Follow TV Tropes


Myth / Mountain Folklore

Go To

Country road, take me home, to the place I belong
West Virginia, Mountain Mama take me home.
John Denver

This is the Old Wild West, the West that existed before the West we usually think of. It is the place of Feuding Families, Hillbilly Moonshiners, ballads, and Country music.

The Appalachian mountains are a low mountain range that covers what used to be the frontier of early Northern America. It was first settled by Scotch-Irish (aka Ulster Scots in British English) who were descended from the border clans that had lived in the no-man's-land between England and Scotland. Forced by poverty and by the fact that the monarchy very much wanted them somewhere other than Britain, the Scotch-Irish first settled in the Protestant portion of Ireland (hence the name), and then in America just west of other settlements, which was quite convenient to colonists who were pleased to see someone between them and the Indians. The Scotch-Irish were a genuine proud warrior race and the same qualities that helped them survive on the Anglo-Scottish border helped them survive jammed right next to the French and the Iroquois Confederacy. This was a bloody area, known for violence and atrocities on all sides with petty lawlessness even at normal times, adding to the fact that a major war was fought about every generation up to the American Civil War, and this area tended to be the nastiest part, where The Laws and Customs of War were unknown. At the same time, not all was enmity; there was cultural mixture, trade, and there was even interbreeding across the frontier which caused many Indians to adopt white culture and vice-versa wholly or in part. Such that you often could not tell which a person accounted himself as without asking.


The Scotch-Irish were a clannish folk, almost as tribalistic as the Indians. Their code of honor was rather dark with a stern demand for revenge and a high tolerance for violence. At the same time they were survivors, and they were as tough as their country. Much of the Country and Folk Music tradition of America stems from this region; it is known for its haunting ballads, many of them derived from the Child Ballads of Britain. For many a generation they retained an old fashioned belief in magic and luck; there were charms for such things as healing, passing school tests, and whatnot. Another element is the many folk sayings, some fairly mundane ("he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.") some bordering on the shamanistic (like recipes for folk medicine).

Mountain Folklore passed into the west with pioneers, evolving into one of the biggest influences on American tales. Many of the traditional tropes of The Western can be traced to the Appalachian Mountains.