Of Kings and Fools

Of Kings and Fools: Stories of the French Tradition in North America by Michael Parent and Julien Olivier. Little Rock, AR: August House, 1996. ISBN 0-87483-481-3 paper, $12.95 ISBN 0-87483-480-hardback, $21.95 198 p.

I have always loved the vitality of French Canadian stories. Whether they are telling of love, laughter, trickery, or mysterious happenings, they celebrate emotions in such a way that the listener feels more alive for having heard them. This collection, by Parent and Olivier, captures that vitality of the oral tales and successfully translates it to the written word. The result is a book that is a pleasure to read. Parent and Olivier are Franco-Americans, descendants of French Canadians who moved south to tn U.S. in the late 19th century. Americans outside of the northeastern states might not even be aware of this cultural group which is now over 3 million strong. The French kept to themselves, spoke their language, sang their songs and told their stories to each other, It is now, with the generation that can share the stories in both French and English, that recognition of the richness of the culture is coming to light in the United States.

There is a personal warmth permeating this book, beginning with the introduction in which the authors, in turn, describe the roots of their French heritage, and the role played by storytelling in the families and culture. Each of the seven sections of tales is introduce! by comments on the types of stories included in it, and by reflections which tell us much about the people from whom the stories came. Each story is also preceded by a three or four line introduction.

The tales include retellirigs based on the works of Canadian Marius Barbeau, as well as stories collected from Franco-Americans, and from the authors' own families. There are jokes, stories with a moral, love stories, scoundrels and heroes, family tales, and creatures of the other world. You'll meet Ti-Jean, who, like the familiar Jack, is a sort of Evenrman. There are princesses, giants, lutins, loup garous, and even hockey players. A glossary is included for the French terms which appear in the stories. credit for sources is given in the section of notes. Parent and Olivier lot only list sources, they also discuss variants, cultural contexts, and problems presented by translating certain idioms.

Fun to read, more fun to tell, Of Kings and Fools is highly recommended. Order from August House,

The Second Story Review, Vol 1, No. 3, September 1996
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