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Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana

Edited by Carl Lindahl, Maida Owens, and C. Renée Harvison

Outline for Students of "Louisiana Folktale Traditions: An Introduction," by Carl Lindahl (To read the entire introduction, click here.)


Additional current southern folktale collections, including contemporary Louisiana tales

-Showcase narrative variety and cultural diversity

-Presented as a written record of oral taletelling, not as edited literary works

-Barry Ancelet's Cajun and Creole Folktales (1994)

-John Burrison's Storytellers: Folktales and Legends from the South (1991)

-James P. Leary's Midwestern Folk Humor (1991)

-W. K. McNeil's Ghost Stories from the American South (1985)


Federal Writers' Project, 1930s-1940s

-Writers hired to collect folktales

-Collectors often edited and reworked stories

-Reflected bias of writers

-Reflected stereotypes of cultural groups and dialects, or folk speech

-Changed oral style to literary style

-More journalism than folklore scholarship


Problems of recording and preserving storytelling authentically

-Requires face-to-face communication

-Features a small audience in a natural context, or setting

-Oral traditions feature spontaneous gestures and vocal changes, unlike written tales

-Displays subtle regionalisms

-Changes in each telling, shaped in part by the intimate audience


Contemporary retelling of folktales

-Folklorists: Work in universities, museums, and arts and humanities organizations

-Seek to understand folktales as integral parts of a traditional storyteller's daily life and folk culture

-See storytellers as guardians of artistry, values, and cultural communities

-Include background and story context

-Record stories exactly as told and seek to preserve them in archives, publications, and restaged public presentations such as festivals

-Performers: Perform onstage before large audiences as part of current popular trend

-Interested in acquiring new material, thus often the tale is more important than traditional storytellers and their communities

-Memorized performance told the same way every time, often in a theatrical manner


Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana (1997)

-Presents current Louisiana folktale exactly as they were recorded

-Furnishes some context, or background, for each teller and universal motifs, or themes, for each story

-Represents a diverse array of cultural groups from different parts of Louisiana

-Every folktale reflects three influences

Individual style--depends on age and experience of narrator

Cultural style--conditioned by the shared values and experience of the community

Generic style--shaped by the genre, or type, of oral narrative, each of which has its own conventions, or traditions

-Offers and defines a wide range of traditional oral narrative genres, or types

personal experience stories

tall tales

historical tales and legends

belief legends and ghost stories


magic tales

animal tales

trickster tales

myths and aetiological or "why" stories


National Endowment for the Arts.

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