CHAPTER 7
Folk Narratives

The term "folktale," like folk song, is used in two ways: to refer to all folk narratives and specifically to distinguish a type of folk narrative from myths and legends. Myths are traditional narratives believed to be true that are set in the prehistoric past and involve the actions of gods and supernatural beings. Legends are set in the historic past, involve human protagonists, and call for an element of belief or disbelief. Folktales are set in the historic past, may involve human or nonhuman characters, are fictional, and are told primarily for entertainment, although they may be used to point out a moral or illustrate a truth. Except among Indian tribes in the region, myths are not found in Ozark folk tradition.

Legends of the supernatural are very common in the Ozarks, and one of the most popular, as it is elsewhere in America, is the story of the vanishing hitchhiker. Usually, as in the following three variants, this legend is presented as a true happening, though not as a personal experience of the narrator:

I heard this story a long, long time ago, I don't remember exactly when it was that I first heard it. This girl, named Laura Starr, and her boyfriend were on their way to their senior prom and had a terrible wreck. They were both killed. Oh, I forgot to tell you that this happened on a Friday night, and it was raining really hard and storming. Anyway, they were both killed and if you drive by the London cemetery on a rainy Friday night then you can see her on the side of the road trying to get a ride with someone. Some people even say that they have picked her up and gave her a ride and then she'll just disappear. 1

I've heard this story since I was very young, I first heard it from my grandmother. There was a girl named Laura Starr, and on her wedding night she and her husband were on their way to their honeymoon, and they were involved in a bad accident. There was a storm at the time of the accident and supposedly if you drive by the London cemetery (where the girl is buried) on certain nights you can see her on the side of the road. Some say she is wanting a ride to go in search of her husband, who was also killed in the accident. Her tombstone in the cemetery is inscribed with "Gentle stranger passing by, as you are so once was I, As I am so you shall be, So prepare to follow me." 2

-151-

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Ozark Country
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • FOLKLIFE IN THE SOUTH SERIES ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Chapter 1 Historical Overview 1
  • Chapter Family Ties 17
  • Chapter 3 at Work 51
  • Chapter 4 Folk Customs 75
  • Chapter 5 Ozark and Appalachian Folk Music 97
  • Chapter 6 Games and Entertainment 131
  • Chapter 7 Folk Narratives 151
  • Appendix 167
  • Notes 173
  • Bibliographical Essay 181
  • Bibliography 185
  • Index 189
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