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Folk Tales As Literature

LittlePeopleBig4Although it is true that the printed page cannot compete with the spoken word in transmitting the spell of the folk tale, it is also true that, in both transcribed and transmuted form, the folk tale has been an important creative force in Southern literature. And that, whether oral or written, the folk tale is literature – the people’s literature.

While remaining faithful to the letter and the spirit of the original the transcription inevitably loses a great deal of its flavor, which the re-created version or translation may try, sometimes successfully, to restore. Because “dialect writing” substitutes for the naturally beautiful sounds of folk speech the difficult and grotesque conventions of “eye dialect,” the best one can hope to do is to arrive at some sort of compromise or middle ground, remembering always that truth to idiom is more important than truth to pronunciation.

Dialect writing, too, often suffers from the limitations of giving the appearance of humor or grotesqueness where none was originally intended. That is why the imitated or simulated folk tale, where dialect is deliberately used for humorous effect, as in stage dialect, smacks of burlesque and caricature. It has little value as folklore or as literature.