Canadian Heritage

Historical Vignettes

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

Certain experts even tend to say that the legend was an attempt to explain a strange or bizarre event as much as to convey a lesson.

The legend always sits in a historical time and space. This form of communication also includes a great power of intervention in regulating interpersonal relations. To sum up, the situation changes but the message stays the same. Make-believe gives lessons in life in one of the most synthetic way possible. For example, the devil always leads the 'wild hunt'. However, a group of men travelling along with him are not always pictured as European hunters from the 17th century, but as a team of workers, lumberjacks, fishermen or miners - depending on when and where the legend is told.6

In her writings, Catherine Jolicoeur demonstrates that “since the legend is part of the people's historical traditions, it partially allows us to discover the Acadian people's mentality (...).7 She also succeeded in listing Acadian legends' main themes: the wild hunt, the will-o'-the wisps, the elves, the werewolves, menacing creatures, the Devil, witchcraft, death and mortality, haunted houses, hidden treasures, punishment and inherent justice, miracles, the wandering Jew, the saints, the eccentric, the unconventional, and strong men.8