RIVER - RIVERS
RIVER - RIVERS
SOS: SEARCHING OUT STORIES AND INFORMATION - RESPONSIBILITY
Advice, Comments and References from Storytellers, Teachers and Librarians
(excerpts from Storytell posts plus original research)
Book titles and online links are in blue and underlined. Click on them to get more information.
Story and song titles are in italics.
To retell any stories, get permission from the copyright holder if the materials is not in the public domain.
In performance, always credit your sources.
Posts are added chronologically as they are received by Story Lovers World.
1) "Love and the Old Boatman" by Malba Tehan.
2) "Sadko" from Old Peter's Russian Tales. A poor musician falls in love with the river Volkhov.
3) "Legend of the Wisconsin River--Winnebago" in Gard and Sorden's Wisconsin Lore could be dressed up or fleshed out.
4) A great story about the Zambezi River. The river god, Nyamiyami, is two snakes, one male and one female. When the bridge was built across the Zambezi at Victoria Falls, the two snakes were separated. But the male snake still longs for his mate. Every now and then, he lunges out towards her - and that's why there are earthquakes.
5) How about Paul Bunyan? Isn't there a story about how he hitched Babe the Blue Ox to the Mississippi River and straightened it out?
6) An Ojibway legend fron Eastern Canada - "How the Fly Saved the River."
7) "Coyote Releases the Water." A Kalapuya tale told by Esther StutzmanThe tale of the Willametter River that runs through so much of Oregon, USA. Pronounced Cal-a-poo-ya. Found in Connie Hopkins Battaile's reference book, The Oregon Book: Information A to Z.
"Indians who lived in the Willamette Valley upstream from Willamette Falls at the time of white contact. Since the falls blocked most salmon runs, their diet depended more on roots, especially camas and wapato, seeds, nuts, berries, and game. The Kalapuyas burned the valley floor and foothills annually, which gave the valley the park-like appearance that the first settler commented on. Of an estimated population of 10,000 Kalapuya at the time of contact, fewer than 10% survived the diseases introduced by whites, especially the malaria epidemic of the 1830's. One survivor said that their ancestors had come from the sea and had killed the people then living the area with large stone knives. Later a large stone knife similar to a New Zealand Maori "slavekiller" was found embedded in an old tree."
8) Story: There was a man who had survived the Johnstown flood, and he told everyone he met all about the Johnstown flood, everywhere he went! As he lay dying, he said to the doctor "I can't wait to get to heaven; I'm going to tell everyone there about the Johnstown flood." "Okay," said the doctor. "But remember, Noah's up there!"
Another version is that he drowned in the flood and, once in heaven, retold his story so often that it got quite polished. He asked St Peter if he could perform for a larger audience. St P granted his wish, after all what's heaven for? But warned him just before the curtains opened, "Thought I'd let you know: Noah is in the audience."
Runs all day but never walks
Often murmurs, never talks.
It has a bed but never sleeps,
It has a mouth but never eats.
Crooked as a snake,
Slick as a plate
Ten thousand horses
Can't pull it straight.
10) The Jane Yolen story, "The River Maid" in the collection The Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales (Oxford Books of Prose).
11) Stories with rivers IN them could include La Llorona / The Weeping Woman and the Chinese story of The Cowherd and the Weaving Maid. The second one only because of the slight river reference: the Milky Way as a river which becomes the Yellow River when it reaches the earth. Whoever was looking for summer stories might check that one out too, as it is celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th moon--August-ish.
12) Found this while leafing through Bennett's The Book of Virtues: a story called "Thunder Falls" as retold by Allan MacFarlan in his Fireside book of North American Indian Folktales. 1974. With permission of Paulette J. Macfarlan. Under the section on Loyalty, it tells of two Native American maidens who sacrifice their own lives to save their hidden people. The maidens pretend to lead the enemy to the hiding place, but instead lead the enemy over the falls.
An interesting "River Postscript" to that story is that it is a Kickapoo story. The Kickapoos started out in the Great Lakes area and kept being pushed southward. Some stayed in the Kansas area and some now live in Oklahoma, but the Texas Kickapoos were just recently recognized by the federal government. Until that time, early 1996, I think, they lived under the international bridge in Eagle Pass, Texas, during the migrant work season when they had to be away from their spiritual home in Nacimiento, Mexico. To the Eagle Pass folk, they seemed to be little more than a scourge upon the scenery, and there was constant bickering and outrage by the citizens of that fair city.
13) The King of the Golden River by John Ruskin. It is a Cinderella-type story with three brothers instead of sisters, and has a strong moral to the story ending. It's in an old (1910) copy of "Stepping Stones to Literature, A Fifth Reader," California State Series.
14) There is a tale from Katharine Briggs' Dictionary of British Folk-Tales (4v.) In the English Language, Four Volumes; entitled "Crooker" that is odd and powerful. (There's a version up at the Stories for the Seasons site -
The gist of the tale is a traveler is on his way to Cromford to help his ailing mother, but on his way he is stopped by three women in green; each warning him of traveling the road at night. And each giving him a boon (St. John's Wort, primroses, and daisies) because he had aided each of them while in animal form. They tell him he'll need the boon against Crooker. As he nears starts across the bridge over the River Darrant he sees an old ash tree. Soon he thinks he hears the river murmur "hungry," and then realizes the tree limbs are reaching for him. He then throws each of the three posies at the tree, and thinks he hears the river gurgle"give." He makes it to the far side in safety and huddles at the small shrine. The villagers are surprised to find he survived. Another version of the story can be found in Robert San Souci's A Terrifying Taste of Short and Shivery.
15) There are quite a few rivers in Britain which have the reputation of claiming one life per year. Some from Jennifer Westwood's Albion: A Guide to Legendary Britain:
"River of Dart, oh River of Dart,
Every year thou claim'st a heart."
(Dart runs across Dartmoor in SW England)
"Tweed said to Till,
'What gars ye rin sae still?'
Till said to Tweed,
'Though ye rin wi' speed,
And I rin slaw,
Yet where ye droun ae man,
I droun twa!' "
(Tweed and Till are rivers in the Scottish borders)
"Stepping stones across the river Ribble had of old an evil reputation. Locally it was said that every seven years a life was required in order to appease the anger of the river spirit. ... people attributed the frequent drownings to Peggy, the evil spirit of Peggy's Well, not far from the river."
(The Ribble was known to the Romans as Belisama, a goddess. Various stories described Peg(gy) as a servant at the nearby hall who was drowned in the river or who broke her neck after being cursed and stayed to haunt the river)
"It was of something more than a personification of the river that a Derbyshire woman spoke in 1904 when she told a folklore collector of a stranger who had been drowned in the Derwent: 'He didna know Darrant. He said it were naught but a brook. But Darrant got 'im. They never saw his head. He threw his arms up, but Darrant wouldna let him go. Aye, it's a sad pity, seven children! But he shouldna ha' made so light of Darrant. He knows now.' " (That's the same Derwent, locally Darrant, as at Cromford) The gist of the tale is a traveler is on his way to Cromford to help his ailing mother, but on his way he is stopped by three women in green; each warning him of traveling the road at night.
I've been to Cromford; it was there that Arkwright invented the Spinning Jenny, one of the machines which started the Industrial Revolution.
Created 2003; last update 2/27/10
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