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Social Science Folklore & Mythology

Clever Maids, Fearless Jacks, and a Cat

Fairy Tales from a Living Oral Tradition

by (author) Anita Best, Pauline Greenhill & Martin Lovelace

illustrated by Graham Blair

Utah State University Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2019
Folklore & Mythology
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2019
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 18
  • Grade: 12


Clever Maids, Fearless Jacks, and a Cat showcases the stories of two Newfoundland storytellers, Philip Pius Power and Alice Lannon. Ethnopoetic transcriptions of these sensitive and artful tales, which have been passed on orally for generations as part of a community tradition, give accounts of living oral performances from the last quarter of the twentieth century and demonstrate the artistry that is possible without the written word.

Here, eight tales from Power and five tales from Lannon take up issues of vital concern—such as spousal abuse, bullying, and social and generational conflict—allusively, through a screen of fiction. In commentary following the stories Anita Best, Martin Lovelace, and Pauline Greenhill discuss the transmission of fairy tales in oral tradition, address the relation of these magic tales to Lannon’s and Power’s other stories, and share specifics about Newfoundland storytelling and the two tellers themselves. The text is further enriched by expressive illustrations from artist Graham Blair.

Clever Maids, Fearless Jacks, and a Cat presents the fairy-tale oeuvres of two superb storytellers as a contribution to interdisciplinary fairy-tale studies and folklore—countering fairy-tale studies’ focus on written traditions and printed texts—as well as to gender studies, cultural studies, Newfoundland studies, and Canadian studies. Students, scholars, and general readers interested in folk and fairy tales, contemporary Märchen, Newfoundland folklore, or oral tradition more generally will find much of value in these pages.

Support for this publication was provided, in part, by the University of Winnipeg.

About the authors

Anita Best is a Newfoundland schoolteacher, performer, and folksinger.

Anita Best's profile page


Pauline Greenhill is a professor at the University of Winnipeg.


Pauline Greenhill's profile page

Martin Lovelace's profile page

Graham Blair's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"These tales show that, the more a teller tells it, the richer a story becomes, smoothed by the shaping of each word, coated in the patina of retelling, created from a lifetime of memory and experience and protected with-in the teller as a pearl within the oyster. And these particular story pearls from tellers past are now given to us."
Fortean Times

"This groundbreaking book not only adds substantially to knowledge of stories and storytelling in Newfoundland and Labrador but also makes an important contribution to the canon of traditional narratives in the English-speaking world."
Tradition Today

“A very valuable contribution to the field of fairy-tale studies.”
Claudia Schwabe, Utah State University
“A fruitful application of comparative folktale scholarship.”
—Carl Lindahl, University of Houston

Other titles by Anita Best

Other titles by Pauline Greenhill