The Adventures of Molly Whuppie and Other Appalachian Folktales

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Combining traditional Appalachian folktale plots with a contemporary sensibility, writer and storyteller Anne Shelby creates fourteen lively, original stories of a funny, magical, yet familiar world.

Many of the stories feature a girl named Molly Whuppie, who is clever, brave, and strong. Encountering witches, giants, an ogre who refuses to do housework, unwanted boyfriends, and all manner of conundrums, Molly manages to outwit them all with a potent combination of nerve, ...

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The Adventures of Molly Whuppie and Other Appalachian Folktales

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Combining traditional Appalachian folktale plots with a contemporary sensibility, writer and storyteller Anne Shelby creates fourteen lively, original stories of a funny, magical, yet familiar world.

Many of the stories feature a girl named Molly Whuppie, who is clever, brave, and strong. Encountering witches, giants, an ogre who refuses to do housework, unwanted boyfriends, and all manner of conundrums, Molly manages to outwit them all with a potent combination of nerve, trickery, and plain luck. Also appearing in the stories are Molly's sisters Polly and Betts, the famous Appalachian hero Jack (Molly saves him a few times), and three cornbread-baking mice.

These delightful and often surprising stories are sure to appeal to readers and listeners of all ages who enjoy an adventurous tale well told.

Anne Shelby's story collection won the 2010 Delaware Diamonds Award for grades 3-5. The winners are selected by students who must read 4 of the 10 nominated books.

The American Folklore Society’s Aesop Accolade for Children’s Books, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Fall in love with childhood again! . . . Good advice from the 14 stories . . . can be used by all."

"Storytellers . . . will relish these energetic stories, which skillfully juxtapose old-fashioned flavor and modern sensibilities."
The Horn Book Guide

"Storyteller Shelby uses warmth, folksy humor and unexpected turns of phrase to bring this plucky heroine to life, and McArdle's childlike, black-and-white illustrations provide an additional comic touch. A nice choice for intermediate and reluctant readers."
Kirkus Reviews

"Young readers and listeners will make these stories their own and enjoy retelling them for a long time to come."
School Library Journal

"Anne Shelby has done Molly proud. . . . We need more women like Molly and more writers like Shelby, who is not only a good storyteller but also a good scholar. Her narrative voice helps us 'know' Molly, and her scholarship helps us value the folktale tradition and its living legacy."
—Now and Then

Now & Then
These 14 tales are valuable in and of themselves, but Shelby's concluding essay and bibliography make this volume particularly suitable for the classroom. It can be used as a casebook on the evolution of folk motifs, especially if combined with resources such as the "Mutsmag" pages on the AppLit website, hosted by Ferrum College:
If you were to meet Molly Whuppie in the check-out line at the Wal-Mart, you might not immediately know her, but should a nasty giant appear in aisle seven, Molly would abandon her buggy on the spot and dispatch him with aplomb. And then you would say, "I recognize that woman. I see in her all the strong Appalachian women I have ever known." We need more women like Molly and more writers like Shelby, who is not only a good storyteller but also a good scholar. Her narrative voice helps us "know" Molly, and her scholarship helps us value the folktale tradition and its living legacy.
—Roberta Herrin
American Folklore Society
Storyteller Anne Shelby's updated Appalachian sensibility brings a charming twist to a collection of stories based on traditional tale types. The dynamic storytelling voice has the ring of folk wisdom, with a flair for the fun in the familiar. Heroine Molly Whuppie encounters witches, giants, an ogre who refuses to do housework, unwanted boyfriends, and a spectrum of puzzling predicaments. This clever and courageous girl manages to circumvent catastropphe with a potent combination of nerve, trickery, and plain old luck. Other characters include Molly's sisters Poll and Betts, the famous Appalachian hero Jack (rescued more than once by Molly herself), and three cornbread-baking mice. In looking for stories with a strong woman or girl character, Shelby brings together the British Molly Whuppie with the Appalachian Munciemeg or Mutsmag. She also borrows some stories more commonly associated with Jack or the less well-know Appalachain male Merrywise. Whimsical illustrations complement the witty delivery and enliven the text.

Shelby is frank about the liberties she has taken in bringing a modern sensibility to her adaptations, but she carefully notes her sources and acknowledges the changes she has made. While she sometimes transforms male characters to female, she also brings existing women characters to the forefront, as in her version of "Raglif Jaglif Tartliff Pole," in which the often anonymous giant's daughtter who saves Jack's life is transformed into an Appalachian Molly. She notes her driving creiteria: "I had to ahve some evidence of the story's having been told in the Appalachian region, and I had to like it." The Aesop committee especially commends "the carewith which she preserves unique cultural expressions that give her stories such a strong flavor of Appalachian language" -- a language she herself grew up with in eastern Kentucky in the 1950s. This collection is sure to appeal to readers, young and old alike.
Storytelling Magazine
Adopting the British folktale heroine's name, but drawing largely on plots and motifs of Leonard Roberts' Kentucky tale collections and writing in the rhythms of her own native eastern Kentucky, Shelby creates a series of delightful "Molly" tales -- the female equivalent of Jack tales. Violence is toned down, humor is vigorous and language is vivid. What a gift to storytellers!
Childrens Bookwatch
The Adventures of Molly Whuppie and Other Appalachian Folktales is a collection of brief yet enjoyable tales blending the spirit of traditional Appalachian folklore with modern-day awareness. Featuring an extroverted young girl named Molly Whuppie, the stories include encounters with witches, giants, an ogre who refuses to do housework, cornbread-baking mice, unwanted boyfriends, Molly's sisters, and even the Appalachian hero Jack. A handful of simple black-and-white illustrations enhance this rip-roaring fun storybook with a brave and clever heroine. Especially recommended for young girls.
The Horn Book Guide
4-6 Illustrated by Paula McArdle. Shelby transplants folktales featuring self-assured, active heroines to Appalachian Kentucky, providing a vivid setting (farmland as "steep as a mule's face") and recasting Molly as the plucky, quick-thinking "smidgen" of a heroine. Storytellers who overlook the book's cramped layout will relish these energetic stories, which skillfully juxtapose old-fashioned flavor and modern sensibilities. Whimsical illustrations introduce each chapter. Source notes. Bib. MLB
Tennessee Library Association
Shelby does a proper job of documenting her stories and gives credit to folklorist Leonard Roberts and Gerald Alvey's folklore class at the University of Kentucky. A short bibliography is also included for those who wish to dig deeper. Artist Paula NcArdle's whimsical black-and-white illustrations accompany each folktale. The very nature of the art work is such that students could be encouraged to draw their own versions and extend the experience through their own individual interpretations.

Librarians of elementary to middle grades would find this a useful source for quick, attention-keeping stories that are sure to extract a giggle. Molly Whuppie is a positive female protagonist who always gets the job done. Not only will girls be inspired and have fun at the same reading, but anyone who has ever faced challenging odds, wished for a little magic or pondered the complexities of human nature. Highly recommended.

--(Mary Vaughan Carpenter, Library Director, University of Tennessee at Martin
Kirkus Reviews
Brave and brainy, trusty and true, Molly Whuppie is not about to let anyone stop her-not even a giant who is ready for a meal. Young Molly has a knack for tricking giants, and her home of Hoot Owl Holler is also filled with ogres, wise people, fools, mysterious rocks, magic fiddles and intelligent farm animals, so naturally, there are lots of adventures to be had, and Molly is ready for them all (with some help and hindrance from her beloved family). Based on traditional Appalachian and British fairy tales, this collection features retellings with the indomitable Molly, a mix of Pippi Longstocking and Jack the Giant Killer, as the main character, as well as Appalachian versions of other stories that readers will find familiar. Storyteller Shelby uses warmth, folksy humor and unexpected turns of phrase to bring this plucky heroine to life, and McArdle's childlike, black-and-white illustrations provide an additional comic touch. A nice choice for intermediate and reluctant readers. Includes a note on the origins of the tales. (Folktales. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807831632
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 10/8/2007
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 1,004,933
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne Shelby is a storyteller, poet, and award-winning author of children's books. She lives in southeastern Kentucky.
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Read an Excerpt

Molly the Giant Slayer
By Anne Shelby
©2007 Anne Shelby

At the time this next adventure took place, the Whuppies were all living up at the head of Hoot Owl Holler.
And they were well satisfied up there. They liked seeing the sun of a morning, popping up big and sudden behind the east hill. They liked watching it of an evening, too, putting on a big show of pink and orange, slipping down behind the west ridge.
They liked the smells of sassafras and honeysuckle, the sound of creek water dancing over rocks, and the songs the wind played in the treetops on the mountain. They liked having their friends and their kinfolks close around them.
But they had their troubles, too, like anybody else. They were not rich people, the Whuppies were not. To tell you the truth, they didn't have much of anything at all, but just one another and some very nice scenery.
Not that they were afraid of work. They were not. Many a day they worked daylight to dark, just as hard as they could go. Hoeing, hewing and hauling, planting, plowing, picking and pickling, grubbing newgrounds, cutting timber, drawing water, and digging coal. But their little old farm was steep as a mule's face, and no matter how hard they worked, they could not make a go.
So the Whuppie family decided that, bad as they hated to, they'd have to leave the Hoot Owl Holler and see if they couldn't do better somewhere else. They loaded their few belongings on the wagon, put on their hats, put out the fire, whistled for the dog, and lit out.
Well, they traveled all that day and on into the evening till it got too dark to see. So they decided they'd pull over for the night, sleep in the wagon, andget a good early start the next morning.
Then they got to thinking, maybe somebody ought to stay up all night and keep a lookout. They didn't know that country, didn't know what might be around in there. Might be bears. Might be robbers. Might be giants. They didn't know. Somebody had to sit up. But who?
"Not me," volunteered Poppy Whuppie. "I'm wore out from driving this mule and wagon."
"My nerves is shot," Mommy Whuppie declared, and she swore she could not set up all night if they paid her a million dollars.
Betts said if she didn't get her sleep, she'd drag around and feel bad the whole next day.
"Don't look at me!" said Poll. "I'd be scared to death."
But Molly Whuppie did not know the meaning of afraid. "Shoot, I'll do it," she said. "I ain't a bit sleepy." So they all went to bed and left Molly sitting up.
Molly picked up a little handful of little flat rocks and put them in her pocket. Then she climbed to the top of a tall pine tree, where she could keep a good lookout. Stayed up there all night, Molly Whuppie did, and didn't hear a thing but toad frogs, crickets, whippoorwills, and one old screech owl.
Along about daylight, Molly got so sleepy it was all she could do to keep from falling out of her tree. And then all of a sudden she heard the biggest racket ever was. Looked over there and what did she see? Two giants building a cook-fire. They'd been out all night stealing hogs, which they were now about to cook for breakfast.
Oh, they were mean-looking, both of them, and big, even for giants. For their spoons they used shovels, and pitchforks for their forks.
Well, this one giant, he got him a big hunk of hog meat on his fork and was just about to put it in his mouth when Molly Whuppie cut loose with a rock. That rock hit that meat, knocked it clean off the giant's fork, and sent it a-flying. Which caused the giant to job his own chin with a pitchfork and holler he was killed. "I'm kilt!" he hollered.
So the very next thing he did was start looking around for somebody to blame it on. He looked up and saw his brother over there, so he blamed it on him. "What did you go and do that for?" he asked him. "I'll come over there and smack the fire out of you!"
Well, his brother took offense at that, on the grounds that he did not like being accused of jobbing people in the chin with pitchforks when he had not done a thing in this world but just sit there and try to eat meat. "I never tipped you," he said, "and you better not say I did! I'll whup your hind end all over this hillside!"
That's one thing about a giant. They cannot settle any kind of a dispute in a reasonable manner. Any little disagreement comes up, they get in a splutterment over it. Splutterment escalates to upscuddle and next thing you know the fur's a-flying.
They quarreled and fussed around a while, and then the second giant went to take him a bite of hog meat. He raised that big fork up to his mouth, and about that time Molly cut loose with another rock. Clipped the meat clean off that giant's fork and caused him to job his chin and holler out he was kilt, too. "I'm kilt!" he hollered.
Then he looked his brother in the eye and said, "You've caused me to gouge a hole in my pretty chin, and I aim to skin you alive!"
Well, that made the other one so mad he hauled off and hit that one over the head with the flat of a shovel and raised a big pump knot on his head. They lit in to fighting. And they fought and they fit and they fought and they fit and they fought and they fit some more. Knocking down big trees, rocks a-rolling downhill, giant hair and giant teeth a-flying ever which way.
Well, that tickled Molly Whuppie so good, she laughed right out loud. She started laughing, got her tickle box turned over, and could not quit. The longer she laughed, the louder she laughed, and the louder she laughed, the longer she laughed, till finally the giants heard her.
"Lay off hittin' and listen a minute," one giant said to the other. "I believe I hear somebody laughin'." That's one more thing about a giant. They cannot stand to be laughed at. That makes them madder than anything. So they quit fighting and went to investigate. And they found a girl up a tree.
"Are you laughing at us?" they asked her.
"I reckon I am," Molly said, laughing so hard the tears streamed down her face.
"Are you the one caused us to lose our meat and job our chins with forks and fight?"
"I reckon I am," Molly said, laughing so hard her sides hurt.
"Well, we aim to kill you," said the giants. Molly quit laughing.
That's another thing about a giant. First little thing that goes wrong, they're talking about killing somebody.
"Now let's stop and think a minute," Molly said. "You could go ahead and kill me right now . . . " So they started to kill her.
"Or," she added, quick as she could, "maybe I could help you boys some way or another. You're so big, there must be some things that's unhandy for you to do."
The giants thought about that. They were not much used to thinking, and not much good at it.
Finally they said, yes, there was one thing. The queen lived close by, and they'd had it in mind for a while, they said, to get in there and kill the Queen and take over the kingdom. Run things the way they wanted them run. But they never could figure out just how to do it. So they wanted Molly Whuppie to sneak in the castle, kill the Queen, let them in the door, and they'd take it from there.
So that was their plan. Molly didn't think much of it, but it was either that or get killed, so Molly told them she'd go along with it, and they all three went on over to the castle and Molly climbed the wall and got in. She'd used up all her rocks, so she started looking around for something to help her, and she spied a big iron sword a-hanging on the wall. She tried to lift it but it was way too heavy.
Then she saw a cup a-hanging on the wall, too, with a sign that said DRINK THIS FIRST. Molly drank from the cup, and then when she went to lift the sword again, it was light as a cornstalk, and she could work it around easy.
Molly went to the door where the giants were waiting outside, hollering "Let us in! What's the hold-up? We want in right now!" and all such as that. No patience.
"All right, I'll open the door for you," Molly hollered out to them. "One of you stick your head through and I'll help you the rest of the way in."
The first giant stuck his big old head in the door, and that was as far as he could get. He got stuck and couldn't go this way and couldn't go that. Molly raised the sword up, brought it down, and whacked that giant's head off for him.
The second giant couldn't see what was going on, and he started hollering, "I want in, too! That ain't fair! Let me in right now!" and all such as that. Typical giant-- just "me me me."
"All right, you can come in," Molly told him. "But you'll have to push on your brother. He's stuck."
The giant pushed on his brother's hind end till he got him all the way in. Then he stuck his big head in the door, and Molly whacked it off, too.
Then Molly went in there where the Queen was in the bed asleep and woke her up, as gentle as she could. "I'm sorry to bother you this morning, Queen," she said. "But I've got two dead giants out here, and I just wondered what you wanted me to do with them."
"Molly Sally Whuppie," said the Queen. "Do you mean to stand there and tell me that you have killed two big giants already this morning, and me laying here in the bed not knowing a thing about it?"
"Yes, ma'am," Molly said.
"Well, bless your heart," said the Queen. "I've been trying to get rid of them giants for years and years and couldn't. They've stole ever hog in the kingdom. I've had big armies of men in here, and they couldn't do a thing about it. And here you've got rid of the giants right by yourself."
Then the Queen asked Molly if she would come and work for her and be in charge of Giant Control and other Giant-Related Matters. She said Molly could live right there in the castle, draw a big salary, and have anything in the world that she wanted to eat.
Well, that sounded all right, Molly said, but what about her mommy and her daddy and her sisters Poll and Betts, asleep down in the wagon? Could they come and live, too?
"They shore can," said the Queen. "Go get 'em right now and bring 'em up here."
So Molly went and waked them up and told them all what had happened. After discussing the situation and listing the pros and cons, the Whuppies pulled the wagon up to the front door of the castle.
They lived there with the Queen a long time, the Whuppies did. Molly got the giants under control, and once again the people of the kingdom could keep hogs.
The Queen was quite fond of the Whuppies, and treated them the best ever was. They had big piles of money, foreign foods and fancy clothes, gold this and silver that. They had big parties and entertainments going on all the time at the castle, high and mighty folks dropping in day and night, and everything done real proper and just so.
The Whuppies stood it as long as they could. Then one morning before daylight they left the Queen a note, slipped out the back to their little old wagon and headed back home to Hoot Owl.
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Table of Contents

The Stories

The Adventures of Molly Whuppie

Molly the Giant Slayer

Tater Toe

Molly and Blunderbore

Molly Fiddler

Runaway Cornbread

Molly and the Ogre Who Would Not Pick Up

Pig Tale

Molly and the Unwanted Boyfriends

Grind Mill Grind

Jack and the Christmas Beans

Molly and Jack

Molly, Jack, and the Sillies

Just Past Dreaming Rock

About the Stories


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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2012


    I read these tall tales all the time in school.

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