The Narrative Tradition of Kentucky’s Mysterious Beasts

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Key words
crytpids, legends, memorates, Kentucky
Jeanmarie Rouhier-Willoughby
About the Author
E-mail: Tel.: +1 (859) 257-1756
410, Lexington, KY 40506–0032, USA
PhD, Professor, University of Kentucky
Date of publication

This article studies legends and memorates about Kentucky cryptids and their socio-cultural roles in local and state identity. Kentucky cryptids are classified as one of three types: 1) natural creatures of unusual size or in an unusual habitat; 2) natural creatures as yet undocumented in biological classification systems; 3) creatures of supernatural or otherworldly origins. Built into the conception of Kentucky as a state are its frontier past and the beauty (and possible danger) of its wilderness. The stories about natural cryptids reinforce these core features of Kentucky identity. They emphasize pride in the state and in Kentucky heritage. Narratives about natural and supernatural cryptids also reveal contemporary concerns about environmental issues (pollution from coal mines and factories), United States and Kentucky history (racial policies), government and corporations (abuse of public trust, disrespect for the folk, and environmental degradation), and technology (railroads, dams).


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For citation

Rouhier-Willoughby J. The Narrative Tradition of Kentucky’s Mysterious Beasts. Traditional Culture. 2021. Vol. 22. No. 2. Pp. 56–67. In English.