"Fool About a Horse" (Text Key 1334)

short story

According to Joseph Blotner's note on "Fool About a Horse" in his edition of Faulkner's Uncollected Stories, Faulkner "may have" written the story in early 1935. Scribner's Magazine published it in August 1936. In between it went through a number of rewritings that can now be only partially reconstructed.

Originally the account of Pap's misadventures with horses and mules had a frame in which a character who was probably Quentin Compson introduced the story-teller, who was named Suratt. The text's two voices - the narrator's formal one and the story-teller's vernacular one - and its two settings - the law office in town where the story was told and the rural world in which it originally happened - set up contrasts that had been familiar conventions of Southwestern humor since the 1830s. (You can see more about this original version via the Additional Resources link in the control box.) Our representation of the story derives from Blotner's reprinting of the Scribner's text in Uncollected Stories. In this version, the frame has entirely disappeared, and an unnamed story-teller speaks his eloquent and amusing vernacular to an audience of unseen listeners. The conflict that matters most here is between the masterful horse-trading of Pat Stamper and his Negro assistant Jim on the one hand and foolish over-reaching of the story-teller's shiftless Pap on the other - though the story-teller's narrative sophistication suggests that Jim is not the only "artist" on hand.

The manuscript or typescript that would enable us to watch Faulkner revising the "Quentin-Suratt-Pap" story to a "me and Pap" story has apparently been lost. Some pages of the typescript we do have, however, do show Faulkner revising the story again several years later, for use in Part Four of The Hamlet (1940). There the story-teller is again Suratt, now called Ratliff, but his Pap's part is played by Ab Snopes, the father of Flem and a neighbor of Ratliff when he was a boy. In this re-revised version, Faulkner provides a source for the milk that Vynie is happily running through her new appliance at the end.

First Publisher: 
Scribner's Magazine
First Publisher Date: 
August 1936
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Vintage International
Edit Copy Publisher Location: 
New York
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How to cite this resource:
Carothers, James B., and Stephen Railton. "Faulkner's 'Fool About a Horse.'" Added to the project: 2016.  Additional editing 2021: Johannes H. Burgers; 2022: Jennie J. Joiner. Digital Yoknapatawpha, University of Virginia, http://faulkner.iath.virginia.edu