Tell me if you have a topic you'd like to see. (Contact: LoiS-sez@LoiS-sez.com .)
Please also let others know about this site.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Bell - The Long Winter - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

"Now is the winter of our discontent."  Shakespeare definitely said it best.  Last weekend all but Florida in the contiguous United States had snow on the ground.  Even when it was raining, people had reason to complain for, while snow melts slower with less flooding, California and Nevada were looking at a decade level of flooding even as it lessened their drought.  It's not likely to improve, once we get past a brief warm-up, because the full moon was the 12th and the weather after that always seems to get worse.  Possibly caused by the tides and then the storms off the ocean?

Great Slave Lake has one ice road known as the Dettah ice road, connecting Yellowknife, the Northwest Territories capital, to the small First Nations fishing community of Dettah -- also in the Northwest Territories.


Slavey (Dene) girls, Mackenzie River, Northwest Territories
I was torn between presenting a story from somewhere warm or one looking frankly at winter.  Winter won out because it's so much easier to find.  Today's story come from the Dene people of northwestern Alberta, Canada, and especially the country's southern Northwest Territories on the Mackenzie River from the people also known as the Slavey or Slave Indians.  Before you jump to wrong conclusions, they come from the Slave Lake region and "The people now known as Slavey in English were not necessarily taken as slaves" Wikipedia cautions.

The story comes from a 1901 issue of Journal of American Folk-Lore and is one of two stories read at the American Folk-Lore Society's annual meeting over a hundred years ago at the end of 1900.

Since I'm familiar with Michigan's Anishinaabe tale often called "The Summer Maker" given here in 2013, I enjoyed its similarity at times, plus noted its prehistoric worldwide flood at the end.  It's also wonderful in showing "It could be worse" since winter has a way of leaving me thinking the worst has happened.


Journal of American Folk-Lore. Volume XIV (1901)

LEGENDS OF THE SLAVEY INDIANS OF THE MAC-
KENZIE RIVER.
Read at the Twelfth Annual Meeting of the American Folk- Lore Society at
Baltimore, Md., December 28, 1900.

I. THE LONG WINTER.

Before the present state of the world was established, and when
there were as yet no men, a very long winter set in. The sun was
never seen, the air was dark, and thick clouds always covered the 
sky and hung low down.  It snowed continually.  After this had 
lasted three years, all the animals were suffering very much from 
want of food and still more from want of heat. They became 
greatly alarmed. A grand council was held, which beasts, birds, 
and fishes attended. It was noticed that no bears had been seen 
for three years, and that they were the only creatures which did 
not go to the council.

The meeting decided that the great thing was to find out what had
become of the heat, whose long absence was the cause of all their
sufferings, and if possible to bring it back again. In order to do this
they resolved that as many of them as possible, representing all
classes, should go on a search expedition to the upper world where
they thought the heat was detained. When the council broke up
they all set out, and after much travelling far and wide through the
air, some of them were fortunate enough to find the door or opening
to the upper regions, and they went in. Among those which were
fortunate enough to get in were the lynx, the fox, the wolf, the car-
cajou, the mouse, the pike, and the mari (dogfish or fresh-water ling).
After exploring for some time they saw a lake and beside it a camp
with a fire burning. On going to the camp they found two young
bears living there. They asked the cubs where their mother was,
and were told she was off hunting. In the tipi a number of full,
round bags were hanging up. The visitors pointed to the first one
and asked the young bears, —

" What is in this bag ? "

" That," said they, " is where our mother keeps the rain."

" And what is in this one," pointing to the second bag.

" That," they answered, " is the wind."

"And this one?"

" That is where mother keeps the fog."

" And what may be in this next one ? "

" Oh, we cannot let you know that," said the cubs, "for our mother
told us it was a great secret, and if we tell, she will be very angry
and will cuff our heads when she returns."

" Oh, don't be afraid," said the fox, "she will never know that you
told us."

Then the cubs answered, " That is the bag where she keeps the
heat."

The visitors had ascertained what they wanted, and they all went
out of the tipi to hold a consultation. It was decided to retire to a
distance, as the old bear might return at any time. But first they
advised the young bears to keep a lookout for any deer (caribou)
which might come to the opposite shore of the lake.

It was resolved that the lynx should go round to the other side
of the lake, turn into a deer, and show himself so as to attract the
attention of the young bears. Meantime the mouse was to go into
the bear's canoe and gnaw a deep cut in the handle of her paddle
close to the blade. The others were all to conceal themselves near
the bear's tipi. The scheme proved successful. When one of the
little bears saw the supposed buck across the lake he cried out,
" Mother, mother, look at the deer on the opposite shore." The old
bear immediately jumped into her canoe, and paddled towards it.
The deer walked leisurely along the beach pretending not to see the
canoe, so as to tempt the bear to paddle up close to him. Then all
at once he doubled about and ran the opposite way. The bear
hastened to turn her canoe by a few powerful strokes, throwing her
whole weight on the paddle, which broke suddenly where the mouse
had gnawed it ; and the bear, falling at the same time on the side of
the canoe, upset herself into the water. The other animals were
watching the hunt from the opposite side, and as soon as. they saw
the bear floundering in the water, they ran into the tipi, pulled down
the bag containing the heat, and tugged it, one at a time, through the
air towards the opening to the lower world from which they had
come. They hastened along as fast as they could, but the bag was
very large, and none of them were able to keep up the pace very
long ; but whenever one became tired out, another would take the
bag, and so they all hurried along at a rapid rate, for they knew that
the bear would soon get ashore and return to her tipi, and that when
she discovered her loss she would make haste to follow them. Sure
enough, she was soon in hot pursuit, and had almost overtaken them
before they reached the opening to the underworld. By this time
the stronger animals were all exhausted, and now the mari took the
bag and pulled it along a good way, and finally the pike caught it up
and managed to get it through the hole just as the bear was upon
the party. But every one of them passed safely through at the same
time, and the moment the bag was within the underworld all the
animals seized upon it and tore it open. The heat rushed out and
spread at once to all parts of the world and quickly thawed the vast
accumulation of ice and snow. Its rapid melting flooded the earth,
and the water rose till it threatened to drown all the animals which
had survived the long winter. Many of them saved their lives by
climbing up a particularly big tree which was much taller than any
of the others in the woods. There was also a high mountain which
others reached and were saved. The poor beasts now cried loudly
for some one to remove the water, and a great creature, something
like a fish, appeared and drank it until he became as large as a moun-
tain. So the dry land returned, and as summer had come again, the
trees and bushes and flowers which had been covered by the ice
leaved out once more, and from that time till now the world has
always been just as we see it at the present day.

Robert Bell.

Ottawa, Canada.


Shortly after the story was presented and then published, another version was published by G.E.Jamme as "Dogrib Legend of the Flood" in The Coast, volume 11, pages 180-181 and can be found in a free Google Books publication.  Jamme spends some time in his 1906 article telling about his hearing the story from the people at Great Slave Lake.  Beyond that look at the story's original tellers, there are some interesting differences.  I suggest also going to a book by the late Ella Elizabeth Clark to read how she combines the two versions in her Indian Legends of Canada.

However you choose to re-tell the story, it's definitely winter, the time when the Native Peoples of North America all told stories to get through the winter.  I think that's a great idea!
*********************
Here's my closing for days when I have a story in Keeping the Public in Public Domain
***************** 

This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  


At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it. 

Other Public Domain story resources I recommend -
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key. http://folkmasa.org/motiv/motif.htm
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

"Frankie and Johnny" the facts, sorta, kinda, or at least the story - Keeping the Public in Public Domain


I love to include music in my storytelling, but know I'll never be a true musician.  Today's story is a song I started working on because Paint Creek Folklore Society's April song swap theme is "First Names."  I need lots of lead time to play and be half way entertaining, so I started thinking about each month's theme as soon as they were announced in the fall.

I've never believed a good story should get in the way of the facts, but knew there were several first names thrown around in the song of "Frankie and Johnny."  I finally stopped playing it long enough to follow my curiosity and see if there really was a case that inspired the song.  Of course, just as in the past, the first stop was the encyclopedia, today it's Wikipedia.  They meandered along letting the reader know it was inspired by one or more murders.  The most likely murder had a connection to Saint Louis, where I grew up, so I was off and running through references to learn more.  In the process I found a few personal connections.

The most promising information about Frankie & Johnny (or Albert, or Allen) came from the St. Louis Police Veterans Association historical website. In 1899 the address, 212 Targee Street, was a four block street running north and south from Market on the North to Poplar on the South and between 14th and 15th Streets.  That's now where Kiel Opera House is located at 14th and Market. I was fascinated as I knew it had once been a 'red-light' district.  The St. Louis police say the area contains some most interesting best kept secrets.  All I know is it was just down the street from the Plaza Square Apartments where I had my first apartment on my own and the YWCA where I had my first full-time job.

This is where the legendary song "Frankie and Johnny" originated and is based on a true story about feuding lovers.  At this location 22-year-old Frankie Baker shot and killed 17-year old Albert, also known as Allen, Britt on October 15, 1899.   The shooting apparently was over another woman.  The police account says her name was Alice Pryor, but newspaper accounts called her Nellie Bly, who was no relation to the famous newspaperwoman.  Britt died at City Hospital where my mother worked more than half a century later.  Frankie, by the way, was able to successfully plead self defense (!) and was acquitted of the charge of murder, dying in 1950 in Portland, Oregon
So much for the verses I had been practicing about her execution.


There are many versions of the song.  The one on the St. Louis Police Veterans Association is as good as any.  I especially enjoy the final verse, not just that it avoids the error some make about Frankie's  non-existent execution, but the part about "This story ain't got no moral, this story ain't got no end."  The same is certainly true as you can't keep a good song down, factually or otherwise.

Frankie and Johnnie were lovers
Lordy oh how they did love
Swore to be true to each other
True as the stars above
He was her man he wouldn't do her wrong

Frankie went down to the barroom
Just for to get her some beer
Said to the fat bartender
has my lover Johnny been here
he is my man he wouldn't do me wrong

I ain't gonna tell you no stories
I ain't gonna tell you no lies
I saw your Johnnie half an hour ago
Making love to Nellie Bly
He is your man but he's doing you wrong

Frankie went back to the hotel
She didn't go for fun
Frankie went back to get a hold of
 Johnnie's shooting gun
He was her man but he was doing her wrong

Frankie drew back her kimono
pulled out her lil 44
root toot toot three times she shot
right through the hardwood door
She shot her man cos he was doin her wrong

Roll me over easy
Roll me over slow
Honey don't roll me on my left side
Cause the bullet hurts me so
I was your man but I was doin you wrong

Roll out your rubber tyred hearses
Roll our your rubber tyred hacks (?)
Twelve men goin to the graveyard
Eleven men coming back
He was her man but he was doin her wrong

The sheriff arrested Frankie
Threw her in jail the next day
Locked her up in a prison cell
And threw the key away
For shootin her man cos he was doin her wrong

This story ain't got no moral
this story ain't got no end
this story only goes to show
that there ain't no good in men
he was her man but he was doin her wrong.

I guess you could call this a public domain story as the song is certainly safely there, as are the newspaper accounts.  I enjoyed glimpsing and remembering the St. Louis Globe Democrat and the St. Louis Post Dispatch.  Since I know some of my readers especially look for my Keeping the Public in Public Domain stories, I'm going to stretch it a bit and include it.

Unless it's for teenagers, however, I don't think this story and song will be included in 2018 Summer Reading programs when the multi-state cooperative's theme is music with the slogan "Libraries Rock!"  I have other stories and songs to rock the pre-teens.

Here's my closing for days when I have a story in Keeping the Public in Public Domain
***************** 

This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  


At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it. 

Other Public Domain story resources I recommend -
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key. http://folkmasa.org/motiv/motif.htm
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!