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  • A Missing Folklore Book: Marie Campbell December 10, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback

    marie campbell

    Recently Chris, from Haunted Ohio Books, wrote a fascinating post on a missing folklore manuscript. Chris reached out to see whether anyone could find this precious document, a series of fairy legends from the Appalachian Mountains collected by Marie Campbell (1907-1980).* The legends were referred to in 1976 by Katharine Briggs in her Dictionary of Fairies, and Briggs gives us a limited summary.

    Sometimes the fairy beliefs were imported, and sometimes the stories. In the 1930s, Dr Marie Campbell made a remarkable collection of fairy legends of both kinds in the Appalachian Mountains. She is currently preparing these for publication.

    Might be worth noting here that the last recorded book by Marie was from 1958: Tales from Cloudwalking Country. The promised book never appeared, then. Briggs now continues.

    Those [tales] to which I refer here have been collected from two narrators: Tom Fields, a postman and a miller, and Granny Caudill, a bedridden old lady with a very lively mind. The tales of both narrators are clearly derived from a Highland strain. The first relates to the belief in ELF-SHOT. The fairy bolt in this story was not a prehistoric  arrowhead, but a tiny flint bird-point of the kind used by Indians for shooting birds and small game. Riding home in the dusk, Tom Fields had seen a small red-headed fairy no bigger than a tiny child, and a number of them dancing and whirling at a distance. She had run away to join them, something had whizzed past him and his horse had gone lame. He led it home and next day he came back to the place and searched until he found the arrowhead, and ever since he had been free of fairy enchantment, though he sometime heard them singing. This was his story and it exactly corresponds to the Scottish beliefs about elf-shot and the efficacy of a fairy arrow against it.

    Briggs moves on:

    The next story was also Tom Field’s. The CHANGELING tale has a wide distribution both in time and place, but the particular form it took here is commonest in Scotland. In these stories the travelling tailor is the hero, which lead u to suspect hat he was also the story-teller, for in common tradition a tailor it not a heroic character. This version of the story is not told as from far off, but is supposed to have been a local happening and was overheard by Tom Fields as a small boy. Here the tailor has become a sewing woman who went from house to house, not the tailor, and the transition was therefore natural. There are two close parallels to this story, both Scottish…

    Briggs gives the references and then starts with Granny Caudill.

    Granny Caudill recognized that her stories had travelled. Her first is a recollection of the legend about the famous Scottish pipers, the MacCrimmons…

    Briggs notes the story is still extant in Scotland. Granny Caudill also had a story who went into a fairy hill. Is this set in the Appalachians or in Scotland: Briggs does not say? Beach’s guess is Scotland.

    Chris has sent the hounds after these missing manuscripts and I hope now to shout tallyho. We can take as a given that Marie Campbell had collected a good number of stories in the 1920s and the 1930s and that only some of them had been published in her Tales from Cloudwalking Country in 1958. First question, why did she hold a number back? We can also take as a given that in the late 1970s Marie, just before her death in 1980, was planning to publish something new.  As anyone who writes books will tell you a planned book is not a published book: but what happened? Is the material in her archive? The description says no but archival descriptions are often rather limited… Is anyone close enough to check? Third question, if she corresponded with Briggs is it possible that the relevant letters survives in Briggs’ archive? (See box 6) Beach suspects so.

    Any answers to any of these questions? Drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    A final thought on this. What have we lost? Well probably a few stories that Marie decided, for whatever reason, not to include in Cloudwalking. Were these the dregs? The story from Tom Field suggests not. For fairyists though, Beach’s guess is that Briggs has most of the relevant material in her encyclopedia. Presumably she wrote to Marie asking her about fairy legends and Marie wrote back with the fairy material she had for her forthcoming book. For Kentucky folklorists the discovery of this missing manuscript would be a huge coup, however.

    Best guide to Marie’s biography is an essay in Brunvand’s American Folklore by Margaret R.Yocom: As this is 20 years old and relatively short and as Beach has recently been getting on with the gods of copyright it is produced in full here.

    Collector of Southern Appalachian folklore and professor of folklore. Campbell was born in Tamms, Illinois. Influenced by John C.Campbell’s The Southern Highlander and His Homeland, she accepted a position at the Hindman Settlement School at Caney Creek, Knott County, Kentucky, and then one at the Gander School in Letcher County, Kentucky, during the periods 1926–1927, 1930–1931, and 1933–1934. It was at Caney Creek in the summer of 1926 that she began to collect the traditions of her neighbors. In 1932 Campbell graduated from Southern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in education; in 1937 she received her Master of Arts in English from George Peabody College. She taught English, folklore, and creative writing at West Georgia College and Peabody College and at Alabama Laboratory School and Carollton High School in Georgia. She also made home visits for the Kentucky Crippled Children’s Commission in the summers. A recipient of Julius Rosenwald and Guggenheim Fellowships, Campbell completed her Ph.D. in folklore and comparative literature from Indiana University in 1956. She taught at Glassboro State College in New Jersey, Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Along with numerous articles, she wrote Cloud-Walking (1942) and Tales of the Cloud-Walking Country (1958), two collections of southern Appalachian folktales; Folks Do Get Born (1946), a study of birthing practices based on interviews with African American midwives; and A House with Stairs (1950), a novel about an Alabama African American family during the Civil War. Campbell often did not publish verbatim versions of the traditional material she collected; her strength lies in her early recognition of the importance of presenting a folktale’s context.’