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The Origin of All Folklore Everywhere on the Folklife Today Podcast!

James Fuller Queen’s lithograph “Hypothetical sketch of the monophylitic origin and of the diffusion of the 12 varieties of men from Lemuria over the earth,” ca. 1876. Find more info on the print at this link, or the permanent handle:  //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pga.13541


Episode six of the Folklife Today Podcast is ready for listening! Find it at this page on the Library’s website, or on iTunes, or with your usual podcatcher.

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In this exciting episode, folklorists at the American Folklife Center announce that we have discovered the origin of all folklore everywhere! The artist and lithographer James Fuller Queen (ca. 1820-1886) identified the origin of the human race as the land of Paradise on the sunken continent of Lemuria, quite near where India is today. See his map above for further details. Following his lead, but differing quite markedly on many details, we have pinpointed the origin of all folklore everywhere! The subject is most fully explored in the podcast, which you can find at the link above. Happy listening!


  1. Joe Hickerson
    April 2, 2019 at 7:53 pm

    Great stuff! BTW, the FWP folklore and living history files were in the Archive of Folk Song for a number of years, stacked to the ceiling because of crowded space. As the new kid on the block in the 1960s, I was the one assigned to retrieve files from the top-most cabinets (and I lived to tell the tale!). And its good to see mention of my good friend and colleague, Gerry Parsons, and also the mysterious Otto Wildwood.

    • Stephen Winick
      April 8, 2019 at 11:38 am

      Thanks, Joe. As you know, Dr. Willwood was an influence on many folklorists who worked in Canada in the 20th Century. For example, he enjoined Michael Taft to visit Mr. Figment McGillicutty in Big Stick, Saskatchewan, resulting in Michael’s collecting the second known version of the elusive “Squid and Bigfoot Mummers’ Play.” At Michael’s retirement celebration we performed the play in the Whittall Pavilion. (Michael thought we should do an event called “Willwood in the Whittall” but we never got around to it.) At the next meeting of the American Folklore Society, I gave a paper on the influence of Otto Willwood on Michael’s career in folklore. Since Dr. Willwood was such a serious man, it was amusing to learn from Jennifer that his name had once been associated with an April Fools’ Day gag!

  2. Mike Rivers
    April 6, 2019 at 8:54 am

    Good stuff, as usual. I enjoyed re-hearing the song (that I know as) Pat’s April Fool at the end of the podcast. I learned the song from Barry O’Neil. I never questioned where he learned it because he has so many sources.

    It reminded me of a good Barry story that could have been an April Fool joke but I think it was from during a Summer when he was in Washington, either researching or interning at the Archive of Folk Song – Joe would remember. He recorded a cylinder of himself singing a song, planted it behind a file cabinet in the Library, and then “discovered” it, played it, and then attempted to research the singer before giving away the trick.

    I never heard that recording, but . . . at the end of the podcast, did we hear Barry’s source for the song? Or was that Barry? The voice, the phrasing, and the subject are very Barry.

    • Stephen Winick
      April 8, 2019 at 11:24 am

      Thanks, Mike! The recording we heard at the end of the podcast was a real field recording made by Alan Lomax in Michigan in 1938. The singer was John Green in Beaver Island, Michigan. It’s a disc recording rather than a cylinder. It’s quite likely to have been Barry’s source, although the song has been collected in many other places as well. Because of the song’s subject matter, it’s a great song to use as the subject of an April Fools’ Day joke such as “discovering” a previously unknown cylinder. But it’s a genuine traditional song!

      Another cylinder-related gag which can be used as either an April Fools’ Day joke or a hazing ritual for new interns/employees is the old “breaking the cylinder” trick. You rig up a cylinder box so that its bottom is not attached and you have to hold it on with your finger. You put a blank cylinder inside and hold it together. You tell the mark that you’re holding the archive’s rarest treasure, the only recording in the world of a particular song. You ask if they want to take a closer look, then pass them the cylinder box so that they grasp it only by the sides. As soon as you take your hand away and your finger’s not holding the bottom on, the bottom comes off, and the blank cylinder falls out and breaks to pieces on the floor. The intern thinks they’ve just broken the rarest cylinder in the world! Of course, now that even blank cylinders are unusual and useful for demo purposes, it’s a shame to break them, so no one plays this trick anymore around AFC, but I’ve heard lots of stories about it.

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