The headless cobbler of Smallett Cave : the origin and growth of a Douglas County, Missouri, legend
Haden, Walter Darrell
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Beginning its second century, the legend of the Headless Cobbler of this study is an etiological tale dependent for its existence upon the geographic features of Smallett Cave in Springcreek Township of Douglas County, Missouri. The legend is both a local invention based upon real happenings and historical figures and a transmogrification of elements found in older folk tales, both oral and written. In the relative isolation which the Ozark Mountains have afforded during the past century, these indigenous and imported folk tale motifs have been combined into the present form of the legend by the superstitious in their efforts to make the unknown rational; by parents and elders in attempts to demonstrate for children the dangers of broken taboos; by traditionalists in deference to ancestors and the past; by gifted storytellers in their efforts to entertain; and by the interaction of fact with folk memory, dream experience, optical illusion, and semantic confusion.