Halloween Is Approaching Fast!
As you know, we love to feature special content for Halloween, including scary songs, spooky stories, and fabulous photos. This year, we’re continuing our lead-up to the holiday with the classic folktale “Mr. Fox,” told by Connie Regan-Blake. Hear it in the player at the bottom of this post. But first, an exciting announcement!
The Big Podcast Announcement
In addition to giving you Connie’s great story, we’re also using this post to tell you some great news: Folklife Today now has a podcast as well! The first episode of the Folklife Today podcast will launch October 29th, and will feature Haunting Tunes for Halloween. The hosts are John Fenn and me, and the special guests include the distinguished folklorist Jack Santino speaking about the meaning of Halloween, as well as Jeff and Gerret Warner discussing a spooky song collected by their father Frank Warner. We’ll be discussing favorite haunting tunes with current and retired members of the AFC staff, including Nancy Groce, Carl Fleischhauer, Jennifer Cutting, and Nicole Saylor. We’ll post another announcement as soon as the podcast is available.
Connie Regan-Blake Tells “Mr. Fox”
And now for the main event. By way of introduction, storyteller Connie Regan-Blake has been a key figure in the American storytelling revival since the 1970s. She has performed at every one of the National Storytelling Festivals, and is a founding member of what is now the International Storytelling Center. She began her career telling stories in a public library in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and later teamed up with her cousin, Barbara Freeman, to form the storytelling duo, Folktellers, from the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s. They wrote and starred in a two-woman play, Mountain Sweet Talk, the longest running theatrical production in Asheville, North Carolina, with seven seasons and more than 300 performances. Regan-Blake has served as the artistic director of the National Storytelling Festival (1978-1983) and as the chairperson of the board of directors (1981-1984). She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Oracle Awards Program’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Circle of Excellence Award and the Distinguished National Service Award. She has received the B.B. Maurer West Virginia Folklife Scholar Award and two awards from the North Carolina Arts Council.
“Mr. Fox” is classified by folklorists as a version of ATU 955, known generically by the Grimms’ title “The Robber Bridegroom.” It’s closely related to the tale known as “Bluebeard,” which first appeared in a French version in Charles Perrault’s 1697 volume Histoires ou Contes du Temps passé: Les Contes de ma Mère l’Oye. But evidence of English versions like Connie’s, in which the dangerous groom is often known as Mr. Fox, may predate the French and German evidence. The Scottish antiquarian Robert Chambers identified references to the story in both Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (ca. 1598) and book III of Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (ca. 1596). (See page 291 of “The Book of Days” at this link for Chambers’s evidence!)
Whatever the tale’s history, Connie Regan-Blake’s version is her own beautiful telling in clear modern English that’s a pleasure to listen to…even if the story itself is terrifying. The recording is on one of Connie’s published CDs called Chilling Ghost Stories, a reissue of her classic album Spirits Walk, and there are two recordings of her telling this tale (including this one) in AFC’s Connie Regan-Blake Collection. She graciously gave us permission to post it on this blog when she visited us in September.
Hear the story in the player below. (Listeners should be aware that the story features some disturbing images–proceed with caution!)