Story of the Day. Where Spanish Moss Comes From

Here is today's story: Where Spanish Moss Comes From. This story was collected by Emma Backus in North Carolina around the year 1910. You can read more about Spanish Moss at Wikipedia, and here are some more aetiological ("origin") stories from African American storytellers, plus more stories collected by the folklorist Emma Backus.



WHERE SPANISH MOSS COMES FROM

Long time ago there was a powerful wicked man. He was that sinful that Death he don't have the heart to cut him off in his sins, excepting he give him a warning.

So one day Death he appear to the wicked man, and he tell him how that day week he gonna come for him. The wicked man he that frightened, he get on his knees and beg Death to let him live a little longer. The wicked man he take on, and he beg, till Death he promise he won't come for him till he give him one more warning.

Well, the years go by, but the wicked man he grow more wicked; and one day Death he appear to him again, and Death he tell the wicked man how that day week he gonna come for him, but the wicked man he more frightened than what he was before and he get on his knees, the wicked man do, and beg Death to let him live a little longer, and Death he promise the wicked man how before he come for him he gonna send him a token what he can see or what he can hear.

Well, the years go by; and the wicked man he get a powerful old man — he deaf and blind, and he just drag hisself about.

One day Death he done come for the wicked man once more, but the wicked man he say how Death done promise him he won't come for him till he send him a token what he can see or hear; and Death he say he done send a token what he can see. Then the wicked man he say how he can't see no token, 'cause he say how he done blind. Then Death he say how he done send a token what he can hear. But the wicked man he say how he plumb deaf, and he say how he can't hear no token; and he beg Death that hard to let him live, that Death he get plumb outdone with the wicked man, and Death he just go off and leave him to hisself.

And the wicked man he just wander about the woods, and his chillun all die, and his friends all die. Still he just wander about the woods. He blind, and he can't see; and he deaf, and he can't hear. He that blind he can't see to find no food; and he that deaf he never know when anybody try to speak to him.

And the wicked man he done perish away till he just a shadow with long hair. His hair it grow longer and longer, and it blow in the wind; and still he can't die, 'cause Death he done pass him by.

So he here to wander and blow about in the woods, and he perish away till all your can see is his powerful long hair blowing all about the trees; and his hair it done blow about the trees till it done grow fast, and now you all folks done calls it Spanish Moss.



Story Title: Superstition of the Spanish Moss
Article Title: Animal Tales from North Carolina, in Journal of American Folklore v. 25
Author: Backus, Emma and Ethel Hatton Leitner
Published: 1912
Rights: CC0 Public Domain
Online Source: Hathi Trust
Process: Eye-dialect removed, plus editing for paragraphing and punctuation.


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