Volume 9 , Number 3 , Spring 1986
Those in attendance at the March 9 meeting of the White River Valley Historical Society heard a presentation of Dr. Don Holliday, Professor of English at SMSU, and a Taney County native.
Dr. Hollidays subject was an examination of the ways that American character, and specifically Ozark charcter, can be discovered thropgh the oral tradition of folk stories.
"Oral literature is fluid," Dr. Holliday said, "And changes rapidly as it is told and adapts itself readily to the area in which it is told." The result is oral regional literature. Examples from the Ozarks are found in stories collected by Vance Randolph. Holliday discussed three of these stories which have a decided Ozarks flavor, but which can each be traced back to earlier origins.
"Creekmore and his Bride" was the first of the stories discussed by Holliday. In the interest of time, Holiday explained, he would start telling the story in an Ozark manner, and then finish by reading it, because "You cant talk Ozark fast." This story is a variant of the "Taming of the Shrew" tale (which even Shakespeare borrowed), and concerns a young woman from a good, old-line family, who marries beneath her. The neighbors were concerned that the marriage might not last because of the social differences between Creekmore, an Indian, and his bride. Creekmore, however, handles his wifes prideful ways and asserts his male dominance in a very direct manner. Of course, the couple live happily ever after.
"Tobe Killed a Bear", a tale told for truth in the Ozarks, is based on a theme that has been known for some 1500 years, and which was first written down almost a thousand years ago as the epic tale, "Beowolf." Tobe is a true hero of the people, just as Beowolf was, but there is one major difference. Beowolf was expected to brag about his exploits, whereas Tobe must appear modest about his. The masculine ethic of the hills demanded this reticence and understatement of a folk hero.
The last Ozark folk story discussed by Dr. Holliday was based on one of Chaucers Canterbury Tales, "The Millers Tale." Like the original from which it was derived, "Carry Out the Big Trunk" is somewhat salacious and involves a cast of characters of which none is particularly attractive. This story of a bunch of fools who got caught is instructive, Holliday said, because humor can be a good teacher when we can laugh at that which is not right and thereby learn what is.
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