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South from Hell-fer-Sartin

South from Hell-fer-Sartin: Kentucky Mountain Folk Tales

Leonard W. Roberts
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    South from Hell-fer-Sartin
    Book Description:

    South from Hell-fer-Sartin, a short creek flowing into the Middle Fork of the Kentucky River, lies one of the of the most isolated regions in Kentucky. There, on the north slope of the Pine Mountain range in Leslie and Perry counties -- probably the last stronghold of white, English-language folk tales in North America -- Leonard W. Roberts recorded this rich collection more than three decades ago.

    To a people who, at that time, watched dancing hearth fires more often than television, the adventures of Jack in the land of witches and giants, monsters and beautiful princesses, provided first-class entertainment. Here are such old favorites as "Sleeping Beauty" and "The Golden Arm," retold in the idiom of the Kentucky mountains. Here are hauntingly beautiful cantes fables and earthy Irishman jokes. Here are encounters with Indians and marvelous hunting escapades.

    Roberts introduces his collection, first published in 1955, with a sympathetic description of the mountain way of life. He notes especially the bewildering and rapid changes that came to the Pine Mountain watershed in that decade as the highways and electric lines at last brought in a sophistication that preferred the soap opera to the folk tale. Although the stories Roberts recorded were still a firm part of folk tradition at the time, he believed that within a decade or two they would be forgotten -- a prediction, sadly, by now no doubt fulfilled.

    Any lover of the vanishing art of tale telling will relish this rich treasury of folklore and humor. Full notes on sources, types, motifs, parallels, and possible origins of the tales make this collection valuable also for folklorists.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5735-1
    Subjects: Sociology, History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vii])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [viii]-[ix])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    South from Hell-feh-Sartin Creek lies one of the most isolated sections in the Kentucky hills. There I found and recorded the stories in this collection. The first seventy-five or eighty of them—and perhaps several others—have come from the far corners of the world, passed down orally through many generations. These stories would seem to lack both home and function if I did not describe the land where they were found and its people. What I saw and heard on one collecting trip will show some ways of the hill people.

    Bill McDaniel was a student in the Berea...

  4. Animal tales
    (pp. 13-15)

    I have divided this collection of stories according to the classification of folk tale types set up by Antti Aarne and enlarged by Stith Thompson. Under animal tales, the first major category of the Aarne-Thompson index, fall those stories in which the principal actors are nonhuman but behave in a human manner. Reynard the Fox, Br’er Rabbit, and the Three Little Pigs are five such quadruped folk heroes. The title of the section is somewhat misleading, for the actors may be inanimate objects, such as straw and lumps of coal, as well as living creatures. The first tale in this...

  5. Ordinary tales
    (pp. 16-115)

    This broad division includes wonder tales (Märchen), religious tales, romantic tales, and tales of the stupid ogre. The majority of the thirty-eight stories in this section may be classified as wonder tales. Only one, No. 30, is a religious tale. Nos. 31 to 37 have romantic elements, and Nos. 38 and 39 concern the stupid ogre (in one instance a Negro; in the other, the Devil).

    I have tried to avoid reproducing tales so closely parallel to printed versions that a direct literary source is indicated. Yet I have recorded such stories as “Sleeping Beauty” (No. 14) told so completely...

  6. Jokes and Anecdotes
    (pp. 116-160)

    The stories in this division have two characteristics: they are more or less humorous; they are short, having only one motif. The latter qualification does not exclude tales, such as No. 56, which are really a series of separate anecdotes told in a chain. One category of tales needs further elaboration. This collection contains seventeen stories about numskulls (Nos. 40 to 56), identified in every case except No. 48b as Irishmen. It seems logical to conclude, from an examination of the parallels, that most of these anecdotes came from England, where the numskull was frequently a Welshman. Perhaps these stories...

  7. Myths and Local legends
    (pp. 161-201)

    Into this division I have placed those tales for which I was unable to assign Aarne-Thompson type numbers. Most of these stories are confined to eastern Kentucky, dealing with both historical and fabulous characters and events. A few others have entered the oral tradition of the area from other times and places, No. 81 actually coming from Greek mythology, but for the most part they probably have their origin in comparatively recent American folk culture. One of these stories (No. 98), called by other collectors “The Vanishing Hitchhiker,” appeared in the United States in the 1920’s or earlier and has...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 202-206)

    The preceding stories are from a society that is swiftly passing from this continent. Transcribed faithfully from sound tapes and from scraps of paper, they come fresh from the folk mouth and show a primitive way of life. In these stories I hope the reader has seen a few visions and heard a few echoes of the far away and the long ago. In them is the flame of the hearth fire and the smell of cornbread browning in the ashes. In them one may envision a large family circle, warmed outside by the leaping flames and inside by heroes...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 207-273)
  10. Informants
    (pp. 274-276)
  11. Type Numbers
    (pp. 277-278)
  12. Motif Numbers
    (pp. 279-288)