Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE
PART ELEVEN: MORE MELUNGEON VARIATIONS
In the previous installment I took a look at the Melungeon origin myth for the Fool Killer and the way it bore some resemblance to a figure from Portuguese folk tales that the so-called “Hill Portughee” brought with them. That tale also dealt with the creation of the club/ walking stick/ cudgel that the Fool Killer carried with him in many of his incarnations.
I finished off with the legends of the Fool Killer slaying “fools” who entered the East Tennessee Hills intent on mining or stealing Melungeon gold.
MELUNGEON VARIATION TWO: We’ll pick up this time with more of the oral traditions which supposedly started in the late 1830s or 1840s but weren’t set down in writing until the 1880s and later so there’s no way of verifying when they really began.
The area covered was still Eastern Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina. The Fool Killer roamed those regions, wielding his iron club/ walking stick/ cudgel topped with a skull crafted from Melungeon gold.
By now his mission had evolved to killing foolish Federal agents sent into the hills to try to shut down what Washington, DC saw as the “counterfeit” minting of gold coins by the Melungeons. The Fool Killer finished off any Feds that he caught confiscating those coins from merchants or arresting said merchants.
In addition he sometimes whacked whole parties of Federal agents who foolishly raided the hills to seize or destroy minting equipment from the Melungeons. These tall tales were spread as gleefully as later tales that Hill folk would spread about thwarting “revenuers” clamping down on Moonshine liqour.
MELUNGEON VARIATION THREE: This third variation was also not put down in writing until the 1880s but supposedly was started as an oral tradition decades earlier.
This variation of Fool Killer lore depicts the figure preying upon cuckolded men who are too foolish to realize their wives are cheating on them. The oldest versions supposedly stuck to the very, VERY old folklore tradition that cuckolds grew horns, which marked them for the foolish husbands they were.
In these tales firearms are added to the Fool Killer’s arsenal of weapons like his club/ walking stick/ cudgel and his set of Bowie Knives. Cuckolded husbands needed to carry out summary justice to kill off the men who had slept with their wives to get their horns to drop off.
If the Fool Killer spotted them before they could thus “avenge their own and their wives’ honor” then he would shoot them down and take the horns as a trophy. Presumably he would mount the horns on the walls of his hidden cavern home like hunters would mount Bucks’ horns. (I’m kidding.)
Gradually these tales came to take on a mostly humorous aspect and dropped the notion about cuckolds growing horns. By the time the 20th Century arrived the Fool Killer was often just marginal to the main tales, which would focus on wily ladykillers and conniving wives tricking the foolish husbands in order to carry on their affairs.
That type of influence lingered into the Melungeon Fool Killer tradition recorded in Works Projects Administration collections of mountain legends during the Great Depression. (More on those when I get to the 1930s and 1940s.)
Next time I’ll look at the Melungeon variation of Fool Killer lore with the highest body count.
FOR PART TWELVE CLICK HERE
I WILL EXAMINE MORE FOOL KILLER LORE SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK FOR UPDATES.
FOR MY LOOK AT JOE MAGARAC, THE STEEL MILL VERSION OF JOHN HENRY AND PAUL BUNYAN, CLICK HERE
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