Briefly Noted: ‘Uncle Monday and Other Florida Tales’
Uncle Monday and Other Florida Tales, Edited by Kristin G. Congdon, Illustrated by Kitty Kitson Peterson (University Press of Mississippp, 2001), 196pp
“Uncle Monday” is a widely known legend about a central Florida shape shifter and conjure man first collected in print by Zora Neale Hurston in the 1930s as part of her fieldwork throughout the state.
It’s an apt title story for this collection of oral-tradition stories compiled and annotated by Kirstin G. Congdon. I have the hard cover edition which is out of print; the paperback is available via Amazon. Unfortunately, it’s not available on Kindle.
These stories are part of what makes Florida, Florida. This volume makes them accessible, though some can be found throughout the Internet (oddly enough, sometimes copyrighted by those who own the sites) as well as in Florida’s Folklore Programs archives and volumes published by the Federal Writers Project.
Congdon is also the author of Happy Clouds, Happy Trees: The Bob Ross Phenomenon (with Doug Brandy) and Just Above the Water: Florida Folk Art (with Tina Bucuvalas).
From the Publisher
Few states can boast the multitude of cultures that created Florida. Native American, African American, Afro-Caribbean, White, and Hispanic traditions all brought their styles of storytelling to fashion Florida’s legends and lore.
Uncle Monday and Other Florida Tales captures the way the state of Florida has been shaped by its unique environment and inhabitants.
Written for adults, children, and folklorists, this gathering of forty-nine folktales comes from a wide variety of sources with many drawn from the WPA materials in Florida’s Department of State archives. Kitty Kitson Petterson’s detailed pen-and-ink drawings illustrate each narrative. The stories represent a cross-section of the ethnic diversity of the state.
The book is divided into five sections: “How Things Came to Be the Way They Are,” “People with Special Powers,” “Food, Friends and Family,” “Unusual Places, Spaces, and Events,” and “Ghosts and the Supernatural.” Within these sections are stories with titles ranging from “How the Gopher Turtle was Made” to the improbable “The Woman Who Fed Her Husband a Leg Which She Dug Up from a Cemetery.” In these tales Florida is a world full of magic, humor, and adventure. There are tall tales, old magical legends, even quirky, almost straightforward narratives about everyday living, such as one story titled, “My First Job.”
Kristin G. Congdon’s informative introduction discusses the origins of Florida tales and the state’s storytelling tradition. A reflection accompanies each story to guide readers to a deeper understanding of historical context, morals, and issues. Although oriented towards children, Uncle Monday and Other Florida Tales is also accessible to adults, particularly scholars interested in the state’s folklore and oral traditions. Whether in a classroom or home, this guide adds great value to the collection.
The book has three five-star reviews on Amazon, including this one by “grasshopper4”: “Uncle Monday is a shape-shifter who for years has resided in a lake near Orlando. Uncle Monday is also a terrific compilation of folklore from Florida. There are myths, legends, tall tales, fairy tales, family stories, and a plethora of excellent oral narratives that have been and remain told in Florida. The introduction to the book is well-written, and each section provides good background information on various characters and tale types. The book also has wonderful illustrations that capture the feel of various stories, and the book includes excellent ideas for teachers to use when presenting the texts in class. It’s a model study by a fine folklorist.”
The book is a wonder for folklore students, writers researching old legends for use in Florida stories, and anyone enjoying a great story.
Uncle Monday is mentioned in my novel “Eulalie and Washerwoman.” This post originally appeared on “Sun Singer’s Travels”