“Miss Calinda” and Creole Tales
by Jennifer Gipson
This text is presented in the framework of the project "The stories that history tells us: Afro-Créole literature from 19th Century Louisiana".
The Creole language spoken in the nineteenth century by many Louisianans, both slave and free, represents and important part of our linguistic heritage. This linguistic blend includes diverse elements, among them French and Spanish as well as African, Native American, Caribbean, and Haitian dialects. “Miss Calinda” is a reminder of the significant body of Creole tales that circulated in oral tradition at the time. The personification of animals and the depiction of a moral, two characteristics of this genre, are reminiscent of the fables of Aesop. This tale and Mr. M. Jean-Pierre Piqué’s marvelous illustration, drawn specifically for this issue of the Tintamarre, will certainly mark the imagination of all of our reader, children and adults alike. Alfred Mercier, while he was not of African heritage, made a substantial contribution to the preservation of the Creole language, especially with his Etude sur la langue créole en Louisiane. His transcription and French translation of “Miss Calinda » appeared in Les Comptes Rendus de l'Athénée louisianais in 1880. The following French version displays several elements typical of Louisiana French dialects, especially the use of the grammatical construction être après + infinitf to express the present progressive.
Biography of Alfred Mercier
by Clint Bruce
from the pedagogical pages of the Bibliothèque Tintamarre
A doctor and writer
whose career marks the culminating point of Creole literature, Alfred Mercier
was born on June 3, 1816, according to his diary, to a family of old Creole
lineage in McDonoghville. Mercier
spent his childhood in Louisiana and part of his youth in traveling in Europe
where he visited romantic and progressive circles.
He later studied medicine.
In 1868 after an
extended stay in France, Mercier and his family, now devoid of the small fortune
that had previously remained, returned to New Orleans.
Mercier made his living as a doctor and became involved in the French
Louisiana literary scene. In 1875,
he spearheaded the creation of L’Athénée
Louisianais, an association dedicated to the promotion of French
culture and language. L'Athénée
began to publish the Comptes rendus in 1876.
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