Grateful Dead Folktales

The Grateful Dead band was so named after  band member Jerry Garcia discovered the expression while browsing in a dictionary.

The Grateful Dead that predates the band is a folktale theme that was studied by the folklorist G.H. Gerould in his book The Grateful Dead: The History of a Folk Story (London, 1908). It was summarized by him as follows:

A man finds a corpse lying unburied, and out of pure philanthropy procures interment for it at great personal inconvenience. Later he is met by the ghost of the dead man, who in many cases promises him help on condition of receiving, in return, half of whatever he gets. The hero obtains a wife (or some other reward), and, when called upon, is ready to fulfill his bargain as to sharing his possessions.

Grateful Dead Folktales and other folktales with similar themes can be found in folktale collections from all parts of the world. “The Traveling Companions,” one of Hans Christian Andersen’s more popular tales, is an example of a Grateful Dead Folktale.

Grateful Dead Folktales is a collection of 13 tales from 13 different countries; it was published by Zosafarm Publications in 1989.


Table of Contents

Introduction Excerpt

A Grateful Dead Folktale from Italy

Grateful Dead Folktales is currently out of print.
Contact Bob if you are interested in obtaining the book.