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Four-Foot Cucumbers, Juvenile Delinquents & Frogs From the Sky!: Snippets of Life in Victorian Canada. By Crystal Fulton and Glen C. Phillips. (London, Ontario: Cheshire Cat Press, 1997, 152 p., ISBN 0-921818-18-1).Features and Fillers: Texas Journalists on Texas Folklore. Edited by Jim Harris and Assistant Edited by Carolyn Satterwhite. Texas Folklore Society Publication 56. (Denton: U Texas P, 1999, viii & 233p., ISBN 1-57441-074-1).[Notice]

  • Philip Hiscock

…plus d’informations

  • Philip Hiscock
    Memorial University
    St. John’s, Newfoundland

As every folklorist knows, folklore turns up in newspapers with some frequency. To twist a current proverb’s meaning, what goes around comes around — what is in the wind, gets in the press. This fact is no doubt alarming to those who see folklore problematically, as popular misconception in need of correction, and as a barrier to hard news, true news. I imagine some newspaper journalists see their God-given brief to write the truth and avoid folklore. Others don’t. And besides, not all folklore falls easily into one of fact or fancy. Several recently published books draw folkloric texts from journalistic sources. One, from Canadian newspapers, was published in 1997: Crystal Fulton and Glen C. Phillips’s Four-Foot Cucumbers, Juvenile Delinquents & Frogs From the Sky!: Snippets of Life in Victorian Canada contains about 140 pages of excerpts (about 600 items) from nineteenth century newspapers published in ten provinces and the Yukon. Each item is a paragraph, perhaps only a few words, with a full reference enabling the reader to track down the original. They are the by-product of the editors’ historical research. Commercial scams, contemporary legends, tall tales, traditional pranks, customs..., many genres of folklore are represented. It includes local oddities of the sort sometimes called faits divers: “The other day a curiosity was exhibited at Wingham in the shape of a large wasp’s nest. The nest was found by James McConnell of Hullett Township and measures 5 feet in circumference...” (30; Aylmer Express 19 Dec. 1890 ? I had this nest’s brother in my backyard last summer). Some are not so odd: “Two dogs of this town have formed themselves into a society for the destruction of grouse, prairie chickens, and other birds now hatching. They should be tied up” (31; Vernon News 18 June 1893). Indeed. I hope they were. There is a barrel of caviar from one sturgeon (28); a dog with a tin pan tied to his tail by naughty boys (110); and a complaint about other boys for their swearing and spitting at a post office (111). Among the tall tales are some reminiscent of mosquito stories found in Michael Taft’s Tall Tales of British Columbia (Sound Heritage 39, 1983) and Herbert Halpert’s “Mosquitoes on the Runway” (Western Folklore 49 [1990]: 145-161). This one is from the Missisquoi News, 5 June 1885: Another mosquito story is on p. 34. The “bosom serpent” legend (bugs in water) appears (49), as do a hot weather tall tale (45-46), a duck hunting one (46), a bird and a fish on one hook (73), a corpse preserved in liquor and the liquor is drunk (93-94) — “drinking the admiral” it’s known as elsewhere —, bees attacking a florid hat thus stinging the wearer (28), and a rainstorm of frogs (42). My list of obvious folkloric texts runs to just over thirty items but there are a couple of dozen other relevant items. Cucumbers is a good source of folklore in newspapers; it would probably make a good supplementary textbook for a course inclined towards the interactions of folklore and popular media. It also makes good reading. The other book at hand has more attention to folklore as a discipline and less merely random collection. It is Features and Fillers: Texas Journalists on Texas Folklore, produced by Jim Harris and Carolyn Satterwhite for the Texas Folklore Society. Somewhat larger than Cucumbers (about 230 pages), it has far fewer items (36), each item ranging from a couple to about a dozen pages. In fact, what Features features is a series of excellent articles about living folklore …