Thursday, January 2, 2014

Book Review: Legends, Lore and True Tales of the Chattahoochee by Michelle Smith

I realize I haven't posted much in 2013. Let me rephrase that. I haven't posted ANYTHING in 2013, but I am working on changing that this year.  Recently, I ran across a great book on Georgia legends, myth and folklore. The title was published by The History Press, and it is Legends, Lore and True Tales of the Chattahoochee.  Author Michelle Smith has done a fantastic job relating the plethora of legends associated with the Chattahoochee River that borders Georgia and Alabama.  In her book, she talks about Native American legend, folktales from local peoples, stories from history, and African American folklore stemming from the days of slavery.
Smith was educated at Auburn University, a fact I do not hold against her. (Dawg fan and alum here Michelle; you have to understand.) Her background is in the field of criminal justice. She is also an experienced historical and paranormal researcher who actually is involved with a paranormal research team near her home.  In addition to this title, it is my understanding that she has also assisted with other titles published about Alabama ghost stories.  The History Press has those titles as well.
So what makes the book a worthwhile read in my opinion?  First, it is definitely "right up my alley."  Any work on folklore and legend is worth my time reading it, particularly if it is about Georgia.  Second, it is chock full of legends and folktales I had never heard or seen anywhere.  While there are a few that I have seen here and there, most were new to me.  The story of Hugging Molly, the Wampus Cat, the Tie Snakes that are rumored to live in the Chattahoochee, and the Nunnehi, are all mystifying.  Third, Smith sprinkles bits and pieces of history in her story telling.  As I have always known and stated, good folklore stems from history, mostly local history, but history nonetheless.  Reading about legend and folklore never should leave you wanting for more local history, and Smith's recounting of the many legends and pieces of folklore from the Chattahoochee Valley certainly does not.
There are a few things that could have helped improve upon her work. There are a few places where her historical facts are either the result of typos or a confusion of dates.  For one, she mentions the federal government and their deal with the State of Georgia in 1763. I think that is supposed to be 1793 or possibly 1803.  There was no "federal government" or State of Georgia in 1763, as this was the end of the French and Indian War and a good 13 years away from the Declaration of Independence, an even longer 24 years until the Constitutional Convention that brought us the Constitution of the United States.  However, this is not an error that would derail the value of this work.  Still, I very much recommend selecting this one for your personal library.

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