Barre Toelken

John Barre Toelken (June 15, 1935 – November 9, 2018) was an American folklorist.

Barre Toelken was born in Enfield, Massachusetts, to parents John and Sylvia Toelken. The family later moved to Springfield. In 1952, .[1][2] The Department Of Agriculture influenced his decision to attend Utah State University the next year,[1][3] where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in English. Toelken completed a master's degree in English literature from Washington State University, followed by a doctorate from the University of Oregon.[3] Toelken began his teaching career at the University of Oregon in 1966,[4][5] and returned to Utah State in 1985.[3] Toelken was known for his research into Navajo folklore, namely with the Yellowman family.[2] Decades later, Toelken destroyed most of the physical records originating from his work with the Yellowman family, choosing to leave a set of cassette tapes with members of the family, not within an archive.[2][6]

Over the course of his career, Toelken was president of the American Folklore Society from 1977 to 1978, and edited the Journal of American Folklore and Western Folklore. The American Folklore Society granted Toelken fellowship in 1981. He received four of the association's major awards: the Américo Paredes Prize and the Chicago Folklore Prize, both in 2007, followed by the Kenneth Goldstein Award for Lifetime Academic Leadership and the Lifetime Scholarly Achievement Award, in 2011 and 2016, respectively.[7][8] Toelken died in Logan, Utah, on November 9, 2018, aged 83.[2][8]


  1. Irwin, Matthew. "Barre Toelken: Folklorist of Culture and Performance". Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  2. "Barre Toelken, Renowned Folklorist and Beloved Professor, Dies at Age 83". Utah State University. November 15, 2018. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  3. "Barre Toelken Papers, 1960-2003". Orbis Cascade Alliance. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  4. Toelken, Kazuko; Spooner, Michael (November 20, 2018). "J. Barre Toelken". The Herald Journal. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  5. Toelken, Barre; Wilson, William A.; Lloyd, Barbara (October 14, 2004). A Conversation with Barre Toelken and William A. (Bert) Wilson. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  6. Toelken, Barre (1998). "The Yellowman tapes". Journal of American Folklore: 381–391. doi:10.2307/541046. JSTOR 541046. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  7. Opsahl, Kevin (October 29, 2016). "'Connections with each other': Barre Toelken receives folklore lifetime achievement award". The Herald Journal. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  8. McGriff, Meredith (November 12, 2018). "Barre Toelken (1935 - 2018)". American Folklore Society. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
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