West Virginia's Appalachian Music and Literature

Write Your Own Ballad


Ballads tell of an event. They were often used to spread the news, provide entertainment, or create a "bigger than real life" story.

Try to write another verse to John Henry to extend the story. You could start it like this:


Now try this activity:

By using the melody of John Henry, create your own character or event and write the lyrics to tell your story.

E-mail your version to us.

See also Write a Tall Tale and Write A Ghost Story in this teaching unit.


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West Virginia's Appalachian Music and Literature is a self-contained teaching unit by Avis Caynor and Reneé Wyatt (1997), reprinted with permission in 2003 in the larger web site AppLit.

Complete list of AppLit pages on folklore
AppLit Folktale Index page on John Henry

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