Alexander Anderson

Oral and Storytelling Traditions
O’ Brother Where Art Thou Film Paper
The film O’Brother Where Art Thou is the story of three men that
escape from a prison yard in search of a treasure, claimed to be buried
by one of the escapees. His name is Everett, and to break free he must
also escape with Pete and Delmar. The story follows their path from
criminals, to famed musicians, and eventually unites the lead character
with his wife, Penny. This story touches on many different storytelling
traditions such as Märchen and Sagen, folk ballads, and tall tales.
The story combines elements of Märchen and Sagen literary
techniques, or that it seems to incorporate both fictional events and
some real events. One of the primary fiction or “fairy tale” events in
the story was the apparent transformation of Delmar into a toad. After
recording a major hit song in the studio with a black man they
encounter by the name of Tommy Johnson, they hear women singing
by the river. They go to investigate, and find three beautiful women
singing what sounds like a folk ballad as they wash their clothes. The
women quickly seduce the men, whom a drink which sends them into a
deep slumber.
When they wake up, they are all lying uniform on the ground, the
women have vanished, and they find a toad Pete’s clothes, giving the
illusion that he was transformed into a frog. The concept of a human
being turned into a frog by a magic potion is a very popular one in fairy
tales, and I felt it was incorporated very nicely into the story. Later in

they made it out safely. after cutting the ties to a cross that smashed Big Dan. The Ku Klux Klan captured the African-American guitarist Tommy Johnson. It was not unusual practice for black men to be lynched by the KKK in 1937 Mississippi. I also think that lynching was so typical during this time that the group wouldn’t have likely risked their lives to save Tommy unfortunately. and subsequently and were chased away by the Klan. not killed as Delmar had thought. the frog was killed. but likely was embellished by the author. I think it is obvious that the embellishment comes in where they decided to dress up and rescue Tommy from the Klan. whom the three lads had recorded the hit song with earlier in the story. This segment certainly contains elements of truth. and dressed up as Klan members in an attempt to save him. but certainly had some embellishments. Luckily for this story. The three bandits realized they had to save him. First off it is unlikely they would be successful in their effort to rescue him. and we discover that Pete was actually captured by the authorities. The story also features a very real scenario. . In fact was actually quite customary. which was nonfictional in nature. as a demonstration of white supremacy. They were discovered by Big Dan. They were preparing to burn him at the cross.Alexander Anderson Oral and Storytelling Traditions O’ Brother Where Art Thou Film Paper the story. likely killed them selves. and were able to put a great concert together for the governor later in the story.

who planed to leave him and marry another man. and breaking free from his prison sentence. I feel that the story O’Brother Where Art Thou’ expresses different storytelling traditions quite nicely. to master the guitar. They recorded under the name Soggy Bottom boys because they were trying to hide their identity. records a hit song.Alexander Anderson Oral and Storytelling Traditions O’ Brother Where Art Thou Film Paper The main incorporation of folk ballads I can recall was with the song the women were singing before the men were inebriated. At the end. I personally really connected to the character of Tommy Johnson. I can’t recall what the song was about. He goes against all odds. and through a series of lucky. Overall. and is pardoned for his crimes. I feel that is also a . even if he had to do some nefarious things along the way. who claimed to have sold his soul to the devil. Everett begins the film as a prisoner. such as lying to Pete and Delmar about the treasure. finds himself somewhat of a hero. or the theme. escapes from prison. Everett in this story fits that mold quite nicely. The song that the men recorded in the studio with Tommy Johnson was a traditional folk song. he even reunites with his wife and seven children. and unfortunate events. fortunate. The ‘Jack’ in the tales usually overcomes all odds. getting into a fight with his wife’s fiancé. The song became a huge hit and eventually saved them from the law. and becomes somewhat of a hero. or esteemed figure in his community. it seemed to be remnant of a lullaby. The concept of Jack Tales is pretty consistent with this story.

notoriety. or riches particularly in the 20th century. I really enjoyed the shape of the movie. and felt that is was a nice blend of traditional storytelling and contemporary cinematic techniques. .Alexander Anderson Oral and Storytelling Traditions O’ Brother Where Art Thou Film Paper traditional tale to have “sold your soul to the devil” for fame. talent.

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