Canadian Heritage

Historical Vignettes

Oral and Written Traditions: Reflections of a People's Soul

It goes without saying that back when there was no electricity or technological gear, evenings spent at home or in lumber camps usually resembled social gatherings. It was a time of story and legend telling, when spectators listened and watched in delight, while experienced storytellers animated speeches with facial expressions and surprising gestures, revealing an anecdote or bizarre story they once heard. These stories and legends therefore filled the imaginations of our ancestors, and particularly the one's of workers in lumber camps.

“The tale or story”, according to Jolicoeur, “comes from fantasy where characters are fictitious and the action not located.”3 The legend, on the other hand, “is situated, individualized or/and an object of belief. It is a popular narrative based on an altered historical foundation, or at least purportedly historic and transmitted by tradition. (...) in a certain way, it transmits feelings and human desires.”4

In other words, the tale is more of an imaginary story filled with imagery. The legend is more an attempt to explain a phenomenon surrounding human beings, possibly associated with the unknown or the mysterious, and linked to the people's history, transmitted from one generation to the next, through the words of storytellers. It is also linked to tradition, to folklore, and “reflects a people's soul.

Such as living fossils, which refuse to die, legends have a past that gets lost in the night of time. They make up, at least in part, the archives of prehistoric times, for they were created every time a phenomenon would take place, impinging on the imagination of all mankind.5