marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

Tales from the Cloud Walking Country

Tales from the Cloud Walking Country by Marie Campbell

The "cloud walking country" being the eastern Kentucky mountains.  And the tales are told as collected, in the voice of her informants -- indeed, the stories are listed by informant.

This can mean comments about where they learned them -- from an Irishman, or the time they heard it, only once, or how the mother told "The Three Girls with Journey-Cakes" and always the father would tell "The Three Boys with Journey Cakes" right after.  Or what immediately made them say it -- a Bluebeard tale because of a man marrying for the third time -- with the comment that the man with three wives was just unlucky.  Or just on the tale.  One thought that a tale in which a farmer boy got educated and decide to marry the Queen of Rome -- was against farmer boys getting educated, since it said that they would stop working and get silly notions in their head.  Another told a "Snow White" variant with a few differences -- there's a hound dog that's an important character -- and observed that the queen looked in her looking glass to see that her stepdaughter was more beautiful; she had heard folks say that the looking glass talked but she didn't hold by that.  Or observing that the man with one eye and the woman with three had named their daughter One-Eye, Two-Eyes, and Three-Eyes instead of pretty names, or how people would not call people by their proper and good, solid names, like one tale about Cold Feet, who really was John.  Lots of lively commentary

It also means it shows, sometimes, why fairy tales tend to get smoothed out for collections.  Some, not many, of the tales have plotting problems.  Sometimes just going whoops -- I forget to tell you that the heroine got this or the hero had that.  Sometimes forgetting major plot twists, or even how it ended.  Twice the narrator flatly refused to finish the tale on the grounds it got all blackguardy.

But we get a fine selection of tales showing bits of local color.  She has a series of notes in the back about analogs in Grimms and others, especially Irish ones, (though I caught that one was a variant of "The Battle of Birds" that she could not identify) and some unique ones.  We have a princess in a rabbit skin dress -- "All Kinds of Fur" where the queen has three husbands, and does not outlive the last, who then wants to marry his stepdaughter -- and all sorts of tweeks on old tales.  "Little Catskin" I thought I remembered, but either I elaborated it in memory, or I'm confusing it with another tale, or possibly another retelling because this one is a little sparse.  Lots of interesting takes.
Tags: fairy tale reviews

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