The Trial of an Ox for Killing a Man Background

The Trial of an Ox for Killing a Man Background

"The Trial of an Ox for Killing a Man" is a chap book from the early 1830s. Chap books were cheaply printed, crudely decorated short booklets that were sold on the street to provide some easy reading for the everyday man. This specific book was printed by a J.G. Rusher, who was a famous chap book distributor.

The chap book industry is an interesting chapter of European literary history. They were often the only medium, especially in rural areas, common folk could rely on for their entertainment or information. However, as literature goes, the reliability of these information is often questionable. "The Trial of an Ox for Killing a Man" is a perfect example of the genre, as it contains a short story that is both entertaining and fantastic. It uses common tropes of the fable, i.e. using animal characters as stereotypical protagonists. Additionally, the original author of the piece is unknown. Such stories were often bought cheaply by the distributor and sold under his name only, leaving the original artist out of the picture.

Nowadays chap books have disappeared almost completely, but their influence on the literary history of especially Britain is undeniable. Folk stories such as the one present have often only survived through the ages due to this cheap mass production. Otherwise modern society would not know of the topics of entertainment and concern of these lower classes of the time. The chap books contain morality stories, love and lust stories, history and tragedy and more topics of interest to the common man. The cheap price of one penny made sure that it was obtainable for a large group of people. The choice of topic, however, and the mass market appeal, kept chap books out of the high literary circles of the time.

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