________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 18. . . . May 9, 2003

cover Acadian Legends, Folktales, and Songs from Prince Edward Island.

Georges Arsenault. Translated by Sally Ross.
Charlottetown, PEI: Acorn Press, 2002.
157 pp., pbk. $18.95.
ISBN 1-894838-02-5.

Subject Headings:
Folk literature, Canadian (French)-Prince Edward Island.
Folk songs, French-Prince Edward Island.
Canadians, French-speaking-Prince Edward Island-Folklore.
Acadians-Prince Edward Island-Folklore.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Meredith MacKeen.

**** /4


Lazarette Gaudet spoke quickly and told his stories in a rhythmical and lively way. He never burdened his narrative with descriptions or psychological details and he knew how to create dialogue - signs of a teller in full command of his art. The structure of the following tale is based on a series of riddles. The word for riddle in Acadian French is devine, hence Lazarette's title. Like the preceding folktale, this one is also well-known and well travelled. Folklorists believe that riddles originated in India.

The Riddles

There was once an old man and an old woman who lived together with their two sons. One was called Tom and the other was a lazybones called Jack. They were living on their landlord's farm. Every year, he'd come to collect his rent. It had to be paid every year. But one year when he came, they didn't have a cent, not a penny. The man said to them, "I'll let it go for another year. If you can't pay, well... " And so off he went.

This anthology, as the title suggests included 8 folktales,13 legends, and 13 songs with lyrics and musical notations, as well as brief introductions to each contribution. Many of the well known older Prince Edward Island Acadians were interviewed in the 1970's and their favourite stories recorded as they remembered them from the first half of the twentieth century while some of the words of the songs reflect more recent events in the communities such as a new factory. Originally published in French as Contes, Legendes et Chanson de l'ile du Prince Edouard, this English translation includes an extensive bibliography, footnotes and 23 photos of the contributors. Many of their surnames are common Acadian ones such as Gaudet, Perry, Gallant, Arsenault and Chaisson.

     While many of the tales originated in France in the 1700's, over the years they have acquired Acadian traditions and reflect the creativity of ordinary people who often had very little formal education. They review local events, and social attitudes of Acadian community life on the Island where humour was highly revered. In the recounting of the tales, the translator uses simple straightforward English which is grammatically correct. This is the only collection of Prince Edward Island Acadian tales translated into English and provides insight into Acadian life of a bygone era. The folktales can be successfully told to children while scholars will find the background information and the whole collection useful in understanding an aspect of P.E. Island culture.

Highly Recommended.

Meredith MacKeen is a teacher-librarian at Glen Stewart School in Stratford, PEI.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364