Sheryl James Featured on “Stateside”

by Phillip Witteveen on May 20, 2013

Sheryl James was a guest on Michigan Radio’s Stateside to discuss her new book Michigan Legends: Folktales and Lore from the Great Lakes State. James, a former journalist, comprehensively researched Michigan’s folk traditions from archives and storytellers to gain a full understanding of the fact and fiction of the state’s mythology. “There’s a huge range of total fantasy, as well as pretty historical kinds of things,” said James. One famous story is of the Nain Rouge, “this little red, impish creature that has been known to appear right before Detroit’s greatest tragedies.” This character has persisted in the city’s cultural memory, even to the present day, with the Marche de Nain Rouge and “all sorts of hats and t-shirts.”

James went on to describe some of the other characters and tales in her new collection, from many diverse traditions including Native American, French, English, and Finnish stories. One addition was that of the legendary Paul Bunyan, whose first retellings emerged from the Michigan of old French Canada. “A great deal of research went into that. It really is pegged on that 1906 article in the Oscoda Press. It is the first time that the name is ever actually in print,” James said. The interested reader will note that James has included this article in her book. In this first printing, “he’s just an ordinary guy. He’s not the big hero he later becomes.”

You can get in on the full conversation here.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: