“Whistlin’ Towards the Devil’s House”: Poetic Transformations and Natural Metaphysics in an Appalachian Folktale Performance

The late Ray Hicks of Beech Mountain, North Carolina was an acclaimed master of the traditional storytelling art. Yet little has been written that conveys the poetic dimensions of his tellings, nor their striking liberties within traditional molds. This study centers on a performance of one of Hicks’s signature tales, “Wicked John and the Devil.” His masterful play with markers of truth and belief are explored in order to question traditional folkloristic classifications of folktale genres.

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