995). For La Flesche’s work with Fletcher, see Francis La Flesche, “Foreword,” in Life Among the Indians: First Fieldwork among the Sioux and Omahas, eds. Joanna C. Scherer and Raymond J. DeMallie (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013), 83–100; and Alice C. Fletcher and Francis La Flesche, The Omaha Tribe (Washington, DC, Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution, 1911).
63. Francis La Flesche, “Who Was the Medicine Man?” Journal of American Folklore 18 (1905): 269.
65. Franz Boas, “Mythology and Folklore,” in General Anthropology, ed. Franz Boas (New York: D.C. Heath, 1938), 609–626; “Mythology and Folk-Tales of the North American Indians,” in Anthropology in North America, ed. Franz Boas (New York: G.E. Stechert, 1915), 306–349; and Regna Darnell, “American Anthropology and the Development of Folklore Scholarship—1890–1920,” Journal of the Folklore Institute 10 (1973): 23–39.
66. Theodora Kroeber, Ishi in Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961); and Douglas Cazaux Sackman, Wild Men: Ishi and Kroeber in the Wilderness of Modern America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).
67. Barre Toelken, The Anguish of Snails: Native American Folklore in the West (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2003).
68. Margaret K. Brady, Some Kind of Power: Navajo Children’s Skinwalker Narratives (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1984); Rayna Green, “‘We ever Saw These Things Before’: Southwest Indian Laughter and Resistance to the Invasion of the Tse va ho,” in The Great Southwest of the Fred Harvey Company and the Santa Fe Railway, eds. Marta Weigle and Barbara Babcock (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1996), 201–206; Keith Cunningham, American Indians’ Kitchen-Table Stories: Contemporary Conversations with Cherokee, Sioux, Hopi, Osage, Navajo, Zuni, and Members of Other Nations (Little Rock, AR: August House, 1992); Jason Baird Jackson, Yuchi Ceremonial Life: Performance, Meaning, and Tradition in a Contemporary American Indian Community (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003); and Tara Browner, Heartbeat of the People: Music and Dance of the Northern Pow-Wow (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002).
69. See Elizabeth Tucker, Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007), 153–181; and Rayna D. Green, “Traits of Indian Character: The ‘Indian’ Anecdote in American Vernacular Tradition,” Southern Folklore Quarterly 39 (1975): 233–262.
70. See Dagmar Wernitznig, Going Native or Going Naïve? White Shamanism and the Neo-Noble Savage (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2003).
71. Black Elk, as told through John G. Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux (Lincoln University of Nebraska Press, 1988); and Carlos Castaneda, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968).
72. Imelda Martin Junquera, “From Black Elk Speaks to Lakota Woman: Reflections upon Modern Collaborative Native American Autobiography,” Litteraria Pragensia: Studies in Literature and Culture 15 (2005): 58–64; Raymond J. DeMallie, “‘These Have No Ears’: Narrative and the Ethnohistorical Method,” Ethnohistory 40 (1993): 515–538; and Richard de Mille, ed., The Don Juan Papers: Further Castaneda Controversies (Santa Barbara, CA: Ross-Erickson, 1980). On textualization, see William M. Clements, “‘Identity’ and ‘Difference’ in the Textualization of Zuni Verbal Art,” in Native American Verbal Art: Texts and Contexts(Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1996), 17–30; and Lauri Honko, ed., Textualization of Oral Epics (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2000).
73. Barre Toelken, “The Yellowman Tapes, 1966–1997,” Journal of American Folklore 111 (1998): 381–91; Paul Radin, The Autobiography of a Winnebago Indian (New York: Dover, 1963); and David A. Francis, Sunrise at Sipayik: A Passamaquoddy Tribal and Personal Oral History: As Told by David A. Francis (1917–2016) to Karen Schaumann (Orono: Maine Folklife Center, 2016). See also, Jeff Todd Titon, “The Life Story,” Journal of American Folklore 93 (1980): 276–292; and Mark E. Workman, “Narratable and Unnarratable Lives,” Western Folklore 51 (1992): 97–107.
74. “Traditionary lore” is John Fanning Watson, Annals and Occurrences of New York City in the Olden Time (Carlisle, MA: Applewood Books, 2009), 368; and John Fanning Watson, Annals of Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania, 3 vols. (Philadelphia: Elijah Thomas, 1857), 2: 12. He also refers to a Blackbeard legend as “a traditionary story” (2: 217), and the belief that dreams foretell the future as a “traditionary practice” (1: 276). He termed material that he obtained from oral sources “traditionary data” (p. 42). See also, Bronner, American Folklore Studies, 3–7; and Roberts Vaux, Joshua Francis Fisher, and Deborah Dependahl Waters, “Philadelphia’s Boswell: John Fanning Watson,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 98 (1974): 3–52.
75. Watson, Annals of Philadelphia 1: 254–258. See also, Simon J. Bronner and Joshua R. Brown, “Pennsylvania German Studies,” in Pennsylvania Germans: An Interpretive Encyclopedia (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017), 1–17.
80. William Wells Newell, Games and Songs of American Children (Baltimore, MD: Clearfield, 1992).
83. Bessie Jones and Bess Lomax Hawes, Step It Down: Games, Plays, Songs, and Stories from the Afro-American Heritage (New York: Harper & Row, 1972); Waln K. Brown, “Cultural Learning through Game Structure: A Study of Pennsylvania German Children’s Games,” Pennsylvania Folklife 23 (4): 2–11; Stewart Culin, “Customs of the Chinese in America,” Journal of American Folklore 3 (1890), 195–197; and Stewart Culin, The Gambling Games of the Chinese in America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1891).
84. Cecil J. Sharp and Olive D. Campbell, English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians, ed. Maud Karpeles (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966).
85. Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, 5 vols. (New York: Dover, 1965). For surveys of the British folk ballad in North America, see Tristram Potter Coffin, The British Traditional Ballad in North America, rev. ed. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1977); G. Malcolm Laws Jr., American Balladry from British Broadsides (Philadelphia: American Folklore Society, 1957); Louise Pound, American Ballads and Songs (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1922); John Lomax and Alan Lomax, American Ballads and Folk Songs (New York: Macmillan, 1934); Dorothy Scarborough, A Song Catcher in Southern Mountains: American Folk Songs of British Ancestry (New York: Columbia University Press, 1937); and Dianne Dugaw, ed., The Anglo-American Ballad: A Folklore Casebook (New York: Garland, 1995). For historiography of the ballad-collecting movement, see Scott B. Spencer, The Ballad Collectors of North America: How Gathering Folksongs Transformed Academic Thought and American Identity (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2012); and D. K. Wilgus, Anglo-American Folksong Scholarship since 1898 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1959).
86. See Paul Vernon, Ethnic and Vernacular Music, 1898–1960: A Resource and Guide to Recordings (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995); Richard K. Spottswood, Ethnic Music on Records: A Discography of Ethnic Recordings Produced in the United States, 1893 to 1942 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990); Albert F. Buffington, Pennsylvania German Secular Folksongs (Breinigsville: Pennsylvania German Society, 1974); Américo Paredes, A Texas-Mexican Cancionero: Folksongs of the Lower Border (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1976); Martha I. Chew Sánchez, Corridos in Migrant Memory (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006); Ruth Rubin, Voices of a People: The Story of Yiddish Folksong (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973); Chana Mlotek and Mark Slobin, Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2007); and Joel Saxe, “The ‘Giving’ of Yiddish Folksongs as a Cultural Resource,” in Usable Pasts: Traditions and Group Expressions in North America, ed. Tad Tuleja (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1997), 120–136.
87. G. Malcolm Laws Jr., Native American Balladry: A Descriptive Study and a Bibliographical Syllabus (Philadelphia: American Folklore Society, 1964).
88. Ibid., 224. The song is also indexed in Robert Waltz’s ballad index as LH08, and he includes an extensive list of sources. The Roud Folksong Index lists it as no. 275. See also, Austin E. Fife and Francesca Redden, “The Pseudo-Indian Folksongs of the Anglo-American and French-Canadian,” Journal of American Folklore 67 (1954): 379–394 (“Little Mohea” is discussed on pp. 382–384); and James Revell Carr, Hawaiian Music in Motion: Mariners, Missionaries, and Minstrels (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014), 81–85.
89. ATU (Aarne-Thompson-Uther) numbers refer to the standard reference used by folklorists to designate international tale types: Hans-Jörg Uther, The Types of International Folktales: A Classification and Bibliography, 3 vols. (Helsinki: Suomalinen Tiedeakatemia, 2004). For versions from Appalachia and the Ozarks, see “How Toodie Fixed Old Grunt” (ATU 312 Bluebeard) and “The Boy That Never Seen a Fraid” (ATU 326 The Youth Who Never Learned Fear) in Frank de Caro, ed., An Anthology of American Folktales and Legends (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2009), 63–65, 88–89.
90. Thomas R. Brendle and William S. Troxell, Pennsylvania German Folk Tales, Legends, Once-Upon-a-Time Stories, Maxims and Sayings Spoken in the Dialect Popularly Known as Pennsylvania Dutch (Norristown: Pennsylvania German Society, 1944), 15–22.
91. William Bernard McCarthy, ed., Cinderella in America: A Book of Folk and Fairy Tales (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007), 173–180 (Snow Bella), 376–386 (Irish-American Tale Tradition).
92. De Caro, Anthology of American Folktales and Legends, 60–63 (ATU 300 and ATU 910), 116–120 (ATU 851).
93. Carl Lindahl, “The Nation’s Most Celebrated Storytelling Family: The Hickses and the Harmons,” in American Folktales from the Collections of the Library of Congress (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2004), 1–58. See also, Robert Isbell, The Last Chivaree: The Hicks Family of Beech Mountain (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996); and William Bernard McCarthy, ed., Jack in Two Worlds: Contemporary North American Tales and Their Tellers (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994).
94. Richard Chase, The Jack Tales (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1943); Richard Chase, Jack and the Three Sillies (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1950); Richard Chase, Richard Chase: Storyteller, video (Ojai, CA: Blue Heron Films and Tapes, 1977); Vivian Shipley, Jack Tales (Greenfield Center, NY: Greenfield Review Press, 1982); Charles L. Perdue Jr., Outwitting the Devil: Jack Tales from Wise County, Virginia (Santa Fe, NM: Ancient City Press, 1987); Gail E. Haley, Mountain Jack Tales (New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 1992); and Donald Davis, Southern Jack Tales (Little Rock: August House, 1992). See also, Charles L. Perdue Jr., “Is Old Jack Really Richard Chase?” in Perspectives on the Jack Tales and Other North American Märchen, ed. Carl Lindahl (Bloomington: Folklore Institute, Indiana University, 2001), 111–138.
95. Lindahl, “The Nation’s Most Celebrated Storytelling Family,” 135.
97. See de Caro, An Anthology of American Folktales and Legends, 287–293; J. Frank Dobie, Coronado’s Children: Tales of Lost Mines and Buried Treasures of the Southwest (New York: Literary Guild of America, 1931); and Jean Michael Moore, Treasure State Treasure Tales: Stories about Lost Gold and Buried Treasure in Montana (Helena, MT: Manx, 1986). See also, Byrd H. Granger, A Motif Index for Lost Mines and Treasures Applied to Redaction of Arizona Legends, and to Lost Mine and Treasure Legends Exterior to Arizona (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1977).
98. Alan Dundes, “Folk Ideas as Units of Worldview,” in The Meaning of Folklore, ed. Simon J. Bronner (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2007), 183–195. For the “image of limited good,” see George M. Foster, “Treasure Tales, and the Image of the Static Economy in a Mexican Peasant Community,” Journal of American Folklore 77 (1964): 39–44.
99. Stanley Brandes, Forty: The Age and the Symbol (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985).
100. Alan Dundes, “The Number Three in American Culture,” in Interpreting Folklore (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980), 134–159.
101. See Simon J. Bronner, “The Analytics of Alan Dundes,” in The Meaning of Folklore (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2007), 7–8.
102. Walter Blair, Tall Tale America: A Legendary History of Our Humorous Heroes (New York: Coward-McCann, 1944); Ben C. Clough, The American Imagination at Work: Tall Tales and Folk Tales (New York: Knopf, 1947); Richard M. Dorson, Man and Beast in American Comic Legend (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982); Ernest W. Baughman and Clayton A. Holaday, “Tall Tales and ‘Sells’ from Indiana University Students,” Hoosier Folklore Bulletin 3 (1944): 59–71; C. Grant Loomis, “The American Tall Tale and the Miraculous,” California Folklore Quarterly 4 (1945): 109–128; Steve Siporin, “Tall Tales and Sales,” in Worldviews and the American West: The Life of the Place Itself, eds. Polly Stewart, Steve Siporin, C. W. Sullivan III, and Suzi Jones (Logan: Utah State University Press, 200), 87–104; de Caro, Anthology of American Folktales and Legends, 174–185; and Lindahl, American Folktales, 461–486.
103. Sarah Tindal Kareem, “Fictions, Lies, and Baron Munchausen’s Narrative,” Modern Philology 109 (2012): 483–509; Joyce Bynum, “Tall Tales: Part II, Famous Tellers of Tall Tales,” ETC: A Review of General Semantics 45 (1988): 186–189; and Carolyn S. Brown, The Tall Tale in American Folklore and Literature (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1987).
104. Ed Kahn, “Tall-Tale Lying Contest,” Western Folklore 19 (1960): 134–135; Brunhilde Biebuyck-Goetz, “‘This is the Dyin’ Truth’: Mechanisms of Lying,” Journal of the Folklore Institute 14 (1977): 73–95; and Lindahl, American Folktales, 466–470.
105. De Caro, Anthology of American Folktales and Legends, 181.
106. Roger L. Welsch, Tall-Tale Postcards: A Pictorial History (South Brunswick, NJ: A.S. Barnes, 1976); and Cynthia Elyce Rubin and Moran Williams, Larger than Life: The American Tall-Tale Postcard, 1905–1915 (New York: Abbeville Press, 1990).
107. Dorson, Man and Beast, 50–54; and Moira Marsh, Practically Joking (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2015), 22–23.
108. Richard M. Dorson, “Davy Crockett and the Heroic Age,” Southern Folklore Quarterly 6 (1942): 95–102. See also, Richard M. Dorson, Davy Crockett, American Comic Legend (New York: Spiral Press, 1939). Compare Crockett’s tall-tale persona with that of flatboatman Mike Fink: Walter Blair and Franklin J. Meine, eds., Half Horse, Half Alligator: The Growth of the Mike Fink Legend (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1956); and Richard M. Dorson, America in Legend: Folklore from the Colonial Period to the Present (New York: Pantheon, 1973), 57–122.
109. Richard M. Dorson, American Folklore (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977), 204.
111. See Mellinger Edward Henry, Folk-Songs from the Southern Highlands (New York: J. J. Augustin, 1938), 361–362; Some references cite a literary source for the humorous dialogue of Arkansas politician Sandford C. Faulkner (1803?–1874) around 1840, but variations around the same time were also reported outside the state. See Thomas Wilson, “The Arkansas Traveller,” Ohio History 56 (1947): 16–43; and Henry C. Mercer, “On the Track of the Arkansas Traveller,” Century Magazine 5 (March 1896): 707–712. For the history and folklore of the humorous narratives and songs about the Arkansas traveler, see George Lankford, “The Arkansas Traveller: The Making of an Icon,” Mid-America Folklore 10 (1982): 16–23; and James R. Masterson, Arkansas Folklore: The Arkansas Traveler, Davy Crockett and Other Legends (Little Rock, AR: Rose, 1974). See also, Vance Randolph, We Always Lie to Strangers: Tall Tales from the Ozarks (New York: Columbia University Press, 1951); and George E. Lankford, “Talking Truth in Arkansas,” in An Arkansas Folklore Sourcebook, eds. W. K. McNeil and William M. Clements (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1992), 87–106.
112. “Arkansas Traveller Text as Performed by Sandy Faulkner,” Historic Arkansas Museum (2016). See also Henry, Folk-Songs, 361–362.
113. Sarah Brown, “The Arkansas Traveller: Southwest Humor on Canvas,” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 46 (1987): 348–375; and Roger A. Hall, Performing the American Frontier, 1870–1906 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 43–49.
114. Guthrie T. Meade Jr., Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music (Chapel Hill: Southern Folklife Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, 2002), 438–439. See also, Simon J. Bronner, Old-Time Music Makers from New York State (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1987), 177.
115. Mody C. Boatright, Gib Morgan: Minstrel of the Oil Fields (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1945); and Dorson, Man and Beast, 126–139.
116. Boatright, Gib Morgan, 95–97. See also, Dorson, American Folklore, 229.
117. Richard M. Dorson, “Fakelore,” in American Folklore and the Historian (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 3–14. See also, Richard M. Dorson, “Folklore, Academe, and the Marketplace,” in Folklore and Fakelore: Essays Toward a Discipline of Folk Studies (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976), 1–30; Ellen J. Stekert, “The False Issue of Folklore vs. ‘Fakelore’: Was Paul Bunyan a Hoax?” Journal of Forest History 30 (1986): 180–181; William S. Fox, “Folklore and Fakelore: Some Sociological Considerations,” Journal of the Folklore Institute 17 (1980): 244–261; and Simon J. Bronner, “Fakelore,” in Encyclopedia of Local History, 2d ed., ed. Carol Kammen (Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2013), 179–180.
118. Marshall W. Fishwick, “Sons of Paul: Folklore or Fakelore?” Western Folklore 18 (1959): 277–286; Margaret R. Sheviak and Merrilee Anderson, “American ‘Fake’ Folk Heroes,” Elementary English 46 (1969): 273–278; and Jennifer Gilley and Stephen Burnett, “Deconstructing and Reconstructing Pittsburgh’s Man of Steel: Reading Joe Magarac against the Context of the 20th-Century Steel Industry,” Journal of American Folklore 111 (1998): 392–408.
119. See John W. Roberts, From Trickster to Badman: The Black Folk Hero in Slavery and Freedom (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989); and Jerry H. Bryant, Born in a Mighty Bad Land: The Violent Man in African American Folklore and Fiction (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003).
120. Fernando Orejuela, Rap and Hip Hop Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 46–50; and Simon J. Bronner, “Toasts and Dozens,” in Encyclopedia of American Folklife (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2006), 1293–1296.
121. Cecil Brown, Stagolee Shot Billy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003); Richard Polenberg, Hear My Sad Story: The True Tales that Inspired “Stagolee,” “John Henry,” and Other Traditional American Folk Songs (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015); and Richard Middleton, “O Brother, Let’s Go Down Home: Loss, Nostalgia and the Blues,” Popular Music 26 (2007): 57–60.
122. Brown, Stagolee Shot Billy, 225.
124. Dennis Wepman, Ronald B. Newman, and Murray B. Binderman, The Life: The Lore and Folk Poetry of the Black Hustler (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1976), 134–137.
125. See Roberts, From Trickster to Badman; Richard Chase, comp., The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1955); R. Bruce Bickley, Joel Chandler Harris: A Biography and Critical Study (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1987); R. Bruce Bickley, ed., Critical Essays on Joel Chandler Harris (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1981); R. Bruce Bickley and Hugh T. Keenan, Joel Chandler Harris: An Annotated Bibliography of Criticism, 1977–1996 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997); Stella Brewer Brookes, Joel Chandler Harris: Folklorist (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1950); and Walter M. Brasch, Brer Rabbit, Uncle Remus, and the “Cornfield Journalist”: The Tale of Joel Chandler Harris (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2000).
126. Kathleen Light, “Uncle Remus and the Folklorists,” Southern Literary Journal 7 (1975): 88–104; and Florence E. Baer, Sources and Analogues of the Uncle Remus Tales (Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1980).
127. Emma Backus, “Animal Tales from North Carolina,” Journal of American Folklore 11 (1898): 284–291; William D. Piersen, “An African Background for American Negro Folktales?” Journal of American Folklore 84 (1971): 204–214; William Bascom, “African Folktales in America: XI. Taught an Incriminating Song (Saying),” Research in African Literatures 12 (1981): 203–213; and Peter A. Roberts, “The Misinterpretations of Brer Anancy,” Folklore 99 (1988): 98–101.
128. Baer, Sources and Analogues, 29–31.
129. Ibid., 30–31. See also, Aurelio M. Espinosa, “A New Classification of the Fundamental Elements of the Tar-Baby Story on the Basis of Two Hundred and Sixty-Seven Versions,” Journal of American Folklore 56 (1943): 31–37; Archer Taylor, “The Tarbaby Once More,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 64 (1944): 4–7; Ruth I. Cline, “The Tar-Baby Story,” American Literature 2 (1930): 72–78; and Cameron C. Nickels, “An Early Version of the ‘Tar Baby’ Story,” Journal of American Folklore 94 (1981): 364–369.
130. Roberts, From Trickster to Badman, 17–64; Richard M. Dorson, American Negro Folktales (New York: Dover, 2015), 124–170; Harry Oster, “Negro Humor: John and Old Marster,” Journal of the Folklore Institute 5 (1968): 42–57; Roger D. Abrahams, Deep Down in the Jungle: Negro Narrative Folklore from the Streets of Philadelphia (Chicago: Aldine, 1970), 97–172; and Bruce Jackson, “Get Your Ass in the Water and Swim Like Me”: Narrative Poetry from Black Oral Tradition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974), 161–196.
131. Américo Paredes, “With His Pistol in His Hand”: A Border Ballad and Its Hero (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1958).
132. Elijah Wald, Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerillas (New York: Rayo, 2001); John H. McDowell, “The Ballad of Narcomexico,” Journal of Folklore Research 49 (2012): 249–274; and Amanda Maria Morrison, “Musical Trafficking: Urban Youth and the Narcocorrido-Hardcore Rap Nexus,” Western Folklore 67 (2008): 379–396.
133. Michael Martinez and Jaqueline Hurtado, “‘Narcocorridos’: El Chapo’s Jailbreak Inspires New Round of Folk Songs,” CNN (July 25, 2015).
134. MacEdward Leach, “Folklore and American Regionalism,” in Folk Nation: Folklore in the Creation of American Tradition, ed. Simon J. Bronner (Wilmington, DE: SR Books, 2002), 189–198.
136. Henry Glassie, Pattern in the Material Folk Culture of the Eastern United States (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1968).
137. See Wilbur Zelinsky, The Cultural Geography of the United States (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1973); Raymond D. Gastil, Cultural Regions of the United States (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1975); D. W. Meinig, The Shaping of America 1: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History; Atlantic America, 1492–1800 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1986); and David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).
138. D. W. Meinig, The Shaping of America 2: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History: Continental America, 1800–1867 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993); and D. W. Meinig, Southwest: Three Peoples in Geographical Change, 1600–1970 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971).
139. Eric A. Eliason, “Mormon Culture Region,” in Encyclopedia of American Folklife, Bronner (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2006), 868–871; Richard M. Dorson, “Utah Mormons,” in Latter-Day Lore: Mormon Folklore Studies, eds. Eric A. Eliason and Tom Mould (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2013), 37–42; D. W. Meinig, “The Mormon Culture Region: Strategies and Patterns in the Geography of the American West, 1847–1964,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 55 (1965): 191–220; Ethan R. Yorgason, Transformation of the Mormon Culture Region (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003); and Richard V. Francaviglia, “The Mormon Landscape: Definition of an Image in the American West,” in Latter-Day Lore: Mormon Folklore Studies, Eliason and Mould, 43–47.
140. Eliason, “Mormon Culture Region,” 869–870; and Kristi Bell Young, “Now That I’ve Kissed the Ground You Walk On: A Look at Gender in Creative Date Invitation,” in Latter-Day Lore: Mormon Folklore Studies, Eliason and Mould, 114–122.
141. Eric A. Eliason, “Pioneers and Recapitulation in Mormon Popular Historical Expression,” in Usable Pasts, Tuleja, 175–212; and Steven L. Olsen, “Celebrating Cultural Identity: Pioneer Day in Nineteenth-century Mormonism,” Brigham Young University Studies 36 (1996–1997): 159–177.
142. Roger D. Abrahams, Blues for New Orleans: Mardi Gras and America’s Creole Soul (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006); Samuel Kinser, Carnival, American Style: Mardi Gras at New Orleans and Mobile (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990); Nicholas R. Spitzer, “Mardi Gras,” in The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, vol. 16: Sports and Recreation, ed. Harvey H. Jackson (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 147–154; Carl Lindahl, ed., Southwestern Louisiana Mardi Gras Traditions, special issue of Journal of American Folklore 114. 452; Robin Roberts, “New Orleans Mardi Gras and Gender in Three Krewes: Rex, the Truck Parades, and Muses,” Western Folklore 65 (2006): 303–328; Richard Brent Turner, “Mardi Gras Indians and Second Lines/Sequin Artists and Rara Bands: Street Festivals and Performances in New Orleans and Haiti,” Journal of Haitian Studies 9 (2003): 124–156; and Anthony J. Stanonis, Creating the Big Easy: New Orleans and the Emergence of Modern Tourism, 1918–1945 (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2006), 170–194.
143. David J. Puglia, “Hon Culture Wars: Revering and Reviling the Vernacular in Baltimore and Beyond” (PhD diss., Pennsylvania State University, 2015).
144. Larry Ford, Florinda Klevisser, and Francesca Carli, “Ethnic Neighborhoods and Urban Revitalization: Can Europe Use the American Model?” Geographical Review 98 (2008): 82–102; Frances M. Malpezzi and William M. Clements, Italian-American Folklore (Little Rock: August House, 1992), 99–109; and Bridget Houlihan Kennedy, Chicago’s South Side Irish Parade (Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2010).
145. Jan Harold Brunvand, The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings (New York: W.W. Norton, 1981); Patrick B. Mullen, “Modern Legend and Rumor Theory,” Journal of the Folklore Institute 9 (1972): 95–109; Gillian Bennett and Paul Smith, “Introduction: The Birth of Contemporary Legend,” in The Questing Beast: Perspectives on Contemporary Legend (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1989), 13–26; Timothy R. Tangherlini, “‘It Happened Not Too Far from Here…’: A Survey of Legend Theory and Characterization,” Western Folklore 49 (1990): 371–390; Bill Ellis, “Introduction: Contemporary Legends in Emergence,” Western Folklore 49 (1990): 1–7; Thomas Pettit, “Contemporary Legend—The Debate Continues,” Folklore 106 (1995): 96–100; Jan Harold Brunvand, “The Vanishing ‘Urban Legend,’” Midwestern Folklore 30 (2004): 5–20; Linda Dégh, Legend and Belief (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001), 23–97; and Gail de Vos, What Happens Next? Contemporary Urban Legends and Popular Culture (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2012), xv–xxii. For a classification of reported modern legends, see Jan Harold Brunvand, “A Type Index of Urban Legends” in Encyclopedia of Urban Legends (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2012), 741–765.
146. Gary Alan Fine, “The Kentucky Fried Rat: Legends and Modern Society,” Journal of the Folklore Institute 17 (1980): 222–243; and Gillian Bennett and Paul Smith, “City Life,” in Urban Legends: A Collection of International Tall Tales and Terrors (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007), 1–44.
147. Brunvand, Vanishing Hitchhiker, 90–98; Gillian Bennett and Paul Smith, “Alligators in the Sewers,” in Urban Legends, 2–4; Loren Coleman, “Alligators-in-the-Sewers: A Journalistic Origin,” Journal of American Folklore 92 (1979): 335–338; and Camilla Asplund Ingemark, “The Octopus in the Sewers: An Ancient Legend Analogue,” Journal of Folklore Research 45 (2008): 145–170.
148. See Jan Harold Brunvand, The Mexican Pet: More “New” Urban Legends and Some Old Favorites (New York: W.W. Norton, 1986); Gillian Bennett and Paul Smith, “The Mexican Pet,” in Urban Legends, 152–154; and David Mikkelson, “Country Rat, City Rat: Do Major Cities Harbor Rodent Populations Equivalent to One Rat Per Person?” Snopes.com: Rumor Has It (September 5, 2014).
149. Bennett and Smith, “Alligators in the Sewers,” 2–3. On the “filth and crime” image of New York City in narratives, see Eleanor Wachs, Crime-Victim Stories: New York City’s Urban Folklore (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988); and Cornelia Cody, “‘Only in New York’: The New York City Personal Experience Narrative,” Journal of Folklore Research 42 (2005): 217–244.
150. Timothy Cochrane, “The Concept of Ecotypes in American Folklore,” Journal of Folklore Research 24 (1987): 33–55; William M. Clements, “Oikotype/Oicotype,” in Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music, and Art, 2 vols., ed. Thomas A. Green (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1997), 2: 604–605; C. W. von Sydow, “Geography and Folk-Tale Oicotypes,” in Selected Papers on Folklore (Copenhagen: Rosenkilde and Bagger, 1948), 44–59; and Roger Abrahams, “Folklore in Culture: Notes Toward an Analytic Method,” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 5 (1963): 105–106.
151. Richard M. Dorson, “The Question of Folklore in a New Nation,” in American Folklore and the Historian, 94–107.
152. Richard M. Dorson, “A Theory for American Folklore,” and “A Theory for American Folklore Reviewed,” in American Folklore and the Historian, 15–77.
153. Dorson, America in Legend, 235–242. See also, Norm Cohen, “‘Casey Jones’: At the Crossroads of Two Ballad Traditions,” Western Folklore 32 (1973): 77–103.
154. Richard M. Dorson, “Oral Tradition and Written History: The Case for the United States,” in American Folklore and the Historian, 35–38.
155. Dorson, America in Legend, 241.
157. William Alderson, “On the Wobbly ‘Casey Jones’ and Other Songs,” California Folklore Quarterly 1 (1942): 373–376.
158. John Greenway, American Folksongs of Protest (New York: A.S. Barnes, 1953).
160. Ibid., 13–19; and David G. Orr and Mark R. Ohno, “The Material Culture of Protest: A Case Study in Contemporary Collecting,” in Twentieth-Century Popular Culture in Museums and Libraries, ed. Fred E. H. Schroeder (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1981), 37–54.
161. Trevor J. Blank, “Introduction: Pattern in the Virtual Folk Culture of Computer-Mediated Communication,” in Folk Culture in the Digital Age: The Emergent Dynamics of Human Interaction (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2012), 8–11; Margaret Duffy, Janis Teruggi Page, and Rachel Young, “Obama as Anti-American: Visual Folklore in Right-Wing Forwarded E-mails and Construction of Conservative Social Identity,” Journal of American Folklore 125 (2012): 177–203; Elliott Oring, “Memetics and Folkloristics: The Applications,” Western Folklore 73 (2014): 455–492; and Simon J. Bronner, “Digitizing and Virtualizing Folklore,” in Folklore and the Internet: Vernacular Expression in a Digital World, ed. Trevor J. Blank (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2009), 21–66.
162. Justine Coupland, Nikolas Coupland, and Jeffrey D. Robinson, “‘How Are You?’: Negotiating Phatic Communion,” Language in Society 21 (1992): 207–230; Justine Coupland, Jeffrey D. Robinson, and Nikolas Coupland, “Frame Negotiation in Doctor-Elderly Patient Consultations,” Discourse & Society 5 (1994): 89–124; Lana Rings, “Beyond Grammar and Vocabulary: German and American Differences in Routine Formulae and Small Talk,” Die Unterrichtspraxis/Teaching German 27 (1994): 23–28; and Richard A. Wright, “The ‘Friendly Student’ Exercise,” Teaching Sociology 17 (1989): 484–488.
163. Dan Ben-Amos, “Toward a Definition of Folklore in Context,” in Toward New Perspectives in Folklore, Bauman and Paredes, 3–15.
164. See Alan Dundes, “The American Concept of Folklore,” Journal of the Folklore Institute 3 (1966): 226–249; Robert A. Georges, “Toward an Understand of Storytelling Events,” Journal of American Folklore 82 (1969): 313–328; and Roger D. Abrahams, “Introductory Remarks to a Rhetorical Theory of Folklore,” Journal of American Folklore 81 (1968): 143–158.
165. As discussed earlier in this essay, Roger Williams’s dictionary inspired folkloristic work on Native Americans, and so too did an early guide to college-student slang produce commentaries on the folklore of students as a special folk group: Benjamin Homer Hall, A Collection of College Words and Customs, rev. ed. (Detroit: Gale, 1968). See also, Richard M. Dorson, “The Folklore of Colleges,” American Mercury 68 (1949): 671–677; Ronald L. Baker, “The Folklore of Students,” in Handbook of American Folklore, ed. Richard M. Dorson (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983), 106–114; Barre Toelken, “The Folklore of Academe,” in The Study of American Folklore: An Introduction, 3d ed., Jan Harold Brunvand (New York: W.W. Norton, 1986), 502–528; Elizabeth Tucker, Haunted Halls: Ghostlore of American College Campuses (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007); and Elizabeth Tucker, Campus Legends: A Handbook (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008).
166. Simon J. Bronner, Campus Traditions: Folklore from the Old-Time College to the Modern Mega-University (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012), 142–144.
167. Jay Mechling, “Children’s Folklore in Residential Institutions: Summer Camps, Boarding Schools, Hospitals, and Custodial Facilities,” in Children’s Folklore: A Source Book, eds. Brian Sutton-Smith, Jay Mechling, Thomas W. Johnson, and Felicia R. McMahon (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1999), 273–292.
168. James P. Leary, “The Boondocks Monster of Camp Wapehani,” Indiana Folklore 6 (1973): 174–190; Bill Ellis, “‘Ralph and Rudy’: The Audience’s Role in Recreating a Camp Legend,” Western Folklore 41 (1982): 169–191; Hugo Furst, The Legend of Cropsey: A Legacy of Terror at Summer Camp (New Rochelle, NY: Full Moon, 1998); and J. D. A. Widdowson, If You Don’t Be Good: Verbal Social Control in Newfoundland (St. Johns: Institute of Social and Economic Research, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1977).
169. Elizabeth Tucker, “Ghosts in Mirrors: Reflections of the Self,” Journal of American Folklore 118 (2005): 186–203; Elizabeth Tucker, “Levitation and Trance Sessions at Preadolescent Girls’ Slumber Parties,” in The Masks of Play, eds. Brian Sutton-Smith and Diana Kelly-Byrne (New York: Leisure Press, 1984), 125–133; and Shaari Freed, “Spooky Activities and Group Loyalty,” Children’s Folklore Review 16 (1993): 33–40. For other folk practices at slumber parties, see Alan Dundes, “Bloody Mary in the Mirror: A Ritual Reflection of Pre-Pubescent Anxiety,” in Bloody Mary in the Mirror: Essays in Psychoanalytic Folkloristics (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2002), 76–94; and Susan B. Poulsen, “Sociable Speech in the American Slumber Party: An Ethnographic Study” (PhD diss., University of Washington, 1988).
170. Bill Ellis, Lucifer Ascending: The Occult in Folklore and Popular Culture (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004), 174–196; Bill Ellis, Raising the Devil: Satanism, New Religions, and the Media (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000), 62–86; and Simon J. Bronner, American Children’s Folklore (Little Rock, AR: August House, 1988), 166–167.
171. Tucker, “Levitation and Trance Sessions”; and Elizabeth Tucker, “Levitation Revisited,” Children’s Folklore Review 30 (2007): 47–60.
172. See Gary Alan Fine, Manufacturing Tales: Sex and Money in Contemporary Legends (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992); Mariamne H. Whatley and Elissa R. Henken, Did You Hear about the Girl Who—? Contemporary Legends, Folklore, and Human Sexuality (New York: New York University Press, 2000); Andrea Greenberg, “Drugged and Seduced: A Contemporary Legend,” New York Folklore Quarterly 29 (1973): 131–158; and Jan Harold Brunvand, The Baby Train and Other Lusty Urban Legends (New York: W.W. Norton, 1993), 109–112.
173. Ronald L. Baker, Hoosier Folk Legends (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982), 200; Carl Lindahl, “Ostensive Healing: Pilgrimage to the San Antonio Ghost Tracks,” Journal of American Folklore 118 (2005): 164–185.
174. Tucker, Haunted Halls, 182–210; S. Elizabeth Bird, “Playing with Fear: Interpreting the Adolescent Legend Trip,” Western Folklore 53 (1994): 191–209; Bill Ellis, “Legend Trip” in American Folklore: An Encyclopedia, ed. Jan Harold Brunvand (New York: Garland, 1996), 439–440; Bill Ellis, “Death by Folklore: Ostension, Contemporary Legend, and Murder,” Western Folklore 48 (1989): 201–220; Patricia M. Meley, “Adolescent Legend Trips a Teenage Cultural Response: A Study of Lore in Context,” Mid-America Folklore 18 (1990): 1–26; and Tim Prizer, “Shame Old Roads Can’t Talk’: Narrative, Experience, and Belief in the Framing of Legend-Trips as Performance,” Contemporary Legend, n.s. 7 (2004): 67–97.
175. Michael Kinsella, Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2014); and Elizabeth Tucker, “From Oral Tradition to Cyberspace: Tapeworm Diet Rumors and Legends,” in Folk Culture in the Digital Age, Blank, 150–165.
176. Sandra K. D. Stahl, “The Personal Narrative as Folklore,” Journal of the Folklore Institute 14 (1977): 9–30; John A. Robinson, “Personal Narratives Reconsidered,” Journal of American Folklore 94 (1981): 58–85; Donald Braid, “Personal Narrative and Experiential Meaning,” Journal of American Folklore 109 (1996): 5–30; William A. Wilson, “Personal Narratives: The Family Novel,” Western Folklore 50 (1991): 127–149; Dee L. McEntire, “Erotic Storytelling: Sexual Experience and Fantasy Letters in Forum Magazine,” Western Folklore 51 (1992): 81–96; Gary Alan Fine, “Community and Boundary: Personal Experience Stories of Mushroom Collectors,” Journal of Folklore Research 24 (1987): 223–240; Frank de Caro, Stories of Our Lives: Memory, History, Narrative (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2013); Mody C. Boatright, The Family Saga and Other Phases of American Folklore (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1958); Steven J. Zeitlin, Amy Kotkin, and Holly Cutting Baker, A Celebration of American Family Folklore: Tales and Traditions from the Smithsonian Collection (New York: Pantheon, 1982); Linda Dégh and Andrew Vázsonyi, “The Memorate and the Proto-Memorate,” Journal of American Folklore 87 (1974): 225–239; Lauri Honko, “Memorates and the Study of Folk Beliefs,” Journal of the Folklore Institute 1 (1964): 5–19; Juha Pentikainen, “Belief, Memorate, and Legend,” Folklore Forum 6: 217–241; Tsafi Sebba-Elran, “The Personal Narrative: From Memorate to Fabulate,” Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Folklore (2003): 69–98; and Richard Sweterlitsch, “Memorate,” in American Folklore: An Encyclopedia, ed. Jan Harold Brunvand (New York: Garland, 1996), 990–992.
177. Kinsella, Legend-Tripping Online: Trevor J. Blank, The Last Laugh: Folk Humor, Celebrity Culture, and Mass-Mediated Disasters in the Digital Age (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2013); Andrew Peck, “Tall, Dark, and Loathsome: The Emergence of a Legend Cycle in the Digital Age,” Journal of American Folklore 128 (2015): 333–348; Russell Frank, Newslore: Contemporary Folklore on the Internet (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2011); Tina Marie Boyer, “The Anatomy of a Monster: The Case of Slender Man,” Preternature 2 (2013): 240–261; Shira Chess and Eric Newsom, Folklore, Horror Stories, and the Slender Man: The Development of an Internet Mythology (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015); Line Henriksen, “A Short Bestiary of Creatures from the Web,” in The Ashgate Research Companion to Paranormal Cultures, eds. Olu Jenzen and Sally R. Munt (New York: Routledge, 2016), 405–416; and Bill Ellis, “The E-Mail Virus Panic,” in The Martians Have Landed!: A History of Media-Driven Panics and Hoaxes, ed. Robert E. Bartholomew and Benjamin Radford (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2012), 123–126.
179. See Simon J. Bronner, “Questioning the Future: Polling Americans at the Turn of the New Millennium,” Prospects: An Annual of American Cultural Studies 27 (2002): 665–686. See also, Bronner, Following Tradition (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1998), 22–72; and Trevor J. Blank and Robert Glenn Howard, eds., Tradition in the Twenty-First Century: Locating the Role of the Past in the Present (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2013).