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Blue Men and River Monsters: Folklore of the North
     

Blue Men and River Monsters: Folklore of the North

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by John Zimm, Michael Edmonds (Foreword by)
 

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The north is a treasure trove of folklore. From magical creatures of the old country to legends of the mysterious and macabre, such lore is a fascinating record of the stories people held on to and the customs, foods, and cures that filled their lives. Collected in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers’ Program, a Depression-era works project, these are

Overview

The north is a treasure trove of folklore. From magical creatures of the old country to legends of the mysterious and macabre, such lore is a fascinating record of the stories people held on to and the customs, foods, and cures that filled their lives. Collected in the 1930s as part of the Federal Writers’ Program, a Depression-era works project, these are the stories of Norwegian and Swiss immigrants, Native American medicine men and storytellers, and pioneers with memories of the earliest days of settlement in the Old Northwest. In search of stories, legends, songs, and other scraps of traditional knowledge, researchers fanned out across Wisconsin and other states. The resulting handwritten notes, thousands of pages in length, capture history as people remembered it. Blue Men and River Monsters collects the most interesting and noteworthy of these tales, placing them alongside stunning artwork collected by the Federal Art Project in Wisconsin. Peruse these pages and discover a new history of the people and places of the old north.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

This book...is a treasure chest for those intrigued by folklore...this volume is an invaluable way to hold onto our communal past so it does not become part of those "days that are forgotten." Konnie LeMay, Editor, Lake Superior Magazine 

 

Eighty years ago, in the middle of the Great Depression, the U.S. government put Wisconsin writers and artists to work with an epic project, the results of which remained rolled up on microfilm in the Library of Congress for decades. Now John Zimm, an editor at the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, has culled through those rolls and compiled what he found into a book. The Works Progress Administration, a relief measure established by Congress in 1935 by order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, gave writers the opportunity to create individual state travel guides “that captured the ‘native and folk backgrounds of rural localities,’” Michael Edmonds, deputy director of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s library archives, writes in the foreword to Blue Men & River Monsters: Folklore of the North, a newly published collection of those tales. “WPA editors encouraged staff to interview farmers, factory workers, immigrants, former slaves, Indians and other Americans typically left out of traditional travel guides.”

Although the short-lived program was criticized for giving work to writers and artists, WPA director Harry Hopkins defended the recipients: “Hell, they’ve got to eat like other people.”And, boy, did those writers earn their meals, penning thousands of pages of notes that provide a record of what Depression-era Wisconsinites held dear. From tales of tribal and homeland customs, foods and cures to unexplained stories of predicted deaths and miraculous healings, editor Zimm read them all to select the best ones for Blue Men & River Monsters.
Divided into three sections — “Myths and Legends,” “Local History” and “Daily Life and Customs” — the book includes previously unpublished narratives about the formation of the Wisconsin River (apparently, we have a giant serpent to thank), the origins of the “Badger State” name (derived from lead miners in Grant County), and the founding of Sun Prairie (oddly enough, it involves the construction of the State Capitol building).
Handsome images, mostly woodblock prints, are given full-page treatment throughout the book and depict scenes from daily life. They, too, were produced under the Federal Art Project, another branch of the WPA. Whether browsing these pages, scanning the index for specific locales or reading each yarn from beginning to end, readers likely will find something of interest. Kudos to John Zimm for saving this slice of Wisconsin social history from obscurity. Michael Popke, Isthmus Magazine
 

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780870206702
Publisher:
Wisconsin Historical Society
Publication date:
02/27/2015
Edition description:
1
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
1,404,731
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)

Meet the Author

John Zimm received a BA in history from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and has worked for the Wisconsin Historical Society Press since 2002. His articles have appeared in the Wisconsin Magazine of History, and he is the editor of This Wicked Rebellion: Wisconsin Civil War Soldiers Write Home and the author of The Wisconsin Historical Society: Collecting, Preserving, and Sharing Stories since 1846.

Michael Edmonds is the Deputy Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Library-Archives. A member of the staff since 1982, he leads the effort to digitize manuscripts and rare books for the Wisconsin Historical Society website. His 2009 book on Paul Bunyan, Out of the Northwoods, won the Wayland D. Hand Prize from the American Folklore Society.

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Blue Men and River Monsters: Folklore of the North 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago