Cover for GEROULD: The Grateful Dead: The History of a Folk Story

The Grateful Dead

The History of a Folk Story

An early example of folklore scholarship, also a highly readable and fascinating collection chronicling the recurring legends of the Grateful Dead (from which, by the way, the rock band did get its name).

In this classic study, originally published in 1908, Gordon Hall Gerould explores a body of literature devoted to the ghosts of the departed, lost souls who showed gratitude to those who took care of their bodies and assisted in getting rid of demons. Typically, the grateful dead stories concern a young hero who takes on the responsibility of seeing that an unburied corpse receives a proper burial. A stranger who offers to accompany and assist him turns out to be the ghost of the dead man, repaying the hero for his good deed.

Gerould surveys more than a hundred grateful dead stories, tracing their lineages, describing their common traits, and unraveling their variations. Through a close study of secular as well as religious stories, Gerould demonstrates the remarkable durability and adaptability of the grateful dead.

With this book, Gerould established methods that laid the foundations for modern folklore scholarship. Norm Cohen's introduction places Gerould and his legacy in this historical context.

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