Treasure stories and beliefs in Atlantic Canada

Coldwell, Joyce Ione Harrington (1977) Treasure stories and beliefs in Atlantic Canada. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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This study of treasure stories and beliefs from Atlantic Canada is based on over 450 unpublished oral texts, mainly from the Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive, and on published collections of material gathered by folklorists from oral traditions in the other Atlantic Provinces. Stories from the print tradition were also examined. In all, nearly a thousand texts concerned with treasure in Atlantic Canada were consulted. The major patterns of concepts and interests found in the narratives were examined for themselves and in an attempt to discover the ways in which the treasure traditions of Atlantic Canada resemble those of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Western Europe and the eastern United States. No attempt has been made to provide comprehensive citations, but sample parallels, when available, have been given. What treasure is believed to be, who buried it, where it is buried, and what phenomena will indicate the presence of a hidden hoard have all been considered. The methods for finding and claiming a treasure have been discussed in both magical and practical manifestations. The dream of treasure was found to be far more important than most folklore collections would indicate. It had many variations in addition to the normally cited one of the treasure found through a dream. The stories concerned with the treasure guardian were found to be very popular, especially the narrative which tells of the sacrificing of a man to watch the treasure. Even when the story of the killing was not given in detail, it was expected to be understood, as was the presence of the sentinel with every pirate hoard. The tradition of cursed treasure, although known elsewhere, is little evidenced in published material. It was found to be very strong in the oral tradition from Newfoundland, and is frequently to be understood in stories from other parts of Atlantic Canada, and elsewhere. One treasure tradition found in Atlantic Canada has rarely been noted from other areas, although it is known in Maine, Ireland and Scotland: the conscious election not to dig for a treasure. This decision not to look for the buried gold was noted from Nova Scotia by Dr. Helen Creighton, and was found to be very strong in the oral tradition. It . lS frequently associated with the dream of treasure, with the fear of the treasure guardian, and with a belief in cursed treasure. This active non-action of refusing to dig for a known treasure would not have been noticed without the large corpus of oral material available for the study. Stories of treasure found and presumed found and their function in a static economy have been discussed, as has the function of fantasy in a basically realistic tradition of treasure. In the process of this study, the researcher attempted to cover all available published material concerned with treasure from North America, whether in journals, folklore books or books for the popular market. Similarly, an attempt was made to do the same for the United Kingdom and Ireland. Here, however, in the absence of a comprehensive bibliography, the researcher can only hope she has found the bulk of the material readily available. Hints in the published literature of treasure stories and beliefs suggest that the patterns found in Atlantic Canada would also be found in the oral traditions of the eastern United States, of the United Kingdom, and of Ireland.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 12241
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 252-302).
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Folklore
Date: October 1977
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Atlantic Provinces
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Folklore--Atlantic Provinces; Treasure troves--Atlantic Provinces

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