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The Robber Bridegroom by Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer hailing from Mississippi’s Delta region, authored The Robber Bridegroom, a steamy and chaotic story set during her home state’s antebellum years. Although loosely based on a fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, this Robber Bridegroom is no murderous Bluebeard. Jamie Lockhart is, however, a handsome scoundrel with no more compunction against relieving pretty ladies of their virtue than their jewels. He meets his match in beautiful Rosamond Musgrove, who goes on everyday errands wearing her one silk gown while singing love ballads.

The Robber Bridegroom is the kind of yarn that gifted story-spinners can make out of loose threads of myth and folk tale wound together with a peculiar variety of language-rich Southern humor. She somehow binds together a jealous and mildly-murderous stepmother, a band of untrustworthy robbers (imagine that!), true love—with flaws, and raucous Mike Fink, legendary bully and “King of the Keel-boaters.”  The story is larger than life—a fantasy, really—and made it onto the Broadway stage as a musical in the 1970s. It’s still showing on the playbills of colleges and dinner theaters around the country.
 
A word of warning on some of the author’s peculiar narrative choices--her setting (a fairy-tale version of the antebellum South) certainly predates the Civil Rights Era. What a modern writer would disallow as insensitivity, if not cruelty, in portrayals of happy slaves and murderous Indians (secondary characters all) would have been regarded as just ordinary, if ironically-meant, tropes at the time of her writing. 
 
But these are likely not indicative of her personal feelings. Other Welty stories from the same writing period include O. Henry Prize-winner “A Worn Path” and “Keela, the Outcast Indian Maiden.” They focus sympathetically on the misery experienced by black residents of the South during the Jim Crow Era and have a strong understanding of their pride and the dignity of the subjects’ personal lives. Both may be found in The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty.