Kentucky Folktales: Revealing Stories, Truths, and Outright Lies

Kentucky Folktales: Revealing Stories, Truths, and Outright Lies

Kentucky Folktales: Revealing Stories, Truths, and Outright Lies

Kentucky Folktales: Revealing Stories, Truths, and Outright Lies

Excerpt

Welcome to this collection of oral tales frozen in print. Frozen? Do I mean lifeless? Absolutely not! As you read these stories you will bring them to life in your imagination much as you would if I were standing before you telling them. And when you read them a second time, you might imagine them differently even though the text remains unchanged—frozen. Even if we were face to face and I told you these stories, the words I spoke would not be an exact match for the text you can read here. And if you heard me tell one of these stories a second time, those words would not be an exact match for the first telling.

Storytelling is an interactive and ephemeral art composed of three essential elements—story, teller, and audience. No two tellings of a story are alike, even if the same teller tells the same story to the same audience. Think about it. When someone tells you a tale for the second time and they know you’ve heard it before, much background information can be left out because the teller knows you already know. The wise teller will skip some sections because your nod (especially if your nod is an impatient nod) says, “Move along now. I know this already. I want to hear my favorite part again.” And the way your expression turns to delight when your favorite part of the story is reached tells the teller, “Ah, linger here. I want to savor this.” We—teller and audience—cannot influence one another on these pages the way we could in person.

The stories in this book are all stories I’ve told to audiences. Some of them I’ve told for well over twenty years; others I’ve told for just under one year. I’m a professional storyteller. I tell stories, usually to audiences of people who have gathered for the specific purpose of hearing stories. Sometimes there are people I know among the listeners. Most of the time the listeners are people I’ve not met before, but we come together through the shared pleasure of hearing stories. I also teach others about the art of storytelling and the related arts of reading aloud and writing.

In this book I’ve written stories down close to the way I currently . . .

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