Grimms 91: The Elves

There was once upon a time a rich king who had three daughters, who
daily went to walk in the palace garden, and the king was a great
lover of all kinds of fine trees, but there was one for which he had
such an affection, that if anyone gathered an apple from it he wished
him a hundred fathoms underground. And when harvest time came, the
apples on this tree were all as red as blood. The three daughters
went every day beneath the tree, and looked to see if the wind had
not blown down an apple, but they never by any chance found one, and
the tree was so loaded with them that it was almost breaking, and the
branches hung down to the ground.

Then the king’s youngest child had a great desire for an apple, and
said to her sisters, our father loves us far too much to wish us
underground, it is my belief that he would only do that to people who
were strangers. And while she was speaking, the child plucked off
quite a large apple, and ran to her sisters, saying, just taste, my
dear little sisters, for never in my life have I tasted anything so
delightful. Then the two other sisters also ate some of the apple,
whereupon all three sank deep down into the earth, where they could
hear no cock crow.

When mid-day came, the king wished to call them to come to dinner,
but they were nowhere to be found. He sought them everywhere in the
palace and garden, but could not find them. Then he was much
troubled, and made known to the whole land that whosoever brought his
daughters back again should have one of them to wife. Hereupon so
many young men went about the country in search, that there was no
counting them, for everyone loved the three children because they
were so kind to all, and so fair of face.

Three young huntsmen also went out, and when they had traveled about
for eight days, they arrived at a great castle, in which were
beautiful apartments, and in one room a table was laid on which were
delicate dishes which were still so warm that they were smoking, but
in the whole of the castle no human being was either to be seen or
heard. They waited there for half a day, and the food still remained
warm and smoking, and at length they were so hungry that they sat
down and ate, and agreed with each other that they would stay and
live in that castle, and that one of them, who should be chosen by
casting lots, should remain in the house, and the two others seek the
king’s daughters.

They cast lots, and the lot fell on the eldest, so next day the two
younger went out to seek, and the eldest had to stay home. At
mid-day came a small, small mannikin and begged for a piece of bread,
then the huntsman took the bread which he had found there, and cut a
round off the loaf and was about to give it to him, but while he was
giving it to the mannikin, the latter let it fall, and asked the
huntsman to be so good as to give him that piece again. The huntsman
was about to do so and stooped, on which the mannikin took a stick,
seized him by the hair, and gave him a good beating.

Next day, the second stayed at home, and he fared no better. When the
two others returned in the evening, the eldest said, well, how have
you got on? Oh, very badly, said he, and then they lamented their
misfortune together, but they said nothing about it to the youngest,
for they did not like him at all, and always called him stupid Hans,
because he did not know the ways of the world.

On the third day, the youngest stayed at home, and again the little
mannikin came and begged for a piece of bread. When the youth gave
it to him, the elf let it fall as before, and asked him to be so good
as to give him that piece again. Then said Hans to the little
mannikin, what, can you not pick up that piece yourself? If you will
not take as much trouble as that for your daily bread, you do not
deserve to have it. Then the mannikin grew very angry and said he
was to do it, but the huntsman would not, and took my dear mannikin,
and gave him a thorough beating. Then the mannikin screamed
terribly, and cried, stop, stop, and let me go, and I will tell you
where the king’s daughters are.

When Hans heard that, he left off beating him and the mannikin told
him that he was a gnome, and that there were more than a thousand
like him, and that if he would go with him he would show him where
the king’s daughters were. Then he showed him a deep well, but there
was no water in it. And the elf said that he knew well that the
companions Hans had with him did not intend to deal honorably with
him, therefore if he wished to deliver the king’s children, he must
do it alone.

The two other brothers would also be very glad to recover the king’s
daughters, but they did not want to have any trouble or danger. Hans
was therefore to take a large basket, and he must seat himself in it
with his hunting knife and a bell, and be let down. Below are three
rooms, and in each of them was a princess, who was lousing a dragon
with many heads, which he must cut off. And having said all this,
the elf vanished.

When it was evening the two brothers came and asked how he had got
on, and he said, pretty well so far, and that he had seen no one
except at mid-day when a little mannikin had come and begged for a
piece of bread, that he had given some to him, but that the mannikin
had let it fall and had asked him to pick it up again, but as he did
not choose to do that, the elf had begun to scold, and that he had
lost his temper, and had given the elf a beating, at which he had
told him where the king’s daughters were. Then the two were so angry
at this that they grew green and yellow.

Next morning they went to the well together, and drew lots who should
first seat himself in the basket, and again the lot fell on the
eldest, and he was to seat himself in it, and take the bell with him.
Then he said, if I ring, you must draw me up again immediately. When
he had gone down for a short distance, he rang, and they at once drew
him up again. Then the second seated himself in the basket, but he
did just the same as the first, and then it was the turn of the
youngest, but he let himself be lowered quite to the bottom.

When he had got out of the basket, he took his knife, and went and
stood outside the first door and listened, and heard the dragon
snoring quite loudly. He opened the door slowly, and one of the
princesses was sitting there, and had nine dragon’s heads lying upon
her lap, and was lousing them. Then he took his knife and hewed at
them, and the nine fell off. The princess sprang up, threw her arms
round his neck, embraced and kissed him repeatedly, and took her
stomacher, which was made of pure gold, and hung it round his neck.

Then he went to the second princess, who had a dragon with five heads
to louse, and delivered her also, and to the youngest, who had a
dragon with four heads, he went likewise. And they all rejoiced, and
embraced him and kissed him without stopping. Then he rang very
loud, so that those above heard him, and he placed the princesses one
after the other in the basket, and had them all drawn up, but when it
came to his own turn he remembered the words of the elf, who had told
him that his comrades did not mean well by him. So he took a great
stone which was lying there, and placed it in the basket, and when it
was about half way up, his false brothers above cut the rope, so that
the basket with the stone fell to the ground, and they thought that
he was dead, and ran away with the three princesses, making them
promise to tell their father that it was they who had delivered them.
Then they went to the king, and each demanded a princess in marriage.

In the meantime the youngest huntsman was wandering about the three
chambers in great trouble, fully expecting to have to end his days
there, when he saw, hanging on the wall, a flute, then said he, why
do you hang there. No one can be merry here.

He looked at the dragons, heads likewise and said, you too cannot
help me now. He walked to and fro for such a long time that he made
the surface of the ground quite smooth. But at last other thoughts
came to his mind, and he took the flute from the wall, and played a
few notes on it, and suddenly a number of elves appeared, and with
every note that he sounded one more came. Then he played until the
room was entirely filled.

They all asked what he desired, so he said he wished to get above
ground back to daylight, on which they seized him by every hair that
grew on his head, and thus they flew with him onto the earth again.
When he was above ground, he at once went to the king’s palace, just
as the wedding of one princess was about to be celebrated, and he
went to the room where the king and his three daughters were. When
the princesses saw him they fainted.

Hereupon the king was angry, and ordered him to be put in prison at
once, because he thought he must have done some injury to the
children. When the princesses came to themselves, however, they
entreated the king to set him free again.

The king asked why, and they said that they were not allowed to tell
that, but their father said that they were to tell it to the stove.
And he went out, listened at the door, and heard everything. Then he
caused the two brothers to be hanged on the gallows, and to the third
he gave his youngest daughter, and on that occasion I wore a pair of
glass shoes, and I struck them against a stone, and they said, klink,
and were broken.

*I have carried around this version of the Grimms tale for years. I am unsure of its copyright status or where it falls in the Grimms’ own versions.*

Louisiana Folk Masters on Louisiana Public Broadcasting

*Please note: this was an early draft of the proposal I made to Louisiana Public Broadcasting in the spring of 2006. I would later go on to produce two segments for their weekly news magazine, **Louisiana: The State We’re In**, working closely with Donna LaFleur. The first was on John Colson, a Creole filé maker, and the second was on Lou Trahan, a Cajun Mardi Gras mask maker. The folks at LPB were fantastic throughout the process, and I would gladly do more, time willing.*

### Three Pilot Pieces

“Louisiana Folk Masters” is the title of the CD series published as a cooperative venture between the Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore and Louisiana Crossroads Records. It’s an umbrella framework that I came up with several years ago, one part of which was always open to a television component. Having said that, I am not wedded to “Louisiana Folk Masters” being the title of any or all segments. These folks could ust as easily be called “Living Legends” or, following the Japanese, “Living Treasures,” with Louisiana appended to the title or not.

The only thing that is important is that the focus is on the individual and how they embody, through the things they do and the stories they tell, dimensions of Louisiana’s history and culture that deserve a larger audience and a place in our collective memory.


STORY: Fiddler from Lake Arthur. Real story here is the Conner family, who continue the tradition of getting together and playing music which brought Barry Ancelet to Conner’s door in 1975 – VC himself was continuing a tradition his father participated in. VC retired from the music scene to focus on his family life and supported himself as a logger. The family still owns the property where the mill once stood, only now they use it as a sugar mill – where they make syrup every year.

VISUALS: Family jam session in Lake Arthur. They will, at the drop of a hat, put together a barbecue or gumbo on a weekend night and call together the family to play all the old songs they learned from their elders. David Greely, of the Mamou Playboys, is a big fan of Varise Conner and has become something of an adopted son by the family. If invited, and we work with his schedule, he will turn up. Michael Doucet actually did play with Conner and would make for a great on camera commentator.


STORY: Creole storyteller. She appeared on Swapping Stories telling a Bouki and Lapin story. She wants to teach her niece how to make soap and to teach her about the Creole tradition. In one scene we get a great aunt passing down to a member of her family important lessons about life and how to live it. While the soap is cooking, she tells her niece about growing up in south Louisiana, about going to work while she was still only a young girl, about meeting her husband. She also tells stories about a girl who gives her lover her skeleton so that he can make a ladder of bones to save her, a magic tale with roots in Europe from hundreds of years ago. Her Bouki and Lapin stories have their roots in Africa. She is a living connection back to two continents.

VISUALS: Mrs. Matthews lives in Jennings in a gray-sided bungalow with a large yard and a small dog. She makes soap in a large cast-iron pot atop a wood fire out in the yard. She can recount her stories outside or inside in her rocking chair.


STORY: This one, like the Varise Conner piece, is a little outside the ostensible frame for these pieces, but like the Conner piece it represents an opportunity that should not go unconsidered: Joseph Broussard is the child star of Robert Flaherty’s Louisiana Story. The feature-length 1948 film has, of course, something of a mixed reputation, since it is often considered a documentary, but really was entirely scripted by Flaherty and his crew and funded by Standard Oil. The opportunity here is the chance to interview Broussard about his memories of making the film and how it intersected with his life then and his life now – no one, to my knowledge, has done any oral history or biographical work with the man. Last year Elemore Morgan, Jr. held a series of events about the film, and he would make an excellent commentator.
VISUALS: Joseph Broussard; Elemore Morgan, Jr.; scenes from Louisiana Story itself – it would be nice to have Broussard take us out to where the film was shot and recount events in situ.


STORY: Venable Fabricators, in Rayne, make the crawfish boats that ply the rice fields of south Louisiana. The boats are themselves miracles of Cajun engineering: the wheels in their hulls along with their unique form of propulsion – a paddle wheel that also acts as a crawler – allows them to cross rice field levees as well as pass down country roads.

SCENE: Two locations here: the factory itself as well as someone operating one of their boats to harvest crawfish. (Keith Leleux, who lives south of Crowley, has one of their boats.)

Lache pas la musique

Project Description

There is an old saying in south Louisiana: “Lâche pas la patate.” Translated literally, it means “Don’t drop the potato,” but what it really means is “Hold on to what’s important.” Cajun and Creole musics have proved to be of central importance to south Louisiana, to the United States, and to the world, demonstrating as they have not only the possibility for, and importance of, maintaining a vibrant folk culture but also revealing the connections between Louisiana and the rest of the world. That is, the musics of south Louisiana not only underline Africa and Europe as original contributors of people to the American experiment (in addition to the already present First World nations) but also that the American experiment is one of hundreds, if not thousands, of experiments around the world where people mix together to produce new, but still related cultures and musics-in terms of south Louisiana, the connections to the Caribbean and the western Indian Ocean are most striking.

The purpose of this project is to preserve the unique collections of the Archives and Cajun and Creole Folklore in order to (1) stabilize the collections and (2) make them more accessible to researchers, area musicians, and the public. The Archives currently holds almost two thousand reel-to-reel tapes and audio cassettes. While a small number of the reel-to-reel tapes are copies of recordings, which can only otherwise be found in the Library of Congress, all the rest are unique to the collection. A large number of the recordings were done in the field by a variety of trained professionals-thus, the quality is as high as the various media and technology involved allowed.

Most of these field recordings provide intimate glimpses into the past: musicians talking and playing in their own homes. In some cases, only the performer and the fieldworker are present; in other cases they are joined by old friends or by some of the young musicians of the day-e.g., Grammy winner Michael Doucet-who went on to revitalize the tradition. These recordings from the past still hold the keys to the music’s future. Musicians continue to clamber for access to the collections: e.g., David Greeley of Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys is a regular listener.

Time has not been kind to any musical archive. Reel-to-reel machine manufacturers are down to two; makers of tape, one. It is clear that for Archives like our own to survive and to continue to play a role in not only keeping history alive but also in making new traditional music possible we must move materials onto formats that are (1) currently in use and will be for the foreseeable future and (2) allow for ready and rapid copying, in a way that tapes did not, so that the collection’s future can be secured-perhaps equally important is that with high capacity hard drives, a lot of material can be kept in a relatively small space.

Collection Contents

The collections in need of restoration and digitization that are unique to the Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore-which also holds copies of recordings by Alan Lomax and Ralph Rinzler (originals are housed in the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress)-are:

  • The Ancelet Collection: 236 reels, recorded in the 1970s and the 1980s.
  • The Elizabeth Brandon Collection: 9 reels, recorded in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • The Susan Crutcher and Andy Wiskes Collection: 21 reels, recorded in the late 1970s.
  • The Phillip Dur Collection: 46 reels, recorded in the late 1960s.
  • The Donald Hebert Collection: 40 reels, recorded in the 1970s.
  • The Otis Hebert Collection: 7 reels, recorded in the late 1970s.
  • The CRS Collection: 65 reels, recorded in the 1960s and the 1970s.

There are a huge number of recordings of area festivals, like the nationally known Festivals Acadiens, as well as a few unique recordings done at the Festival of American Folklife, all of which are on cassette, but many of which were professionally recorded, in need of restoration. There are also several hundred recordings by students, students who had been trained in proper recording and fieldwork methods.

Transfer Details

The mechanics of the process are straightforward and follow the Academy’s own guidelines as well as those that have been worked out by various other agencies and organizations:

*Reel-to-reel tapes and audio cassettes are played on the appropriate equipment-those familiar with the variety of head arrangements on the former machines will recognize that getting the right equipment is a task in and of itself, fed through an Alesis 1622 mixer, through an Apogee PSX-100 audio-to-digital converter, into a Gateway workstation running Sound Forge Studio.

*Each digitized file is stored in raw form on both a hard drive and a CD, which is stored separately. (For listening purposes, we normalize the files (service copies) and save them using the MP3 codec, in order to enhance listening and to facilitate moving files onto machines dedicated as listening stations.)

Source Material Preservation

All original materials (preservation masters) are kept in climate-controlled conditions in a designated space within the university’s main research library. While a number of other facilities have seen holding onto original materials as a moot point, we do not plan to dispose of our original holdings at any point in the future: we realize that technology is changing quickly and we have an obligation to the future to make it possible for others to revisit either the original materials or their un-enhanced digitized copies, having as they probably will better methods for extracting more information out of either.

Project Personnel

We are a small unit within a much larger organization, a public university to be exact. For the purposes of preserving the materials which we deem most important and the most in danger of suffering further by the hands of time, we have acquired a graduate research assistant whose primary responsibility is to begin digitization of some of the holdings-our grant request is for professional help in this regard because we do not have enough expertise to deal with the more fragile materials. We have also gathered together a part-time team primarily focused on indexing and cataloging the materials: preservation is important, but we must also begin to assess what is being preserved and to make it possible for researchers, musicians, and other publics to locate materials relevant to their own work or project, be it a book, an album, or simply knowledge of times past.

A breakdown of the personnel involved is as follows:

  • John Laudun is Associate Director for the Center for Louisiana Studies and the project leader for “Lâche pas la musique.” He is assistant professor of folklore and English and holds a Ph.D. in folklore studies from the Folklore Institute at Indiana University.
  • Kristi Guillory is a M.A. student in English with a concentration in folklore studies. She is also a native of the area and a working musician, with three CDs to her name. She brings her knowledge of the music and of Louisiana French to our efforts to inventory the holdings of the Archive.
  • Erik Charpentier is a Ph.D. student in Francophone Studies who has spent the last five years working with the Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore, cataloging the holdings and doing some digitization.


Verot School Road

–> Guillot Road

–> Piat Road

Things Seen:

* Coops for fighting roosters.
* Vietnamese restaurant off Melancon Road just inside Iberia Parish line.
* All the gear associated with rice agriculture –> How would I organize such a catalog?
* Gas stations, diners, lunch houses: all places where work happens.

Mardi Gras trailers.