Cinderella in America: A Book of Folk and Fairy Tales.

Author:Erberich, Jessica
Position:Book review

Cinderella in America: A Book of Folk and Fairy Tales. Compiled and edited by William Bernard McCarthy. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007. xiv + 514 pp., appendix, bibliography, 4 indexes, 18 photographs.

Cinderella in America: A Book of Folk and Fairy Tales is a highly readable and unique addition to the project of documenting the development of European marchen as transplanted to American soil. While Cinderella in America represents the widest range of American folk tales available in one volume, William Bernard McCarthy limits his scope solely to tales of European origin, choosing to exclude American tales with origins in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, or Native American cultures. However, he includes European tales retold in African American and Native American communities. He further restricts this collection to include only wonder tales/marchen rather than the joke narratives and tall tales popular among American narrators. These limitations are necessarily somewhat arbitrary, but they also inform the specific polemical function of this volume: to prove that, far from withering in the New World, the European wonder tale has had a vibrant and persistent life of its own in the United States.

The collection is separated into five parts organized by both historical period and ethnic group, then sub-divided into seventeen chapters on specific regions. A sixth part and eighteenth chapter offer a case study of not simply a tale, but the taleteller herself, including personal background and photos of her in performance as a final illustration of the process by which European marchen were adapted as an integral part of an American repertoire. An introduction prefaces each section, providing cultural and historical background on the group. It also describes the material available and provides a narrative of the collection process for each region.

The explanatory notes at the end of each tale are informative and often appealing in their own right. Details included are that of tale-type classification, transcription and translation information, and description of story elements, in addition to anecdotal descriptions of collector and performer. McCarthy also uses the endnotes as an opportunity to point out unusual features of the tale that mark it as distinctly "American" in its retelling. The endnotes often reference other works with slightly different transcriptions of similar tales, in addition to offering parallels to other tales...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP