American folklore

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JohnDurvin
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American folklore

Post by JohnDurvin » August 10th, 2011, 12:12 am

So I'm writing a fantasy novel based on American folklore instead of European. It's going really well, but I'm running out of reference material. Anybody know of any? Here's what I've got so far:

* Assorted works of Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, and Joel Chandler Harris
* The "fearsome critters" of lumberjack stories
* The song "Big Rock Candy Mountain"
* Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, and their lesser-known compatriots Alfred Stormalong and Joe Magarac
* Native American stories, such as thunder-birds and the Moowis
* The romanticized stories of wandering hoboes (hobo signs, combined with runes, Icelandic staves, alchemy symbols, and Pennsylvania Dutch "hex-meister" signs, make up the magic)
* Those folksy sayings like "the family was so poor, the pancakes only had one side" (with some help from Baron Munchausen and Chuck Norris jokes)
* Various legends of the Revolution and "War Betwixt the States"
* Robert Johnson selling his soul at the crossroads
* And, yes, I admit it, I've borrowed pretty freely from Tolkien, Lovecraft, John Hodgman, and "Dungeons & Dragons", plus any number of other traditions from around the world. What? It's a melting pot.
Everybody loves using things as other things, right? Check out my blog at the Cromulent Bricoleur and see one hipster's approach to recycling, upcycling, and alterna-cycling (which is a word I just made up).

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Quill
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Re: American folklore

Post by Quill » August 10th, 2011, 12:48 am

Love it!

I'll be thinking of other sources.

I write Americana, too, with fantasy elements.

Moni12
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Re: American folklore

Post by Moni12 » August 10th, 2011, 9:27 am

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip van Winkle. The whole reason Irving wrote those was because America was so young it didn't have legends like King Arthur or Robin Hood and he wanted to give it some.

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polymath
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Re: American folklore

Post by polymath » August 10th, 2011, 1:46 pm

Moni12 wrote:The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip van Winkle. The whole reason Irving wrote those was because America was so young it didn't have legends like King Arthur or Robin Hood and he wanted to give it some.
I was going to say those narratives are conspicuous by their absence. And it's true Anglo America was young and didn't have its own legends.

Nathaniel Hawthorne dabbled a bit in that arena too, though he tended toward supernatural rather than paranormal metaphysics. "The Maypole of Merrymount," "Young Goodman Brown," "The Minister's Black Veil." Moral allegories with Puritan bases, though of Old World folklore traditions. It's worth noting the middle Nineteenth century is when U.S. literary culture made a significant departure from Old World literary culture. At the forefront were the Transcendentalists, of which Hawthorne was one. Irving's work largely patterns after Old World German folklore traditions.

Native American folklore traditions surviving largely recount origin and creation myths and similar supernatural metaphysics. Trickster spirits, natural world spirits, and ancestor spirits; animist belief systems oriented around imbuing intangibles with personified personalities and behavior traits.

A sampling from Simon Pokagon's Indian Superstitions and Legends at the University of Virginia Electronic Text Center;
http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/moden ... kSupe.html
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JohnDurvin
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Re: American folklore

Post by JohnDurvin » August 10th, 2011, 11:29 pm

Just wanted to note a combination that I thought was pretty clever: the Shmoo (of "Li'l Abner" fame) and Animal 57, an urban legend that KFC (and other Yum! Brand subsidiaries like Taco Bell, A&W, and Pizza Hut) get their meet from a genetically engineered monstrosity, variously described as a featherless chicken with a dozen legs and some sort of pig-cow-chicken hybrid. In the backstory, about ten years before the book is set, the Republic of Pareidolia was invaded by the army of the Coal Fire King, and while the attackers were repulsed, they left behind a magical blight that's turned most of the countryside into a combination of post-Civil War South and the Dust Bowl. A carpetbagger industrialist is trying to curry favor with the put-upon working class so they'll sell him their barren farms dirt-cheap, and one of the things he tries is to have his hex-mongers create a shmoo-like creature as a ready food-source for the hungry.
And thanks for the suggestions--everybody keep 'em coming. I neglected to mention the Headless Horseman, although he's already there in the form of a cursed legion of decapitated soldiers running security around the mansion where a Lovecraft-ish cult is doing their thing, but somehow I had forgotten about Rip Van Winkle. A lazy guy steals some liquor from some ghosts and is put to sleep for twenty years? That's perfect for a mash-up of knight-errantry and hobo legends.
Everybody loves using things as other things, right? Check out my blog at the Cromulent Bricoleur and see one hipster's approach to recycling, upcycling, and alterna-cycling (which is a word I just made up).

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polymath
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Re: American folklore

Post by polymath » August 11th, 2011, 12:37 am

A legend in the making abroad is Unimix, a nutritionally complete, fortified maize and soybean flour delivered to malnourished peoples, mostly of late drought-stricken areas in Africa. Can be made into porridge or bread or infant cereal mixtures. Comes in reinforced 25 kilogram polyester bags that can be airdropped from a low-flying cargo plane. One year shelf life. Then there's the Pacific Oceanic island Cargo Cults, where the people believed wealth fell from the sky and washed up from the seas. Flotsam and jetsom from World War II military activities.
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Watcher55
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Re: American folklore

Post by Watcher55 » August 13th, 2011, 1:09 pm

This is just a drive-by post, but I was getting ready to do some pruning and weeding and I started humming this:


Don't forget Johnny the drag-racer from the fifties - or Johnny appleseed for that matter.

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Quill
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Re: American folklore

Post by Quill » August 13th, 2011, 5:06 pm

JohnDurvin wrote: ...and one of the things he tries is to have his hex-mongers create a shmoo-like creature as a ready food-source for the hungry...
Don't forget the jackalope, and also the snipe hunt.

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Ishta
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Re: American folklore

Post by Ishta » August 15th, 2011, 4:07 am

How about Davy Crockett? I don't think you mentioned him, and he's a huge part of Americana. (And now I have the "Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the wild frontier..." earworm. :? :lol: )

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