AMERICA IN LEGEND: Folklore from the Colonial Period to the Present by Richard M. Dorson

AMERICA IN LEGEND: Folklore from the Colonial Period to the Present

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Folklore -- that great repository of popular myths and social ideals -- has long been the anthropologist's means of access to primitive societies; only recently have historians begun to admit that urban, industrial societies spawn tall tales and heroic legends every bit as telling as those minted by aboriginal peoples. Dorson, a specialist in American oral traditions (History & Folklore, Indiana Univ.), has made a giant concession to this belated recognition by including in his delightful study of the yarns and fables of America from Puritan times to the present a fascinating section on the ""druglore"" of the hippie counterculture. Peopled with supercool ""heads"" and numbskull ""narcs,"" it bears all the characteristics of tomfoolery, braggadocio and sly trickery that make up the more familiar whoppers of frontier times. Dorson's four-part study begins with the Puritans whose folklore was based entirely on their deadly serious quest for salvation in a world where an ugly assortment of witches poltergeists and mysterious dark strangers with cloven feet tormeated innocent, godly folk. He goes on to explore the shaggy, homespun heroes of Jacksonian America -- Davy Crockett, Sam Patch, and Mike Fink (""half-horse and half-alligator"" who invariably made jackasses of the hoity-toity city slickers). And there's a lengthy section on what Dorson dubs the ""folklore of economic pations"" -- the cowboys, miners, lumberjacks and engineers who rounded up more dogies, e more coal, felled more trees and burned up more miles of track than any ten mortals. He's culled his treasures from everywhere -- dime novels, old newspapers, ballads, broadsides, religious tracts and the underground press. Collectively they provide a unique glimpse into America's fantasy life then and now.

Pub Date: Dec. 6th, 1973
Publisher: Pantheon