Monday, June 23, 2008


Tallgeese talked about mishmosh in the comments...

It occurred to me, when I was looking for information about Brer Rabbit and Paul Bunyan, that they are both interesting mixtures. Brer R. is a combination of Native American and African American folk traditions, which was (were?) then transformed by Joel Chandler Harris.

Paul Bunyan is seems to be partly derived from folk tales, and partly from an ad campaign for the Red River Lumber Company. But I think you can argue that he has become a genuine popular figure, the way the Marlboro Man has not. There are a zillion books about Paul Bunyan. I grew up on Paul Bunyan stories.

I'm not sure about Brer Rabbit. Has embarrassment removed those stories from popular culture? When I think about them, I see the Disney images, though I don't remember the Disney dialog, which is probably just as well. But they are good stories. I am never going to forget the tar baby, or "born and bred in the brier patch."

These are genuine mishmoshes, combining elements from different cultures and class traditions; and they are utterly, unquestionably American.

So maybe we need more fantasies about Paul Bunyan and Brer Rabbit. I heard someone read a Paul Bunyan story that was a gay romance. Was it Michael Blumlein at Wiscon a few years back? It was a good story.

Brer R. is not from around here. Maybe he came up to Chicago and then to Minneapolis to get his life together and escape the crime in Chicago. Maybe he could meet Nanabush along Franklin Avenue. I suppose I should read Joel Chandler Harris and Basil Johnson on Ojibwe mythology.

Patrick says he has been thinking about the question of "why write about Irish fairies?" He says, "They make money."


Blogger Tallgeese said...

Nice working though the mishmosh concept with some of our icons like Paul Bunyan!

I've never seen one of these diasporic Irish faeries do anything to support the Irish struggle (but maybe they're out there), so these stories have always left me cold too.

8:19 PM  

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