Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Cinderella in America

Cinderella in America: A Book of Folk and Fairy Tales

Compiled and edited by William Bernard McCarthy
Copyright Date: 2007
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Cinderella in America
    Book Description:

    For years many folklorists have denied the possibility of a truly American folk or fairy tale. They have argued that the tales found in the United States are watered-down derivatives of European fare. With this gathering, William Bernard McCarthy compiles evidence strongly to the contrary.

    Cinderella in America: A Book of Folk and Fairy Talesrepresents these tales as they have been told in the United States from Revolutionary days until the present. To capture this richness, tales are grouped in chapters that represent regional and ethnic groups, including Iberian, French, German, British, Irish, other European, African American, and Native American. These tales are drawn from published collections, journals, and archives, and from fieldwork by McCarthy and his colleagues.

    Created along the nationalist model of the Brothers Grimm yet as diverse in its voices and themes as the nation it represents,Cinderella in Americashows these tales truly merit the designation American.

    William Bernard McCarthy is professor emeritus of English at Pennsylvania State University. His previous books areThe Ballad Matrix: Personality, Milieu, and the Oral TraditionandJack in Two Worlds: Contemporary North American Tales and Their Tellers.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-161-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-XII)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. XIII-2)
  4. Introduction: Yarns Older than Uncle Sam
    (pp. 3-24)

    The rather hefty volume you are now holding would at one time have seemed an impossibility. American folktales? We knew what those were. They were the tall tales, the jokes, and the urban legends that Americans love so much. But tales of magic? Tales of clever heroes outwitting giants and ogres and oppressive masters? Tales of beautiful younger sisters wedding handsome princes? The kinds of things we call fairy tales? No, Americans never really told stories like that—except for a few that they got out of Grimm or Anderson and told to children until the children got too old...

  5. Part I: The Early Record

    • Chapter 1 Tales from a New Republic
      (pp. 27-66)

      When the first settlers came to the eastern part of the New World from England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and the German-speaking states of Europe, we can be sure that they brought with them their wonder tales to soothe children and intrigue adults. These Americans of European extraction exchanged tales around the home fire, or in taverns, at markets, and wherever two or three gathered. But, so far as we know, there was no field collector in those early years going around the different communities to hunt out the great storytellers and persuade them to dictate their stories for posterity (though...

  6. Part II: The Iberian Folktale in the United States

    • [Part II: Introduction]
      (pp. 67-70)

      American folktale traditions that derive from Spanish or more generally from Iberian tradition show great consistency, though each tradition has its own peculiar stamp as well. This is not surprising since all derive ultimately from a common, richly romantic, Iberian tradition. Many of the same tales are found in Puerto Rico, in the Hispanic Southwest, in Louisiana, and among the Cape Verdeans of New England. These include the popular märchen such as Cinderella (ATU 510), The Devil’s Daughter (ATU 313), The Two Sisters (ATU 480), and many variations on the theme of Juan del Oso (John the Bear) an Iberian...

    • Chapter 2 Puerto Rico: The Oldest Depository of American Tales
      (pp. 71-92)

      Ponce de Leon established the first Spanish settlement in Puerto Rico at Caparra in 1508, only fifteen years after Columbus returned home from his first voyage, and the present capital, San Juan, was founded in 1521. Americans occupied the island in the Spanish American War of 1898, and the Spanish ceded it outright in the Treaty of Paris that ended that war. Over the next sixty years Puerto Rico was progressively integrated into the fabric of the United States, acquiring home rule, status as a free commonwealth, and U.S. citizenship for its people. And so, though politically one of the...

    • Chapter 3 Tales from the Hispanic Southwest
      (pp. 93-118)

      Hispanic settlers were already establishing their traditional culture in Mexico by the early 1500s. These settlers and conquistadores explored extensively in what is now the southwest United States. Santa Fe, New Mexico, was founded in 1610, and soon a strong Spanish-style outpost was established in the upper Rio Grande valley. But conflict with the indigenous population threatened stable settlements in the hinterlands of New Mexico, Arizona, and southern Colorado, and the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 drove the Hispanic population back to Mexico. The present Hispanic population of that region has its roots in the Mexican resettlement after 1692. The ancestors...

    • Chapter 4 Isleño Tales from St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana
      (pp. 119-132)

      St. Bernard Parish, on the east (or, here, north) bank of the Mississippi River, is one of the two easternmost parishes (i.e., counties) in Louisiana. Like its sister parish, Plaquemines, it is largely wetland, juts out into the Gulf of Mexico, and historically has depended on fishing, hunting, and trapping as a major source of livelihood. Folklorists working in Louisiana before World War II discovered in and near the St. Bernard town of Delacroix, a settled Hispanic community. The people, who called themselves Isleños, had their roots in the Canary Islands, off the Spanish coast, from which they began migrating...

    • Chapter 5 Cape Verde Tales from New England
      (pp. 133-150)

      Ever since transatlantic naval commerce began in earnest in the sixteenth century, the geographic situation of the Cape Verde Islands has attracted commercial ships. There, four hundred miles out into the Atlantic, a vessel could stop to rest, renew supplies and water, trade, or fill out a crew. Such commercial vessels brought Cape Verdeans to the United States first as slaves and later as whalemen. And from the mid-nineteenth century till today ships and then airplanes have brought individuals and whole families in such numbers that Cape Verdeans in the United States now outnumber those in Cape Verde itself. Here...

  7. Part III: French Tradition in the Old Louisiana Territory

    • [Part III: Introduction]
      (pp. 151-154)

      French settlement in the New World began in southeastern Canada in the sixteenth century. Missionaries led the way, followed by trappers and merchants, creating settlements across lower Canada and down into Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana, where surviving French place names still attest to the courage of the early explorers. Rene Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, suspecting that the Mississippi drained the whole central continent, set out from the junction of the Illinois River in February 1682. Floating down the Mississippi, he arrived at the mouth in April. He claimed the land he had traveled through, the land drained by...

    • Chapter 6 Louisiana Creole Tales
      (pp. 155-165)

      The wordCreolecan be confusing, especially when talking about the complex social and racial hierarchy that developed in Louisiana in the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. Most broadly, in Louisiana usage the word denotes someone not considered French “racially,” whose native language is nonetheless French. Thus, old French-speaking German families in New Orleans are Creole. In rural southern Louisiana, however, the principal group of French speakers not considered French is black or African American. Thus, in rural Louisiana, the termCreoleusually refers to black French-speaking people (many of whom, of course, also have considerable French ancestry), while the...

    • Chapter 7 Cajun Tales
      (pp. 166-197)

      The Cajuns of southern Louisiana derive their name and much of their distinctive culture from the Acadians, some six thousand of whom settled in Louisiana in the thirty years following their 1755 expulsion from Nova Scotia. These French-speaking Acadians settled not in New Orleans but in the swampy bayou country on either side of the Atchafalaya Basin or on the flat prairies of southwest Louisiana. There they largely absorbed the European peoples that had come before or that came later—Spanish, German, Scotch-Irish, and English, as well as some of the Native Americans—and there they lived side by side...

    • Chapter 8 Tales from the Missouri French
      (pp. 198-224)

      In the Sainte Genevieve district of Missouri, a triangle of land west of the Mississippi River and southeast of the Meramec, French was widely spoken until sometime in the mid-twentieth century. The inhabitants are descendants of the earliest French settlers in what is now the United States. Enterprising explorers and entrepreneurs moved across Lower Canada and down through what is now Indiana and Illinois, finally establishing their first town west of the Missouri in 1735 and naming it Sainte Genevieve after the apocryphal saint whose story is told in chapter 7. They came to this area to mine lead, staying...

  8. Part IV: The British Tradition of the South

    • Chapter 9 From Tidewater to Texas: The Southern Lowland Tradition
      (pp. 229-240)

      The lowland South, from Tidewater Virginia across the lower South, through northern Louisiana, and into Texas is a vast agricultural belt. Here have flourished great plantations, substantial farms—often with tenant farmers working part of the land—naval stores, and timber operations. At the farthest western end of this belt the land gives way to arid cattle and oil country. This largely Protestant region, sometimes known as the Bible Belt, bears everywhere the stamp of the dominant English and Scotch-Irish settlers and of the Africans that they brought in to help them work the land and harvest the natural resources....

    • Chapter 10 African American Tales of the Rural South and the Urban North
      (pp. 241-274)

      In the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early nineteenth centuries many thousands of Africans were transported to what is now the United States to be sold as chattel. They arrived on this shore stripped of clothing and possessions, as naked as newborn babes. But by and large they were not newborns but young people and adults who had come of age in a range of rich cultures. InThe Myth of the Negro Past(1941; rev. ed., 1958) Melville Herskovits argued that these Africans managed to salvage a surprising amount of the cultural heritage of their African homelands and to pass it...

    • Chapter 11 Tales from the Coastal Gullah Tradition
      (pp. 275-293)

      In the eighteenth century, indigo and rice plantations in coastal Carolina and Georgia imported slave labor from the Bahamas and directly from Africa. This new population brought with it a rich mixture of traditions, African, Iberian, and British. The new mix developed and flourished long after slavery days, especially on the Georgia and Carolina Sea Islands.

      The area was relatively isolated up until the 1960s. Access to islands was often by boat only. People farmed or tenant farmed and fished. They formed mutual aid societies, such as the Moving Star Society on John’s Island, to provide a financial buffer in...

    • Chapter 12 The Southern Mountains I: From the Blue Ridge to the Ozarks
      (pp. 294-327)

      The amount of story material from the southern mountains is staggering. Archives in the South and throughout the country—for collectors come in and then carry material back to home institutions—overflow with tapes of wonderful tales and taletellers. In the early 1930s Ralph Steele Boggs, then at the University of North Carolina, collected North Carolina tales. At the same time Vance Randolph was collecting in the Ozarks. Then the WPA brought Richard Chase, who publishedThe Jack Tales(1943) andGrandfather Tales(1948) (see chapter 13). The stream has continued unabated. In the 1950s Vance Randolph’s Ozark books began...

    • Chapter 13 The Southern Mountains II: The Hicks-Harmon Beech Mountain Tradition
      (pp. 328-356)

      In 1943 Richard Chase, who had begun folktale collecting in North Carolina with the WPA, brought out the most successful collection of American folktales in publishing history,The Jack Tales, a book that has remained in print for more than six decades. Chase based his collection almost exclusively on tales gathered from a single family of storytellers, the complexly interrelated Hickses, Gentrys, Wards, Proffitts, and Presnells of Beech Mountain and Hot Springs, North Carolina. Chase was not the first, however, to visit with members of this family and collect from them. Isabel Gordon Carter had already published, in a 1925...

  9. Part V: Other People, Other Tales

    • Chapter 14 German Traditions in Pennsylvania
      (pp. 361-375)

      German and German-speaking Protestants, especially Anabaptists, flooded into Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century, settling much of the eastern third of the state, moving from the Susquehanna valley into the Poconos. In the early nineteenth century German Catholics followed, some eventually settling beyond the Alleghenies in agricultural communities such as the sister towns of Fryburg and Lucinda in Clarion County. By the mid-nineteenth century still more German settlers were coming to work in the mines, the forests, and the mills all across the state. These people brought their stories with them and told them to the youngsters around them.

      The “Pennsylvania...

    • Chapter 15 The Irish-American Tale Tradition
      (pp. 376-386)

      According to legend, St. Brendan crossed the western ocean in the sixth century. But if he came to the New World, he did not stay. The first substantial Irish immigration into what is now the United States began in the 1630s, a time of civil unrest in Ireland. Periodically thereafter, in times of unrest or hardship and especially in the mid-nineteenth century at the time of the Potato Famine, the Irish have come in such numbers that today approximately one in six Americans claims some Irish ancestry. Ireland has one of the richest storytelling repertoires in Europe. And Irish Americans...

    • Chapter 16 Tales from Other Communities, Ethnic, Regional, Occupational, and Familial
      (pp. 387-428)

      The United States has never had a nationwide, organized, and concerted folklore collection program such as that, for example, of the Irish Folklore Commission. The WPA state Writers’ Projects of the 1930s were perhaps the closest thing we have had, and yet the focus of those Writers’ Projects varied from state to state. Consequently, folktale collecting has had to depend on opportunity and enthusiasm. As earlier chapters in this volume show, some American groups, such as the southern mountaineers, have been extremely well studied by a number of collectors. Others, such as the Missouri French, by a small number of...

    • Chapter 17 European Tales in Native American Traditions
      (pp. 429-462)

      We tend to think of contact between Europeans and Native Americans as universally hostile. But the first centuries of European settlement on the North American continent also offered many occasions of extended friendly contact. Judging from the evidence, contacts were often marked by storytelling, for the native peoples learned many European stories. These European stories, as gathered from Native American peoples, tend to reflect the same pattern of influence we have already seen in this collection: Although other traditions also infiltrated Native American repertoires, the dominant traditions are the French, the Hispanic, and the British. In the sixteenth and seventeenth...

  10. Part VI: A Case Study

    • Chapter 18 Betty Carriveau Sherman and Her Father’s Tales
      (pp. 465-487)

      Thus far, our collection has focused on the tales themselves, and the ethnic, regional, or other groups they came from, with such information about the particular storytellers as we could offer within the limits of knowledge and space. In an ideal collection, however, each tale would be accompanied by a detailed history of its telling within the storyteller’s family, by photographs or videotapes of the performance, and by full analysis of what the story meant to the storyteller. Obviously, such information is not available for storytellers long dead. And even if it were, inclusion of so much other information would...

  11. Appendix: Studying American Folktales
    (pp. 488-490)
  12. References
    (pp. 491-499)
  13. List of Credits
    (pp. 500-502)
  14. Tale Type Index
    (pp. 503-508)
  15. Motif Index
    (pp. 509-510)
  16. Index of Collectors
    (pp. 511-512)
  17. Index of Storytellers
    (pp. 513-514)