Western Folklore

Current Issue

Vol. 69, No. 1 – Winter, 2010



From the Guest Editor
Joseph Falaky Nagy

[From the Introduction]: Our late colleague and friend Donald]. Ward’s first folkloristic publica­tion was in Western Folklore (see the bibliography following, under 1962), and Don served as co-editor of Western Folklore from 1996 to 2000. Along the way, he published several other articles (including his Archer Taylor Lecture of 1992) and reviews in this distinguished journal. And so we, the editor of and contributors to this issue, are grateful indeed to the editors of Western Folklore and to the Western States Folklore Society, for giving us the opportunity to offer this scholarly memorial to Donald Ward, that most learned, magnanimous, and gregarious of folklorists. We also thank Mary Louise Ward for her infinitely kind assistance and encouragement, and for that most invaluable of gifts, her friendship.

A Brief Biography of Donald J. Ward
Hans Wagener


Strength in Numbers: The Uses of Comparative Folktale Research
Christine Goldberg

ABSTRACT: The comparative approach that Donald Ward used in his scholarship grew out of comparative philology and has been used in folklore studies for 200 years. Using the concepts of tale type and motif, it permits an investigator to group similar items together and to be very specific about points of similarity and difference. Twelve advantages of the comparative approach are listed along with examples of each. KEYWORDS: comparative method, history of scholarship, motif, tale type, Ward, Donald

American Proverbs: An International, National, and Global Phenomenon
Wolfgang Mieder

ABSTRACT: Many of the proverbs current in the United States have their origin in classical times, the Bible, and the Middle Ages. As such, they were translated into many languages over the centuries, making up a common stock of proverbial wisdom in large parts of the world. But new proverbs were also coined in the United States with some of them having only a regional distribution whil,e others belong to the basic set of commonly known American proverbs with a national dissemination. With the important politi­cal and cultural role of the United States and its version of the English language in the world today, both sets of proverbs, the international and national texts, have now a significant global influence. With English being the lingua franca of the modern age, Anglo-American proverbs are being disseminated throughout the world in English or as loan translations. In fact, English-language proverbs are now playing the role that Latin proverbs did in former times. In addition, the new American proverbs with their worldview of a democratic and future-oriented society also have a considerable influence on the sociopolitical discourse on the globe. KEYWORDS: American, dissemination, English, global, international, loan translation, national, proverb, regional, worldview

Why Fairy Tales Matter: The Performative and the Transformative
Maria Tatar

ABSTRACT: Metamorphosis is central to the fairy tale, which shows us figures endlessly shifting their shapes, crossing borders, and undergoing change. Not surprisingly, stories that traffic in transformation also seek to change listeners and readers in unconventional ways. Bruno Bettelheim revealed to us the therapeutic uses of enchantment, and this essay looks at the cognitive gains made when magical thinking is debunked. KEY WORDS: fairy tales, storytelling, transformation, Brothers Grimm, Wizard of Oz

Will Work for Food: Legend and Poverty Legislation in Nineteenth Century Denmark
Timothy R. Tangherlini

ABSTRACT: I examine the social and economic position of the beggar/wandering indigent in late nineteenth century Denmark (post constitution), and I explore reasons for the ubiquity of these stories in the repertoires of Jutlandic storytellers. These stories point to an ongoing negotiation among tradition participants of their views concerning the social status of the poor. Interestingly, not all beggars are created equal in these stories, and the legends often point to an elaborate folk taxonomy of the different “classes” of wandering indigents. KEYWORDS: legend, Denmark, economics, legislation, poverty

Odin and Merlin: Threefold Death and the World Tree
Lawrence Eson

ABSTRACT: The present work expands upon Donald Ward’s work on the Threefold Death in Odinic narratives to demonstrate significant parallels between the myths of the Norse god Odin and the corpus of work concerned with the Welsh wild man Merlin. In both the Norse and Celtic material, the parallels are identified in the motif of sacrifice on the World Tree, along with a form of the Threefold Death, as a means of accessing otherworldly mantic knowledge. KEYWORDS: Odin, Merlin, shamanism, World Tree, threefold death

“Like a Dying Duck in a Thunderstorm”: Complex Weather Systems through the Lens of Folk Belief and Language
Antone Minard

ABSTRACT: This article discusses the mechanisms by which empirical observations of the natural world inform fork beliefs and superstitions. Using beliefs and traditional expressions about the duck (Anas platyrhynchos) in Western Europe and America as a case study, the article examines the intersection between science and the supernatural and the ways in which magical thinking can transform these observations into folklore. KEYWORDS: ducks, weather, superstitions, supernatural, science


John Shaw, translator and editor, The Blue Mountains and Other Gaelic Stories from Cape Breton / Na Beanntaichean Gorma agus Sgeulachdan Eile a Ceàp Breatainn
Reviewed by Ian Brodie

Mickey Weems, The Fierce Tribe: Masculine Identity and Performance in the Circuit
Reviewed by Jay Mechling

Maryline Parca and Angeliki Tzanetou, editors, Finding Persephone: Women’s Rituals in the Ancient Mediterranean
Reviewed by Yvonne J. Milspaw

Jason Marc Harris, Folklore and the Fantastic in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction
Reviewed by James Reitter

Elaine Thatcher and Randy Williams, editors, Folksongs from the Beehive State: Early Field Recordings of Utah & Mormon Music
Reviewed by David Stanley

Molly McGarry, Ghosts of Futures Past: Spiritualism and the Cultural Politics of Nineteenth-Century America
Reviewed by Kathy Williams

Pravina Shukla, The Grace of Four Moons: Dress, Adornment, and the Art of the Body in Modern India
Reviewed by Jo Farb Hernández

E.A. Kennedy III, Life, Liberty, and the Mummers and Patricia Anne Masters, The Philadelphia Mummers: Building Community Through Play
Reviewed by Charles Camp

Patty Kelly, Lydia’s Open Door: Inside Mexico’s Most Modern Brothel
Reviewed by James Deutsch

Patrick B. Mullen, The Man Who Adores the Negro: Race and American Folklore
Reviewed by Mickey Weems

David Murray, Matter, Magic, and Spirit: Representing Indian and African American Belief, John Sutton Lutz, Ed., Myth and Memory: Stories of Indigenous-European Contact, and Susan Berry Brill De Ramirez, , Native American Life-History Narratives: Colonial and Postcolonial Navajo Ethnography
Reviewed by Thomas Halloran

Simon J. Bronner, editor, The Meaning of Folklore: The Analytical Essays of Alan Dundes
Reviewed by Elliott Oring

Michael F. Scully, The Never-Ending Revival: Rounder Records and the Folk Alliance
Reviewed by James Ruchala

Jacob K. Olupona and Terry Rey, editors, Òrìsà Devotion as World Religion: The Globalization of Yorùbá Religious Culture
Reviewed by Mickey Weems

Nadia G. Yaqub, Pens, Swords, and the Springs of Art: The Oral Poetry Dueling of Palestinian Weddings in the Galilee
Reviewed by Ibrahim Muhawi

Wolfgang Mieder, "Proverbs Speak Louder Than Words": Folk Wisdom in Art, Culture, Folklore, History, Literature, and Mass Media
Reviewed by David A. Allred

Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff, Ragged but Right: Black Traveling Shows, "Coon Songs," and the Dark Pathway to Blues and Jazz
Reviewed by Erle W. Hall

John A. Burrison, Roots of a Region: Southern Folk Culture
Reviewed by Stephen Criswell

John Minton, Blues: Folksongs and Phonographs in the American South
Reviewed by John Bennett Fenn III

Gillian Bennett and Paul Smith, editors, Urban Legends: A Collection of International Tall Tales and Terrors
Reviewed by Paul Jordan-Smith