A podcast from the Vermont Folklife Center that explores the diverse cultures of Vermont through the voices of its own residents.
This month on VT Untapped we hear spooky stories told by Kim Chase of Essex Junction. Kim is a second-generation, bilingual Franco-American and the stories she shares were passed down through generations of her family members. Kim’s maternal grandmother moved from Cap-Santé, Québec to Winooski, VT sometime between 1905-1910. Her mother, Claire Bouffard Chase was born in Winooski. Kim grew up in Massachusetts but spent every summer with her grandparents in Winooski until her family moved back to Vermont in 1970.
As well as being a storyteller, Kim has been singing French-Canadian folk songs all her life, which she learned at home as well as through friends and extended family. She has been a French teacher for over 30 years and has taught every age from preschool through college—always incorporating music into her teaching.
Kim is also a writer and translator and has published essays, short fiction, articles, poetry and translations for many years. She worked closely with Martha Pellerin as a partner and grant writer, and has received several grants for her own work in gathering oral histories, songs and stories.
Recently VT Folklife was lucky enough to collaborate with Kim on a project aimed at revitalizing Franco-American song in Vermont. Selections from her family’s repertoire are part of “A Vermont Franco-American Songbook: Volume 1.” Kim and Carmen Beaudoin Bombardier co-hosted a singing school in Burlington in the fall of 2018 to teach the repertoire to a new group of singers.
There’s a good chance Kim’s first tale will be familiar to you. Kim and her family call it Abraham et le velours jusqu’au genoux (“Abraham and the velvet up to the knees”), and folklorists generally refer to it using the standard title: Bluebeard.
Bluebeard is one of the most widely distributed folk tales in the world. The Aarne-Thompson Uther Types of International Folktales: A Classification and Bibliography identifies it in their numbering system as ATU Tale Type 312: Maiden-Killer (Bluebeard). The version Kim tells is an unusual one—all the more so because it is tied to locations in Quebec and came down to her through an oral tradition traced back through her family’s origins in France.
Kim learned the second story from her mother—who learned it from Kim’s great grandmother, Meme Beaudoin. When asked about the title, Kim simply said, “we always called it ‘Meme Beaudoin’s Story’.” In 1995 VT Folklife Center founder, Jane Beck recorded Claire Bouffard Chase telling it, and in 2003 VT Folklife published Claire’s version as an illustrated children’s book under the title, The Ghost on the Hearth.
VT Untapped is produced by the Vermont Folklife Center. For more information visit www.vtfolklife.org/untapped
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