AppLit Home Other Tales and Legends Tina L. Hanlon

"Old Dry Frye"


"Old Dry Frye." In Chase, Richard. Grandfather Tales. Boston: Houghton, 1948. pp. 99-105. With one drawing of the end of the story by Berkeley Williams, Jr. The storytellers in Chase's frame story reminisce about family members telling this tale. Old Uncle Kel says he'll try his best to get it right as he tells it. After the preacher chokes on a chicken bone and dies, a series of people fear that they will be blamed for his death and move the body, until a group of rogues tie the body to a wild horse and claim the rider stole their horse. The horse heads for Kentucky. Chase collected the tale in Wise County, VA, and identifies it as tale type 1537 (note, p. 236).

"Old Guy Frye." Collected by Richard Chase, Damascus, VA. JTA-3070. Full text in this web site.

Old Dry Frye CoverJohnson, Paul B. Old Dry Frye: A Deliciously Funny Tall Tale. New York: Scholastic Press, 1999. "Old Drye Frye was the chicken-eatingest sermonizer that ever laid fire to a pulpit." In the house where the gluttonous preacher chokes on a chicken bone and dies, Johnson draws a mournful hound dog like the one that appears in his other Appalachian picture books. The dog and other animals throughout the story display shocked expressions like the humans as bizarre mishaps cause the body to be moved around the neighborhood. An old couple puts the body on a horse and pretends their horse is being stolen. In an illustration, Old Dry Frye appears to revive when the old man slaps the horse and the chicken bone flies out of the preacher's mouth. People still see the horse and body riding around at night when the moon is full. "Everybody knows Old Dry Frye." Comical full-page acrylic illustrations feature the ghostly horse and corpse wielding drumsticks. Johnson notes that his mother, a school librarian, loved to read from Chase's Grandfather Tales. "In the gleeful way that children appreciate dark humor, we especially anticipated 'Old Dry Frye.' My telling of this popular romp follows the same bodacious spirit of the Chase version, if not the letter." (Reader's theater script formerly available at Johnson's web site, but Johnson died in 2011.) Johnson's Jack Outwits the Giants is a featured youth book in the Roanoke Valley Reads progam in Fall 2013.

"Old Drye Frye" by Richard Chase (12:58 min.). Told by The Folktellers (Barbara Freeman and Connie Regan-Blake) in White Horses and Whippoorwills. Asheville, NC: Mama-T Artists, 1983. Sound recording.

"Old Dry Frye." By The Folktellers. In Smith, Jimmy Neil, ed. Homespun: Tales from America's Favorite Storytellers. New York: Avon, 1988. This book also contains "Two White Horses" and "No News" by the Folktellers, Jack and the Robbers by Ed Stivender, The Snake-bit Hoe Handle and "The Mule Egg" by Doc McConnell, Whickety-Whack, into my Sack by Ray Hicks, Like Meat Loves Salt by Elizabeth Ellis, Strawberries by Gayle Ross, "The Crack of Dawn" and "Miss Daisy" by Donald Davis, and other tales.

"Old Dry Frye." Told by Barbara Freeman in Tales of Fools and Wise Folk. Cassette tape. Jonesborough, TN: National Association for the Preservation and Perpetuation of Storytelling, National Storytelling Press, and August House Publishers, 1991. c. 50 min. "In these classic tales, the honest win rewards while the evil do themselves in, rubes get the best of Ph.D.'s, and a poor young adventurer finds a helpmate with powerful magic" (WorldCat). Recorded live at the National Storytelling Festival. The seven tales by different storytellers also include "Jack and the Northwest Wind" told by Jackie Torrence and "The Poor Man and the Rich Man's Purse" told by Mary Hamilton.

Crawford, Lauren. Dye Fry and Wicked John and the Devil. Script published by New Plays for Children, 2002. "Two short Appalachian folk tales in one volume, 25 to 35 minutes each."

"Old Dry Frye." The version from Chase's Grandfather Tales is reprinted with other tales about The Fool: Numbskulls and Noodleheads, in Yolen, Jane, ed. Favorite Folktales from Around the World. New York: Pantheon, 1986, pp. 191-94. Yolen notes that this "Southern mountain thigh-slapper . . . type 1537, 'The corpse killed five times,' . . . is well known through the medieval fabliau tradition and has been collected in Europe, Asia, and Africa as well as in America in both the white and the Native American cycles. There is even a Siberian version called 'The Unlucky Corpse'" (Notes, p. 485).

"Old Dry Frye." In Smith, Jimmy Neil, ed. Why the Possum's Tail is Bare and Other Classic Southern Stories. New York: Avon, 1993. Reprinted from John Harrell's A Storyteller's Treasury (Berkeley, CA: York House, 1977). The parenthetical refrain "everybody knows Old Dry Frye" is repeated as the body is passed around the neighborhood. Some robbers put the body on a horse that heads for Kentucky.

Moss, Gary. Old Dry Frye. 16 mm. film and videocassette. Riverwoods, IL: Film Ideas, 1986. 30 min. "Set in North Georgia in the late 19th century, the film tells how the accidental death of a chicken-gobbling itinerant preacher initiates a bizarre episode of guilt and deception among the residents of an isolated 'holler'" (WorldCat).

"Old Dry Fry." In sound recording (8 tape reels) performed by Bill Thorn, Lucien Rouse, Edna Ritchie, D. K. Wilgus, Guthrie T. Meade, Homer Ledford, Pleaz Mobely. Recorded by Richard L. Castner at a folk music festival in Lexington, KY, 1955. Deposited by Castner in 1955 in Archives of Traditional Music, Indiana University, Bloomington. A large collection of folk music and "recitations of folk tales including The Yankee who went South, Old dry fry, Corpse killed five times, Jack tales, Wicked John" (WorldCat).

"Old Dry Frye." Told by Jackie Torrence in Country Characters. LP and audio cassette. Chicago, Il: Earwig Music Co., 1983 and 1986. From an evening of storytelling live in Lexington, MA to benefit Arts Created Together. Recorded at Cary Hall, Lexington, MA. Also includes Wicked John and the Devil, Sop Doll, "The Maco Station Light," and "The Fiddler's Dram."

"Old Dry Frye." Collected by Richard Chase, Proffit, VA. James Taylor Adams Collection. JTA-3069.

"Dry Fry." Collected by James Taylor Adams, Big Laurel, VA. "Told by Gaines Kilgore, Wise, VA., Nov. 23, 1941. He heard his father tell it."  James Taylor Adams Collection. JTA–606.

"Old Guy Frye." Told by Mrs. Della Connell, Kaserville, VA, October 24, 1940. James Taylor Adams Collection. JTA-2373.

"Old Dry Frye" is retold in Lee Smith's adult novel Fair and Tender Ladies  (NY: Ballantine, 1988), as one of the traditional tales that the heroine Ivy Rowe remembers from childhood. Two old ladies from Hell Mountain tell Ivy's father's favorite humorous tale when they visit before he dies (pp. 26-27). See Folklore Themes in Longer Appalachian Fiction.

Miller, Reid. Storytelling Minstrel. Audio cassette. Madison, WI: Tomorrow River Music,1986. 47 min. "Reid Miller presents humorous songs and stories for a mature audience," including "Old Dry Fry." (Information from WorldCat; unclear whether the storyteller or his tales are Appalachian.)

Related Appalachian Tales:

"Dirty Jack." In Roberts, Leonard. South From Hell-fer-Sartin': Kentucky Mountain Folk Tales. U of KY Press, 1955. Rpt. Berea, KY: The Council of the Southern Mountains, 1964, pp. 97-100. "A little old dirty, ragged boy" has a bull that dies so he gets a good price for its hide. He pays back the men who caused the bull's death by convincing them to skin their horses, tricking them into beheading his own granny, and then convincing them to kill their granny. In the middle of a string of deadly tricks the boy and men play on each other, Dirty Jack sticks his grandmother's head back on and convinces the neighbors they have killed her while giving her a drink, so they give him money.

"Snick and Snack." In Roberts, Leonard. Old Greasybeard: Tales from the Cumberland Gap. Illus. Leonard Epstein. Detroit:  Folklore Associates, 1969. Rpt. Pikeville, KY:  Pikeville College Press, 1980. Snick kills his poorer brother Snack's horse. Snack claims it can talk and makes money, then tricks Snick into killing his horses. After a long series of tricks Snick is dead and Snack "never had to play a joke on anybody again." In the middle of the tale, when Snack's mother-in-law dies, he puts her in a buggy and convinces a restaurant manager he's killed her trying to give her a drink, so he gives Snack money. Snack then convinces Snick he's killed and sold the old woman, so Snick does the same to his mother-in-law and almost gets jailed. See also Jack and the Heifer Hide.

The Two Old Women's Bet includes a joke played on a husband who is persuaded he is dead and appears as a corpse at his funeral.

Death and the Old Woman is a humorous tale about scaring an old woman to stop her from nagging and saying she wants to die.

Compare with:

"The Dead Body." Russian Fairy Tales. Transl. Norbert Guterman from the collections of Aleksandr Afanas'ev. Illus. Alexander Alexeieff. New York: Pantheon, 1945, pp. 118-19. When Ivan the Fool is asked to guard his family's pea plants against crows, he takes his old mother for a thief and kills her with a stick. When he is chided and made to dispose of the body, he dresses her up, puts her on a carriage, claims she is the king's embroiderer, and blames an official who has his coachman drive them off the road. To stop Ivan from attracting a crowd with his charge that his mother has been killed in this accident, the official gives him three hundred rubles to bury the woman. After Ivan takes the money home, he lives happily with his brothers and father. As in "Dirty Jack" and "Snick and Snack," there appears to be a cold disregard for the loss of the killed mother, while the focus is on the humor of the poor, foolish character tricking his superiors.

"The Story of the Humpback." Nights 24–32. Stories from the Thousand and One Nights. Vol. XVI. The Harvard Classics. New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1909–14; Reprinted in, 2001. A corpse is passed around after the accidental death of a humpback, a buffoon who chokes on a fish bone that a tailor feeds him; several alleged murderers are nearly executed.

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