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ERIC Number: ED308037
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1989-Mar
Pages: 19
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
The Tale of Red Emmy: An Irish Witch in Appalachia.
Wagaman, Gena D.
The Appalachian "Tale of Red Emmy" presented in the novel "Oral History" by Lee Smith (1983), reveals both an Irish origin and an American transformation. Granny Younger, one of Smith's narrators, tells of a curse visited on four generations of the Cantrell family after Almarine Cantrell chanced upon the witch Red Emmy in the wilds of the Appalachian Mountains, lay with her, and rejected her because she was a witch. Irish or Celtic motifs found in the tale include the journey to an Otherworld; a bird as guide on the journey; fairy-like characteristics of Red Emmy; a body of water with a girl bathing; a color scheme of red, white, and black in the witch's (fairy's) description; Red Emmy's disappearance when Almarine looks away; Almarine's bewitched lovesickness; the witch overpowered by the sign of the cross; the curse of a scorned witch (fairy); connections between the witch and lower animals; and Almarine's resemblance to the Irish folk hero Finn Machumail. American influences are seen in the tale's setting, Granny's statement that this a "true" story, and Red Emmy's intimacy with the Devil. Although written by a modern Appalachian novelist trying to capture the essence of Appalachian people 80 years ago, this tale blends ancient Irish traditions with distinctly American traits. Of Scotch-Irish ancestry, Lee Smith herself was unaware of the Irishness of this tale. This paper includes Smith's responses to a questionnaire on her cultural background and education. (SV)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A