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THE ALAMO STORY: FROM FACT TO FABLE
PerryMcWilliams The studyof mythsand legends,whichonce was the legitimate concernof only a few disciplines, becomeincreasingly has interesting to scholarsfrom a varietyof traditions who bring correspondingly diverseobjectives, conceptions, and methodologies bear upon a to common subjectmatter.For example,both the historianand the folklorist concernedwith folk historyas it is expressedthrough are culturalnarrative, that peculiarmediumin whichthe two logically distinctcategoriesof fictionand historical truth are blendedinto a cumulative accountof a culture's past.Sucha narrative, whetherexpressed through tradition written oral or account, oftentransforms the oralevidenceof eyewitness observers ElCtitiOUS into explanations and blendsthesewiththefactual, precise records professional of historians. Although boththe historian the folklorist concerned and are with the relationship betweenhistorical and oraltradition, fact theydiffer considerably the natureof theirconcerns. historian in The attempts to constructan accurateaccountof the past by separatingfact from fiction,whetherthe sourcebe oral or written.But sincewrittenaccountstraditionally beenconsidered be morefactual have to thanoral accounts, historians havetendedto givelesscredence thelatterthan to to the former.The folklorist, the otherhand,is concerned on withthe process enfablement which of in written oraltradition blended and are intoa narrative account the past,whether account factual of that be or not. He is likely,therefore, distinguish to betweenfactandElction only to determine howand whenthisprocess occurs.A concernsharedby the twodisciplines the distinction is betweenfactand fiction,albeitfor different purposes: the historian to establish accuracy,and the folklorist understand processof enfablement.1 to the An exampleof the waythisprocess occursis foundin accounts of the legendarybattleof the Alamo.The event has been recordedby historians attempting construct factualaccountof the pastwhich to a 221
wouldbe devoid of fiction and fantasy.Yet, because the culture'spride and sense of identity Elndready roots in accounts of its origins, and even the historiansthemselveshaveoften been productsof this because culture,what was once perhaps substantiatedfact has become molded into a narrative which often rivals the most incredible of fUlctitious tantasles.
Accounts recorded in the historicaltradition have been disseminated through the media of scholarly publications and particularly through textbook accounts as a compulsory part of the state's public educationcurriculumfor more than a century. The folk traditionhas been developed and perpetuated through virtuallyevery conceivable form of communication,from balladsand folktalesto television serials and movies. Each tradition has influenced the other to such an extent that, in the minds of most Texans, there is little doubt that the events occurred exactly as they are presented through the media. The legend tells...