Sunday, March 25, 2012

Review: Mysterious Celtic Mythology in American Folklore by Bob Curran

First off, I want to say that yes, I think the word “mysterious” was rather unnecessary. It makes it sound almost like one of those “DO ALIENS EXIST? WELL I’M NOT SAYING IT WAS ALIENS BUT IT WAS ALIENS!” type of books. But that is definitely not what this book is.

This book examines how Celtic legends were integrated into the setting of America once Europeans began settling in this country. And it does this well.

I’ve always been fascinated by folklore. Growing up in the Appalachians, it’s always been a part of my daily life. My poor old Granddad can tell the same story thirty times yet it still feels fresh each time. He told my brother and me about the guys who made a witch’s picture out of dough and shot it seven times, and how the witch’s daughters wouldn’t let anyone see the body because they found seven bullet holes in it. This is a common story throughout the South, yet it always felt like it belonged peculiarly to Craig County. We heard about his murder car and the ghost in his backseat. We grew wide-eyed at the transparent old lady in the house window, and shivered over the ghost that would walk up their steps each night. Granddad talked about the “hollerin’ things” in Franklin County. (This is the only story I’ve never found a duplicate of, which, quite frankly, makes it that much scarier.) We were always wary of the headless Confederate soldier and knew about the “murder hole” where, supposedly, a man in his carriage was driven to his death. If you live in any type of small town, you simply can’t escape the story telling tradition. And all these stories have origins elsewhere, in much older civilizations.

Bob Curran weaves his tales with the skill of a story teller. Although it’s essentially a study in folkloric tradition, it doesn’t read like a textbook. It flows, it has rhythm. And yes, many of the stories were quite familiar.

You have the portents of death, the strange noises from underground. Curran shows how tales of the old gods became tales of demons (which, coming from a Christian point of view, makes perfect sense). He points out how the similarity in landscape played a part in which stories settled where in this country. It’s an absolutely fascinating read.

This is a must for anyone interested in folkore, stories, or just like finding good yarns for the fireside.

6 comments:

  1. Don't forget that witch was our relative! Also, I need to get granddad to remind me of the hollerin things. I don't remember that one.

    And speaking of supernatural things, I believe there's a tall, dark and faceless stranger waiting for me later tonight.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yeah, forgot about that! Yes, ask Granddad about the hollerin' things sometime. It's actually rather creepy.

      Yeah, Entry 54 definitely hit the paranoia button...I don't like walking into dark rooms anymore.

      Delete
  2. Hollerin' things were white things, I believe. One old guy supposedly cornered one with his hunting dogs & it killed all the dogs. And we wonder why I'm scared to go out into the woods at night...lol! Poor ole grandad...does'nt have anyone to tell his stories to anymore. Rick should let him tell Luther & Anthea the stories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, supposedly they never saw one enough to be able to describe it beyond "white" and "makes a lot of noise". OMG! They must be related to the Sarvers!! XD

      Delete
  3. I bet they are...or maybe the Davis' even...LOL! Grandad said they cornered one in a barn one night but shot it up so bad that they could'nt tell what it looked like. Btw, I found the paper where you interviewed him that time & he was telling all this stuff. Wish we could find the tape where you recorded it. Oh well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm pretty sure Mr. Bolte kept the tape. I think he kept all the tapes we made for that folklore class.

      Delete