"Vendee" (Text Key 2085)

short story

Published in The Saturday Evening Post on December 5, 1936, "Vendée" was the last of the stories Faulkner later reworked into The Unvanquished (1938). In it, a young Bayard Sartoris narrates his quest, made along with his slave companion Ringo and "Uncle" Buck McCaslin, to avenge his grandmother Rosa Millard's murder. In a straightforward and chronological approach unusual for Faulkner, the story details their tracking and killing the murderer Grumby, and then pegging out his body like an animal pelt on the shed where he killed Rosa and mounting his severed hand on Rosa's grave.

At the request of the magazine's editor Graeme Lorimer, Faulkner made several revisions in the text. When Faulkner revised it again as Chapter V of The Unvanquished, he numbered the parts of the story and inserted more detail about the chase, Grumby’s murder, and the severed hand. The draft Faulkner originally submitted to Lorimer included more details along these lines. In 1979 Joseph Blotner published the story in Uncollected Stories of William Faulkner, restoring one of the passages (linking the boys' mutilation of Grumby's corpse with the practice of Borneo headhunters) that was cut from the earlier versions; our version is based on Blotner's edition.

Mapping the Story: It's important to acknowledge that most of the locations on our map for this story are speculative. During the almost two months that they spend chasing Grumby and his gang, Bayard and Ringo cover a lot of ground. As Bayard says, though, their journey is "a long way, but it wasn't far. You could have put a silver dollar down on the geography page with the center of it at Jefferson and we would never have ridden out from under it" (102). We take this to imply that, although it is made clear that they get as far west and east as Grenada, Mississippi, and somewhere in Alabama, most of the story's events occur within Yoknapatawpha. But where, specifically? On this point the story itself gives little guidance. Our choices - for example, to identify the river they are riding next to at the end as the Tallahatchie in the north of the county rather than the Yoknapatawpha in the south - rely on evidence from other Unvanquished stories and our own best judgment. In the end, however, our locations should be seen as representing the idea of the journey they take rather than its actual route.

Dating the Story: We have set the dates from December 1864 through February 1865 based on the story's references to Christmas, the notches on a stick that Ringo makes to keep time, and the mention of Bayard and Ringo's capturing Grumby in February. We also consulted the dates of the other stories Faulkner was writing at the time that would form the larger narrative of The Unvanquished. It might be noted that Faulkner apparently has Colonel John Sartoris and Drusilla returning from war two months before Lee's surrender.

First Publisher: 
Saturday Evening Post
First Publisher Date: 
December 5, 1936
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Edit Copy Publisher: 
Vintage International
Edit Copy Publisher Location: 
New York
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How to cite this resource:
Joiner, Jennie J., and Taylor Hagood. "Faulkner's 'Vendee.'" Added to the project: 2015.  Additional editing 2020: Johannes H. Burgers, Theresa M. Towner. Digital Yoknapatawpha, University of Virginia, http://faulkner.iath.virginia.edu