Cover image for Storytellers : folktales & legends from the South
Storytellers : folktales & legends from the South
Burrison, John A., 1942-
Publication Information:
Athens : University of Georgia Press, [1991]

Physical Description:
vii, 392 pages ; 23 cm
General Note:
"Brown thrasher books."
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GR108 .S76 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Storytellers , a rich collection of more than 250 authentic folktales, confirms the oral tradition of the South. Rising out of a shared rural past, the legends and myths, the jests and trickster tales presented here are as diverse and inventive as the tellers themselves.

Edited and introduced by John A. Burrison and selected from more than twenty years of recorded interviews conducted in the lower Southeast by folklore students, Storytellers brings together for the first time in one book a broad variety of tales told in voices of African American, Anglo-Saxon, and Native American heritage. Describing the storytelling communities, the book re-creates the social settings--from a circle of tellers in a small town to three generations of a single family--where folktales circulate like living currency, changed and increased as they pass from person to person. The book visits individuals who give new voice to the oral tradition of their childhoods, telling again how the cricket trimmed the possum's tail, recasting an old tale of Master and John as "John Meets Lester Maddox," and spinning outrageous tall tales from out of the still mysterious frontier of the Okefenokee Swamp.

Ranging from "vulga" tales swapped by men and overheard by women to the adventures of Jack the Rogue, from the unbelievable stupidity of "fool Irishmen" to the horror of witches bounding through the darkened countryside, from instructive tales to illogical jests and puns, the oral record brought together in Storytellers speaks of the South--not one South but many, a region whose diversity is revealed and preserved in the telling of tales.

Author Notes

John A. Burrison is a professor of English and director of the folklore curriculum at Georgia State University. His other books include Storytellers: Folktales and Legends from the South and Shaping Traditions: Folk Art in a Changing South (both Georgia).

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Burrison's collection of folk literature draws on the traditions of African American, native American, and European settlers, while offering a good representation of what is more generally recognized as the South's preeminent rural narrative art. The diversity of oral records is especially evident in the book's first two sections, which explore, respectively, storytelling communities and individual storytellers. The third part presents 260 tales and legends grouped by type and theme; here, too, the familiar and the unusual merge into an exquisite amalgam of a shared tradition. Notes, bibliography; indexes. --John Brosnahan

Library Journal Review

This collection of more than 250 stories is taken from the Georgia Folklore Archives, founded in 1966. The introduction and collectors' interviews, complemented by a few sources, are highlights of the book. Although there are trickster, instructive, supernatural, and even retold literary tales, most of the material can be classed as jokes, yarns, or anecdotes. Ribaldry, and ethnic or racial humor, color some stories. Scholars may regret the casual recording methods and inconsistent amateur transcriptions, but nevertheless they (and, perhaps, some raconteurs far from the Okefenokee) will be the most likely audience for this record of the oral culture of the rural South.-- Patricia Dooley, Univ. of Washington, Seattle (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This is an exceptional book because it offers delights for the scholar as well as for the general reader. It is essentially a book of texts from what is perhaps America's most storied region, the South, or at least the one most celebrated for its storytelling. Scholars will recognize many tales and legends from the folkloristic canon and some new ones to consider; they will also appreciate some of the contextual backgrounding of narrators and their communities. In all, 92 student collectors and 112 traditional narrators are responsible for the 260 tales authentically rendered in the book. Full of life, creativity, and teaching, the tales are cultural treasures. General readers, whether from the South or not, will like these tales and legends, which are handsomely presented in an attractive package that includes beautiful photographs sprinkled throughout. Scholars, however, may wish for more interpretation and annotation than are given in the notes, and they may wonder about the inclusion of the photographs, which, for the most part, seem irrelevant to the texts or their performers. Still, there is a rich trove of family, regional, African-American, Anglo-American, and community folklore provided here for college students and public libraries. -S. J. Bronner, Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg