The bittersweet and often hilarious tales -- which range from longer narratives about God, the Devil, white folk, and mistaken identity to witty one-liners -- reveal attitudes about faith, love, family, slavery, race, and community. Together, this collection of nearly 500 folktales weaves a vibrant tapestry that celebrates African American life in the rural South and represents a major part of Zora Neale Hurston's literary legacy.
About the Author
Zora Neale Hurston was a novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist. An author of four novels (Jonah’s Gourd Vine, 1934; Their Eyes Were Watching God, 1937; Moses, Man of the Mountain, 1939; and Seraph on the Suwanee, 1948); two books of folklore (Mules and Men, 1935, and Tell My Horse, 1938); an autobiography (Dust Tracks on a Road, 1942); and over fifty short stories, essays, and plays. She attended Howard University, Barnard College and Columbia University, and was a graduate of Barnard College in 1927. She was born on January 7, 1891, in Notasulga, Alabama, and grew up in Eatonville, Florida. She died in Fort Pierce, in 1960. In 1973, Alice Walker had a headstone placed at her gravesite with this epitaph: “Zora Neale Hurston: A Genius of the South.”
Date of Birth:January 7, 1891
Date of Death:January 28, 1960
Place of Birth:Eatonville, Florida
Place of Death:Fort Pierce, Florida
Education:B.A., Barnard College, 1928 (the school's first black graduate). Went on to study anthropology at Columbia University.
Read an Excerpt
Why God Made Adam Last
God wuz through makin' de Ian' an' de sea an' de birds an' de animals an' de fishes an' de trees befo' He made man. He wuz intendin' tuh make 'im all along, but He put it off tuh de last cause if He had uh made Adam fust an' let him see Him makin' all dese other things, when Eve wuz made Adam would of stood round braggin' tuh her. He would of said: "Eve, do you see dat ole stripe-ed tagger (tiger) over dere? Ah made. See dat ole narrow geraffe (giraffe) over dere? Ah made 'im too. See dat big ole tree over dere? Ah made dat jus' so you could set under it."
God knowed all dat, so He jus' waited till everything wuz finished before he made man, cause He knows man will lie and brag on hisself tuh uh woman. Man ain't found out yet how things wuz made -- he ain't meant tuh know.
When God first put folks on earth there wasn't no difference between men and women. They was all alike. They did de same work and everything. De man got tired uh fussin 'bout who gointer do this and who gointer do that.
So he went up tuh God and ast him tuh give him power over de woman so dat he could rule her and stop all dat arguin'.
He ast Him tuh give him a lil mo' strength and he'd do de heavy work and let de woman jus' take orders from him whut to do. He tole Him he wouldn't mind doing de heavy [work] if he could jus' boss de job. So de Lawd done all he ast Him and he went on back home -- and right off he started tuh bossin' de womanuh-round.
So de woman didn't lak dat a-tall. So she went up tuh God and ast Him how come He give man all de power and didn't leave her none. So He tole her, "You never ast Me for none. I thought you was satisfied."
She says, "Well, I ain't, wid de man bossin' me round lak he took tuh doin' since you give him all de power. I wants half uh his power. Take it away and give it tuh me."
De Lawd shook His head. He tole her, "I never takes nothin' back after I done give it out. It's too bad since you don't like it, but you shoulda come up wid him, then I woulda 'vided it half and half."
De woman was so mad she left dere spittin' lak a cat. She went straight tuh de devil. He tole her: "I'll tell you whut to do. You go right back up tuh God and ast Him tuh give you dat bunch uh keys hangin' by de mantle shelf, den bring 'em here tuh me and I'll tell you whut to do wid 'em, and you kin have mo' power than man."
So she did and God give 'em tuh her thout uh word and she took 'em back tuh de devil. They was three keys on dat ring. So de devil tole her whut they was. One was de key to de bedroom and one was de key to de cradle and de other was de kitchen key. He tole her not tuh go home and start no fuss, jus' take de keys and lock up everything an' wait till de man come in -- and she could have her way. So she did. De man tried tuh ack stubborn at first. But he couldn't git no peace in de bed and nothin' tuh eat, an' he couldn't make no generations tuh follow him unless he use his power tuh suit de woman. It wasn't doin' him no good tuh have de power cause she wouldn't let 'im use it lak he wanted tuh. So he tried tuh dicker wid her. He said he'd give her half de power if she would let him keep de keys half de time.
De devil popped right up and tole her naw, jus' keep whut she got and let him keep whut he got. So de man went back up tuh God, but He tole him Jus' lak he done de woman.
So he ast God jus' tuh give him part de key tuh de cradle so's he could know and be sure who was de father of chillun, but God shook His head and tole him: "You have tuh ast de woman and take her word. She got de keys and I never take back whut I give out."
So de man come on back and done lak de woman tole him for de sake of peace in de bed. And thass how come women got de power over mens today.
--Old Man Drummond.
God done pretty good when He made man, but He could have made us a lot more convenient. For instance: we only got eyes in de front uh our heads -- we need some in de back, too, so nuthin' can't slip upon us. Nuther thing: it would be handy, too, ef we had one right on de end uv our dog finger (first finger). Den we could jest point dat eye any which way. Nuther thing: our mouths oughter be on top uv our heads 'stead uh right in front. Then, when I'm late tuh work I kin just throw my breakfast in my hat, an' put my hat on my head, an' eat my breakfast as I go on tuh work. Now, ain't dat reasonable, Miss? Besides, mouths ain't so pretty nohow.
One day Christ wuz going along wid His disciples an' He tole 'em all tuh pick up uh rock an' bring it along. All of 'em got one, but Peter...Every Tongue Got to Confess. Copyright © by Zora Hurston. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Table of Contents
|A Note to the Reader||xxxiii|
|Negro Folk-tales from the Gulf States||1|
|Appendix 3||"Stories Kossula Told Me"||265|
Reading Group Guide
IntroductionStorytelling is an essential element of many cultural traditions -- especially those that have had to carve their identities in an unfriendly setting and struggle to hold their communities together. The African-American storytelling tradition is one of the strongest, yet this astonishing collection of African-American folk tales has lingered in archival obscurity for decades -- until now. In the late 1920s, with the support of Franz Boas of Columbia University, a circle of friends that included members of the Harlem Renaissance, and a wealthy patron named Charlotte Osgood Mason, Zora Neale Hurston set out to collect the folk tales of the rural south. Travelling from Florida to Alabama to Georgia and Louisiana, Hurston spoke with men and women, young and old, domestics and mine workers, housewives and jailbirds, collecting their tales word for word. She wanted to preserve a language that was unique, pure, and lasting. "I have tried to be as exact as possible. Keep to the exact dialect as closely as I could, having the story teller to tell it to me word for word as I write. This after it has been told to me off hand until I know it myself. But the writing down from the lips is to insure the correct dialect and wording so that I shall not let myself creep in unconsciously." (from the Introduction by Carla Kaplan, p. xxvii) The result of Hurston's travels is this unique and extensive volume of nearly five hundred African-American folk tales grouped in categories ranging from God Tales to Devil Tales, from John and Massa Tales to Heaven Tales and School Tales. The stories poignantly capture the colorful, pain-filled, and sometimes magical worldthat surrounded them, revealing attitudes about faith, love, family, slavery, race, and community. Yet the tales are laced with humor from which no one is spared. In one story God is accused of mistaking a white man for a Negro; in another, a watermelon is so large that when it bursts it floods the river and drowns the townsfolk; and in yet another, the devil tries to make a field of cabbage like God has done, but he can't quite get it right and ends up with a field of tobacco. Hurston's determination to capture the authentic language of "the Negro farthest down" (xxvi) is a vital contribution to African-American letters. These folktales were not just Zora Neale Hurston's first love; they paved the way for generations of African-American writers, preserving a language whose poetry thrives to this day. Questions for Discussion
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Good read if you grew up in the gulf region of the country or in parts of florida. Hard to follow if you have not read her books before or if you are not familiar with the local tongue.
Many of these stories really hit home. It reminded me of the many stories told by my grandparents and great grandparents (oh, how I miss them). If you have older relatives from the South, this book makes a GREAT conversation piece and it's a good prelude to telling and hearing their old stories.
I read this book as part of my book club. It was wonderful it brought back memories of my family. I can hear my praternal grandmother in her kitchen in Virginia talking. It reminds me of my maternal grandmother talking to my mother. And all the others southern black people I know. This book should be a staple in every school in America.
this is a wonderful volume of folklore collected by a great american author. hurston studied anthropology at barnard and collected stories extensively in the american south and throughout central america as well. her own fiction was influenced by stories and tales just like these. one of the best discoveries in the book involves the tall tales, where readers can enjoy the old-fashioned equivalent of today's 'your mama's so fat' jokes -- from 'this man was so ugly...' to 'that pumpkin was so big.'
Steps forward, claiming Gym 6.