NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. XX, No. 4, December, 1964
COUNTRY PEOPLE AND YANKEE STORYTELLERS:
NEW HAMPSHIRE LOCAL ANECDOTES
by Ben A. Botkin
The following anecdotes are reprinted from the revised edition
of Ben Botkin’s A Treasury of New England Folklore, published
November 25 by Crown Publishers, Inc. They are part of a
group of over 40 local tales that Mr. Botkin recorded in Alstead,
South Acworth and Walpole, New Hampshire, in February, 1964.
In a new Introduction to his book, Botkin has this to say about
local anecdotes and their tellers:
ONE OF the richest veins of New England folk story and
folksay is the body of local anecdotes kept alive in the oral
tradition of every community. Bring a group of oldtimers
together and ask them for old stories or stories of old times and
an apparently inexhaustible flow of reminiscence and anecdote is
released. One item suggests another and a single name recalls an
entire cycle of stories built around a person who has become
legendary. Typical story openings are: “There was a man by the
name of —— that lived in ——.” “Years ago there was a man in
—— who ——.” “It was back in the days when ——." “When I
was a youngster ——.” “When my grandfather was a young man
——.” “It seems that my father ——.”
Such references to time and place are part of the actual or supposed
historicity of the anecdote, since the local anecdote, unlike
the folktale proper, is a story told as true and to be believed. Its
larger truth, however, is its truth to human nature and, at the
same time, to local color, flavor, folkways, and idiom. But like all
stories, the local anecdote is told primarily because it is a good
story well told. In addition, it takes on a folk quality from the oral and vernacular style and a traditional quality from the fact
that it is told over and over by more than one person and sometimes
the same story is related about more than one person (as it
becomes attached to different individuals possessing the same
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