We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE


A Folklore Casebook

Edited by Lowell Edmunds and Alan Dundes

Publication Year: 1995

Classicist Lowell Edmunds and folklorist Alan Dundes both note that “the Oedipus tale is not likely to ever fade from view in Western civilization, [as] the tale continues to pack a critical family drama into a timeless form.” Looking beyond the story related in Sophocles’ drama—the ancient Theban myth of the son who unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother—Oedipus: A Folklore Casebook examines variations of the tale from Africa and South America to Eastern Europe and the Pacific. Taking sociological, psychological, anthropological, and structuralist perspectives, the nineteen essays reveal the complexities and multiple meanings of this centuries-old tale.
    In addition to the well-known interpretations of the Oedipus myth by Sigmund Freud and James Frazer, this casebook includes insightful selections by an international group of scholars. Essays on a Serbian Oedipus legend by Friedrich Krauss and on a Gypsy version by Mirella Karpati, for example, stress the psychological stages of atonement after the Oedipus figure learns the truth about his actions. Anthropologist Melford E. Spiro investigates the myth’s appearance in Burma and the significance of the mother’s identification with the dragon (the sphinx figure). Vladimir Propp’s essay, translated into English for the first time, and Lowell Edmunds’s theoretical review discuss the relation of the Oedipus story to the larger study of folklore. The result is a comprehensive and fascinating casebook for students of folklore, classical mythology, anthropology, and sociology.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (160.6 KB)
pp. v-vi

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (415.3 KB)
pp. vii-ix

The story of Oedipus is perhaps the most famous narrative in Western civilization. Its fame is due primarily to Sophocles' play Oedipus the King. The discussion of Oedipus both by classicists and by psychoanalysts tends to be restricted to the Sophoclean version. ...

read more

Oedipus Rex in Albania

pdf iconDownload PDF (979.0 KB)
pp. 3-9

Although the Oedipus folktale appears to be fairly common in the Balkan region, this is the only Albanian version of which we are aware. The most unusua lfeature of the tale is the setting of the parricide in a carriage. While it strikingly resembles the corresponding episode in the Sophoclean account, ...

read more

The Oedipus Legend in South Slavic Folk Tradition

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.0 MB)
pp. 10-22

The Oedipus tale is reported in Yugoslavia as weIl. Friedrich Krauss (1859-1938) was a scholar who specialized in erotic folklore. He was the moving force and editor of the nine-volume Anthropophyteia Jahrb

read more

An Oedipus Myth in Gypsy Tradition

pdf iconDownload PDF (732.8 KB)
pp. 23-27

Not only is the tale of Oedipus demonstrably an oral one, but it continues to be passed on, as a Gypsy version collected in 1971 attests. The commentary offered on the tale takes Propp's essay on Oedipus as a point of departure with special reference to Propp's assumption that the tale reflects an evolutionary changeover ...

read more

The Legend of Oedipus

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.2 MB)
pp. 28-34

In addition to fieldworkers who collected texts of the Oedipus story, there were library scholars who read such field reports with great interest. Among library scholars, surely one of the most celebrated was James G. Frazer (1854-1941), author of the monumental twelve-volume Golden Bough (1911-1915). ...

read more

Oedipus in Alur Folklore

pdf iconDownload PDF (532.4 KB)
pp. 35-38

Although this tale has an Oedipal theme, it does not belong to the Oedipus tale type. The complicity of the mother is noteworthy. The tale was reported from Uganda by anthropologist A. W. Southall of the University of Wisconsin. ...

read more

Oedipus in Bushman Folklore

pdf iconDownload PDF (553.1 KB)
pp. 39-42

The central character is Kauha, a trickster figure. We present here the concluding portion of a longer narrative which consists largely of tricks played upon Kauha by his wives and vice versa. For more details about the Bushmen, see Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, The Harmless People (New York, 1958), ...

read more

Oedipus in Papuan Folklore

pdf iconDownload PDF (553.9 KB)
pp. 43-46

Here is an Oedipal story from the Papuans of New Guinea. The characters in the tale include Kambel, who is also known by other names, including Gainjain, his wife Yumar, and his son Gufa. Kambel is the Papuan Originator who lived in the gainjan time, the time of the beginning of the world. ...

read more

The Dragon of Tagaung

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.4 MB)
pp. 47-55

The following text from Burma was evidently not easy to elicit. R. Grant Brown's engaging account of his fieldwork including a search for someone brave enough to tell the story suggests that some informants may not feel comfortable relating incest tales to inquiring outsiders. ...

read more

Oedipus-Type Tales in Oceania

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.2 MB)
pp. 56-75

When William Lessa, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at UCLA, spent nine months on Ulithi Atoll between 1947 and 1949, he collected stories. One of these, Sikhal

read more

Oedipus in the Light of Folklore

pdf iconDownload PDF (7.7 MB)
pp. 76-121

The name of Vladimir Propp is well known to folklorists for his pioneering work of 1928, The Morphology of the Folktale, which brought structuralism to the study of folk narrative. Few people realize that Propp, Professor of Folklore at the University of Leningrad, also wrote the first major folkloristic essay ...

read more

Is the Legend of Oedipus a Folktale?

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.6 MB)
pp. 122-132

The question of whether the story of Oedipus is or is not a genuine folktale is a legitimate one. Alexander H. Krappe (1894-1947), well-schooled in the international, comparative approach to folk narrative, argues that it is not, suggesting that although individual elements may have come from oral tradition, ...

read more

On the Oedipus Myth

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.2 MB)
pp. 133-146

In 1950, Georgios Megas (1893-1976), Professor of Folklore at the University of Athens, challenged the findings of Alexander Krappe with respect to the possible folktale sources of the Oedipus story. By assembling oral texts collected in different regions of Greece and by referring to additional oral texts ...

read more

The Sphinx in the Oedipus Legend

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.6 MB)
pp. 147-173

The relationship between folklore and classical literary texts is of interest to classicists as well as folklorists. Professor Lowell Edmunds of the Classics Department at Johns Hopkins University has been concerned with this problem with special reference to Oedipus. ...

read more

Freud on Oedipus

pdf iconDownload PDF (726.5 KB)
pp. 174-178

Nearly everyone has heard of the Oedipus Complex, but relatively few have bothered to read the original passages where Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) first articulated his still-provocative theory. These passages are well worth reading. For one thing, Freud was a great literary stylist. ...

read more

Oedipus and Erichthonius: Some Observations of Paradigmatic and Syntagmatic Order

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.5 MB)
pp. 179-196

One of the important trends in the analysis of folktale and myth is structuralism. The term "structuralism" includes a wide variety of methods ranging from Propp's Morphology of the Folktale, in which the sequential or syntagmatic structure of Russian fairy tales is delineated, ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (1022.3 KB)
pp. 197-202

Not all Freudians write with the lucidity of Freud. The writing style of G

read more

The Oedipus Complex in Burma

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.8 MB)
pp. 203-214

Anthropologists are wary of assuming universality, committed as they are to the notion of cultural relativism. Is the Oedipus Complex universal or not? Most anthropologists would say no, perhaps citing Malinowski in his famous debate with Ernest Jones. Malinowski claimed that matrilineal societies ...

read more

Why Oedipus Killed Laius: A Note on the Complementary Oedipus Complex in Greek Drama

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.0 MB)
pp. 215-233

From the essays contained in this casebook, it is easy to see that the vast majority of discussions of Oedipus take the child's point of view as a point of departure. George Devereux, Professor of Ethnopsychiatry at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, looks at the classic Greek story in terms of Laius ...

read more

The Indian Oedipus

pdf iconDownload PDF (4.1 MB)
pp. 234-264

To conclude the volume, we have chosen an exciting essay by A.K. Ramanujan, Professor of Dravidian Studies and Linguistics at the University of Chicago. This paper is a thoroughly revised and expanded version of an earlier (1972) study by the same title, and was written especially for this casebook. ...

Suggestions for Further Reading on Oedipus: A Selected Bibliography

pdf iconDownload PDF (527.4 KB)
pp. 265-270

Bibliography Addendum

pdf iconDownload PDF (804.2 KB)
pp. 271-274

E-ISBN-13: 9780299148539
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299148546

Publication Year: 1995