The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXXII. Non-English Writings II

§ 8. Folk-Tales

There was an apt anecdote like that for every occasion, or if there was not, somebody made one on the spot. This quick facility for noting resemblances, and the play of humour, has given us a body of folk-tale and fable not surpassed by any country in the world, folk-tale and fable which would illustrate our common American life with far more point than the things we derive from Europe.

Unfortunately, writers who have undertaken to utilize this material have missed its native quality, and attempted to crowd it into the mould of European fairy-tales, though in fact both the mood and the method of Amerind folk-tales are as distinctively American as the work of Mark Twain. In some respects Mark Twain in his shorter anecdotes, and Edgar Lee Masters in the Spoon River Anthology, have come nearer the mark of Amerind humour than any direct translation or interpretation. The one really notable success at transcription of the Amerind mode seems to have been accident, that sort of divine accident that one wishes might happen oftener.