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The Peach Tree and the Deer

"The Peach Tree and the Deer." In Roberts, Leonard. Old Greasybeard: Tales From the Cumberland Gap. 1969. Pikeville, KY: Pikeville College Press, 1980. pp. 165-66. In the section on Humorous and Tall Tales. A hunter is up in a peach tree eating when he sees a big deer, rams a peach seed in his gun, and shoots. A few years later he finds the deer with a tree growing out of its back. He chases it to a church-yard, where he shakes the tree to give many peaches to the children there. The deer runs on through a thorn patch. Roberts lists variants from across America and Europe. His student collected it from Nellie Brewer, Crane Nest, KY, "who had heard it in about 1920" (p. 206).

"Robert and the Peachtree." In Roberts, Leonard. South From Hell-fer-Sartin': Kentucky Mountain Folk Tales. Lexington: U Press of Kentucky, 1955. Rpt. Berea, KY: The Council of the Southern Mountains, 1964. In this short tale, a man who steals peaches realizes one small peach tree is a deer head. He hits the deer on the nose with a stone. The strong deer takes off running over the mountains into Virginia. Robert stops stealing after he has to walk home to Kentucky. The introduction describes the land and people around South from Hell-fer-Sartin' Creek, "one of the most isolated sections in the Kentucky Hills."

"Jack's Hunting Trips." In Chase, Richard. The Jack Tales. Illus. Berkeley Williams, Jr. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1943. In Part II of this hunting tall tale with multiple episodes, Jack tells about finding a lot of peaches on little trees and logs, which then rose up and ran off in the woods. It was deer that Jack and his friend (the narrator) had shot four years earlier, in this tale, with peach swag (pits) when Jack was out of lead and they came upon a number of deer unexpectedly. "Them peach rock had took root in ever' deer we shot. Some of 'em had the trees a-growin' out their shoulders and some out their backs, and you remember that 'un I hit between the eyes? Well, it had a six-foot peach tree growin' right up between its horns. Hit sure was a sight in the world" (p. 160). Herbert Halpert's notes refer to Indiana parallels, one with "a tree growing from the side of a bear shot with peach seeds" and "the Münchausen tale of the tree growing from the head of a deer shot with cherry seeds" (p. 199).

"The Peach Tree Deer" from Bill Robinson is in the Legendary America section of American Folktales: From the Collections of the Library of Congress. Ed. Carl Lindahl. Vol. 1. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2004.

"Sweetwater Peach Pie." In Russell, Randy and Janet Barnett. The Granny Curse and Other Ghosts and Legends from East Tennessee. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1999. Each tale is identified by its county of origin. Most of the them contain descriptions and history of places in eastern Tennessee, woven into the stories of ghosts, witches, mysteries, and local superstitions. "Sweetwater Peach Pie" from Monroe County contains a deer with a peach tree growing out of its head.

"The Ride in the Peach-Tree" is retold within Harden E. Taliaferro's novel Fisher's River (North Carolina): Scenes and Characters by "Skitt [pseud.], Who was Raised Thar" (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1859. Rpt. New York: Arno Press, 1977). See articles on Taliaferro listed at Background Resources on Appalachian Folktales, including Hathaway, Paula. "Folktales in the Literary Work of Harden E. Taliaferro: A View of Southern Appalachian Life in the Early Nineteenth Century." North Carolina Folklore Journal, vol. 31 (Fall-Winter 1983): pp. 65-75. Hathaway discusses the novel's fictional storytellers, their hunting and fishing tales, and an African American sermon, "The Origin of the Whites." Uncle Davy, one of the characters, who tells this tall tale, maintains the pose of insisting this experience of finding a peach tree growing out of a deer happened to him, although it is a well-known tale type in oral tradition.

How the Deer Got Antlers

"How the Deer Got His Horns." In Scheer, George F., ed. Cherokee Animal Tales. Illus. Robert Frankenberg. Holiday House, 1968. Rpt. Tulsa, OK: Council Oak Books, 1992. pp. 55-57. Rabbit makes a nice pair of antlers for the winner of his race with Deer, who had a smooth head. Rabbit tries to make a shortcut and he continues to gnaw bushes for a living. Because Rabbit cheats, the animals give the antlers to Deer.

"How the Deer Got His Antlers." In Arneach, Lloyd. Long-Ago Stories of the Eastern Cherokee. Illus. Elizabeth Ellison. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2008. pp. 29-33. Arneach is a native Cherokee professional storyteller. As in Mooney (see below), Arneach does not say which animal made the antlers. His ending: The Animals "called the Deer forward and put the antlers on his head. They grew into his head instantly, and they have grown there from that day until this. But the Deer loses his antlers once a year to remind him that it was not always so." Also on Arneach's audio recording Can You Hear the Smoke? CD and MP3. 2004. Sold by CDBaby.com.

"How Deer Won His Antlers." In Ross, Gayle. How Rabbit Tricked Otter and Other Cherokee Trickster Stories. Illus. Murv Jacobs. The Parabola Storytime Series. New York: HarperCollins, 1994. pp. 29-32. A Cherokee storyteller tells fifteen tales of Rabbit, the Cherokee trickster hero, from a time when animals and people spoke the same language. In Ross's version of this tale, the Messenger who goes looking for Rabbit is Mole, and Rabbit accuses him of being too blind to see what he is doing. With a full-page acrylic painting of Rabbit gnawing branches, by an illustrator of Cherokee-Kentucky descent. Also recorded as an audio cassette. Ross is from Texas, but she and her stories are descended from the strong Cherokee culture that their ancestors took from the Southeast to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears; she is a direct descendant of the nineteenth-century chief John Ross.

"How the Deer Got His Horns." In Mooney, James. History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees. Rpt. Asheville, NC: Historical Images Press, 1992. (Myths of the Cherokee originally published in 1900 by Bureau of American Ethnology). Mooney's work provided many modern Cherokee storytellers with written records they have used to revive their native traditions. It is the source of numerous tales reprinted and adapted since 1900, including the ones listed above.

Other Appalachian Tales

Other pourquoi tales about animals, natural phenomena, and human inventions, such as The First Fire, or How the Water Spider Captured Fire, are listed in the Native American section of this folktale index and in AppLit's picture book bibliography. Pourquoi elements are found in other tall tales such as Swamp Angel, Tony Beaver, and Steven Kellogg's Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett. See study guide on Tall Tales and Jack Tales.

In several versions of "Gallymanders," a peach tree is one of the magic talking objects that helps the heroine escape from an old woman or witch because she helps it.

Awi Usdi, The Little Deer is another Cherokee tale that involves hunting.

Related Tales from Other Regions

Daigle, Pierre. "The Alligator Peach Tree." Reprinted at Swapping Stories web site. A man who comes across a big alligator has only peach seeds in his pocket. He shoots it between the eyes but thinks he missed when it disappears. Five years later he finds it swimming there with "a beautiful peach tree" growing out of its head. From Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana. Ed. Carl Lindahl, Maida Owens, and C R. Harvison. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1997. Notes indicate that this story usually is about deer, and it is more popular in America than other parts of the world.

"The Cherry Buck Tree" by Robin Moore, from the PA mountains, is probably a related tale with a cherry tree instead of a peach tree. In Holt, David and Bill Mooney, eds. More Ready-to-Tell Tales from Around the World. Little Rock: August House, 2000. Gives photos and background on the storytellers, notes on each story, age recommendations, and tips from the storytellers. The tales are organized by themes, with a geographical index. This book received an Anne Izard Storytellers' Choice Award in 2002.Dore illustration

Raspe, Rudolf Erich, 1737-1794. The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen. 1895. Reprinted online at Project Gutenberg. Introduction: "The story of the cherry tree growing out of the stag's head, again, is given in Lange's book [J. P. Lange's Delicioe Academicoe (Heilbronn, 1665), a section of which was expressly devoted to "Mendacia Ridicula"], and the fact that all three tales are of great antiquity is proved by the appearance of counterparts to them in Lady Guest's edition of the Mabinogion. A great number of nugoe canoroe of a perfectly similar type are narrated in the sixteenth century 'Travels of the Finkenritter' attributed to Lorenz von Lauterbach." Chapter IV begins by claiming that the Baron pays tribute to Saint Hubert, who saw a stag appear to him with a holy cross between its antlers. The Baron shot cherry stones at a stag when he was out of powder and finding it a year or so later, believed he had a right to the excellent cherries as well as the meat. Perhaps someone shot the cross into the stag seen by St. Hubert. Illustration at right by French artist Gustave Doré.

The Children's Munchausen, Retold by John Martin. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1921. You can see this tale and a color illustration, "I beheld a noble stag," by Gordon Ross, at The Internet Archive or at Google Books.

Halpert, Herbert. "John Darling, a New York Munchausen." The Journal of American Folklore, vol. 57, no. 224 (Apr.-Jun. 1944): pp. 97-106. Available online through library services such as JSTOR. Halpert collected many short folktales in the logging country of the Catskill Mountains, New York state, where a folk hero, John Darling, drew many stories to himself and then others retold them. Shock Wormuth told Halpert "The Cherry Tree Deer," about John running out of ammunition, using cherry pits, and later finding little cherry trees growing out of a deer's head.

A magic peach but not a similar plot is in the Japanese tale "Momotaro, or the Story of the Son of a Peach." A child emerges from a large peach that a childless woman brings to her husband. He grows up to battle demons, become a hero, and make his family rich. His name is often translated as "the Peach Boy." Peaches represent fertility and immortality in Japan. Reprinted at this link in SurLaLune Fairy Tales, from Ozaki, Yei Theodora. Japanese Fairy Tales. New York: A. L. Burt, 1908. 

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