The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #4018 Message #21331
Posted By: Norm Cohen
13-Feb-98 - 01:43 AM
Thread Name: Origins: John Henry
Subject: RE: The origins of john Henry
I don't know of anything on the origins of the "John Henry" ballads beyond what I wrote in Long Steel Rail, but there is a more recent bibliography for those inclined to check it out on their own: Brett Williams: "John Henry: A Bio-Bibliography (Greenwood Press, 1983). It's easy to attach all sorts of psycho-sociological theories to the ballad--including Marxist and Freudian interpretations; but as for hard facts about the origins of the story, we'll never get any closer than Guy Johnson and Louis Chappel did in the 1920s when they tried to interview anyone who claimed to remember anything about the building of the Big Bend (actually "Great Bend") tunnel to which the legend was most frequently attached. Which was not very close.