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Saturday, July 4, 2015

100th Post of Keeping the Public in Public Domain

 100-fireworks
The fireworks here is not just for the 4th of July.

It's hard to believe, but there have been 100 stories in this series of Public Domain stories.  To celebrate I looked for a story with 100 in it and found a goodie.  Because it comes from another language, not every version of the title is translated  the same.  This comes from Frederic Taber Cooper's An Argosy of Fables which had 5 posts in September of 2013.  That book is huge and it was hard to limit myself to a representative of the main categories.  Today's story comes from the segment Cooper called "Hindoo Fables".  When that was mentioned earlier, I explained that was his early 20th century oversimplification of Indian culture since their majority religion is Hinduism.  This comes from the ancient Panchatantra tales.  Noted Sanskrit scholar, Arthur Ryder, has another version of the story he titles "Hundred-Wit, Thousand-Wit, and Single-Wit (pp 444-446)."  I prefer his title, but possibly Ryder's translation was too academic.  Cooper's version tells in more accessible style. 

While your at it, the first two weeks in June's discussion on fables used two Jataka tales for a discussion of whether to tell the moral or not.

A great way to spark a story is to take a proverb and create a story to illustrate it.  Fables do just that, but it's up to the teller to decide if telling the moral helps or hurts the story.

Either way, may our next 100 public domain stories help Keep the Public in Public Domain.
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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.  
 


There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I recommended it earlier and want to continue to do so.  Have fun discovering even more stories!



Saturday, June 27, 2015

Thailand was Siam and Myanmar was Burma and . . .

So much of a storyteller's work isn't open to everyone.  Here in Michigan we have an email newsletter and related website listing storytelling programs.  The newsletter is "MI Story" and the website spells it out, MichiganStorytelling.org, but when something isn't open to the public I don't list it.

Sawatdee!  

This past week I've been on a Thailand Trek, a cross-cultural Vacation Bible School.  The program introduces children to both the Bible story and this interesting country's differences and similarities to us.  As a storyteller I've had the fun of bringing both, starting with that Thai greeting, "Sawatdee", helping children experience Bible adventures, and ending the series with stories from Thailand for the entire family.

Me and my big mouth.  I knew elephants were going to be HUGE in this program and the very first story to pop into my head is the title story from Frances Carpenter's
but if you read the book's fine print, it isn't just from Thailand, but several countries from "the Far East."  Re-reading this story I promised to tell, I discovered it's from Burma, now called Myanmar!  Yes, it tells of a rivalry between the two countries, but Carpenter sets it in Burma.  Prowling for sources turned up Carpenter's sources in French and an English version in Told to Burmese Children by Maurice Russell, but Carpenter's version is frankly more fleshed out.  Still, it's a tale about two neighboring families and the neighboring countries and jealousy.

My search continued and "elephant bath" produced both this picturehttp://vintage.johnnyjet.com/image/PicforNewsletterThailandChiangMai200888.JPG
and Thaiexchange, a site to experience many things about Thailand, including folktales.  It includes "Why Elephants Have Long Trunks", a delightful pourquois tale explaining how their trunks came to be.  I love stories where people come up with a creative explanation of how something came into being.  But would that work in a Vacation Bible School?  Maybe.  We did explore creation and how our own creations use God-given abilities, but are not the same as a living, breathing elephant, bird, whatever live creature you may name.

The search included several more books on my shelves, sometimes using Thailand's older name of Siam: Folk Tales from Siam - Alan S. Feinstein; The Serpent Prince; Folk Tales from Northeastern Thailand - Kermit Krueger; Siamese Folk Tales - J. Kasem Sibunruang; but there was also Burmese and Thai Fairy Tales - Eleanor Brockett; plus two more Burmese collections, The City of the Dagger and Other Tales from Burma - H.H.Keely and Christine Price and also A Kingdom Lost for a Drop of Honey and Other Burmese Folktales - Maung Htin Aung and Helen G. Trager.  Prowling my AZZ Cardfile of my folklore books also turned up individual tales in anthologies, but it was that last Burmese book that made me think of friend and colleague, the multi-talented and well-traveled, Doctor Margaret Read MacDonald.

She's frequently been to Thailand.  Her telling me of staying with a family who told her not to mind the cobra "singing out in the yard" convinced me there are some storytelling adventures she is welcome to have!  Her many books include Thai Tales, and, while I have ten of her books, unfortunately that isn't one of them BUT I know for a long time she's told that title story of A Kingdom Lost for a Drop of Honey and Other Burmese Folktales.  Russell calls it "One Drop of Honey." Brockett calls it "A Drop of Honey" and attributes it to Thailand.  Sure enough it's called "Not Our Problem" in Margie's Peace Tales; World Folktales to Talk About, and she calls it a story from Burma and Thailand.  Because I know of her love and familiarity with Thailand, I looked in her other books I have and also found that story from the Thaiexchange I mentioned.  She calls it "The Elephants and the Bees."  As expected, her anthologies had several more Thai folktales, including the tale that also became her picture book about
That story is lots of fun and perfect for family audiences.  Her stories frequently, including these three stories, have possibilities for audience participation.  That's always a plus when the audiences stretch from preschool, to school-age, to self-conscious teen, all the way to adults.

All of this prowling about had to take place in a very limited time, so I paid special attention to stories in anthologies covering more than just those two countries.  Why?  I figured then it had a special reason to be chosen.  Similarly I figured a story in more than one book of Asian tales, like the ones already mentioned, meant they were particularly popular.  The variation in titles of the same story added to the difficulty since I don't have time to read everything right now.  Serpent Prince, by the way, also includes "The Girl Who Wore Too Much" but ends with its claim to a deadly truth, which MacDonald admits she softens.

Thaiexchange gives "The Speech of Parrots."  The same Thai story is in Harold Courlander's Ride with the Sun as "Why the Parrot Repeats Man's Words" and Carpenter calls it "The Bird That Told Tales."  It, too, offers opportunity for participation.

Along the way I noticed Thaiexchange mentioned their elephant story came from "the forests of northern Thailand (not even Siam yet)."  Added to that The Serpent Prince; Folk Tales from Northeastern Thailand discusses the time when relations between Siam, Burma, Cambodia, and Laos were more fluid than today.  This leads me to think it is not impossible that the "Elephant's Bathtub" story, which started all of this, was told in both countries, but I still need to explain we can't be certain it's a Thai tale, but certainly was caused by Siam's many "white elephants."
"The white elephant flag", flag of Siam in 1855-1916.
Is a white elephant white?  Only nominally, as there are four grades with the lightest being a light rosy brown that is pink when wet.  Both Thailand and Burma still consider them important for their rulers.  A white elephant is considered sacred and doesn't work.  As a result a white elephant is a dubious gift from a king because it needs plenty of care yet can't give any profit, causing financial ruin and creating the term "white elephant."  Wikipedia gives a survey of the topic, including past and present, if you want to know more.

In the meantime, I peeked at 2016 VBS themes possible and see that, if the Cross Cultural VBS has been successful it might look at either Norway or Egypt with a focus on the life of Joseph.  As fellow storytelling friend, Loretta Vitek, loves to say, "There's always a story, it'd be a shame not to share it!"

(By the way, I just discovered this is my 201st blog posting and it's been fun sharing them!)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Macmillan - How Summer Came to Canada - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

My dog loves to take me on lo-o-o-ng walks.  Today we turned off a route he's been using lately and onto a trail I last recall in ice and snow.  It's amazing how the meadow grass is now chest high, reaching still higher and the woods have green leaves everywhere.  The grass forms a wall on one side of the trail and the woods on the other.  Such a transition reminded me this Sunday, June 21, is the first official day of summer.
Illustration by George Sheringham from the 1920 Second Edition digitized from a University of Michigan volume of  Canadian Wonder Tales
This left me wondering if I'd posted the tale by the Schoolcrafts about The Summer Maker.  Yes, I did, but the First Nations of Canada tell many stories reminiscent of Michigan's Anishinaabe legends.  (The People of the Three Fires are north of the Great Lakes, too.)  Even more than "The Summer Maker", however, today's story reminds me more of  Peboan and-Seegwun, also from the Schoolcrafts, which I posted this past spring . . . possibly after walking this same trail.

While this Canadian story has Glooskap as its hero, it could very easily have been the Anishinaabe legendary figure Nanabazhoo.  (Because of different dialects and a lack of standardized written form of his name, it's sometimes Manabozho and other spellings -- and, yes, Longfellow created his own character of Hiawatha from him.)  Canadian professor Cyrus Macmillan started with the Micmacs for Glooskap before moving westward in his collections of Canadian Wonder Tales (1918), the source of today's tale, and Canadian Fairy Tales (1922).  Find all of his works, including those two, at the Internet Archive.  Unfortunately for folklore lovers in 1923 he stopped collecting and his focus switched to the academic life of McGill University and politics.



 





Since Canada is the first foreign country south of me here in the Detroit metro area, this is our story, too.  After Sunday's Summer Solstice it's all down hill, so enjoy the long days and warmth because this promise of Winter's return will start up again.  Michigan right now is indeed the Pleasant Peninsula promised in the state motto of "If you seek a pleasant peninsula look around you."  It enjoys four seasons, although spring and autumn always seem too short, but look out!  Glooskap made the bargain, let's blame him for Winter's return.

That's my (and the Canadian) story and I'm sticking to it.
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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Babbitt - Prince Wicked and the Grateful Animals - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Last week I began looking at whether you should end a story with a moral.  I strongly recommend a look at that article for a variety of reasons.  There were three stories I already liked best in Ellen C. Babbitt's More Jataka Tales.
One of them, today's "Prince Wicked and the Animals", drew this comment from me: (reading it again, I really must post it in this election season even though it's the longest Jataka in the book!)

Don't worry, it's not political, but that's the application or moral that popped into my head at the time.  Your own  moral may be very different, but I hope you, too, enjoy the story.










There are many ways this story could be used.  Whether you feel the need for a Moral to end the story is up to you, but I hope you Keep the Public in Public Domain by keeping this and other Jataka Tales alive.  (Personally I love the re-tellings by Babbitt as they are simple and very tellable, but, as mentioned last week, if you prefer something more academic or true to its Buddhist origins, be sure to look at last week's inclusion of the original sources she used.)
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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 normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings as often as I can manage it.    



There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I recommended it earlier and want to continue to do so.  Have fun discovering even more stories!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Babbitt - The Stupid Monkeys - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Just fell in love once again with Ellen C. Babbitt's two Jataka Tales books.  This came after my telling Indian folklore to open a play I was in and also after an interesting discussion about telling or not telling the moral of story.  I'll say more after this very brief example.


I intentionally left the book edge showing in this final page as it shows my "sticky note" in the front of the book.  More on that after returning to the comments made at the start of today's article.

Look at this story.  Would it gain or lose by stating a moral?  What moral would you give it?

That decision of a moral is at the heart of "to give a moral or not."  If you leave it unstated, two, no, possibly three things may happen:

  1. Various morals are free to develop based on the individual
  2. It doesn't seem as didactic 
  3. The point isn't necessarily the one the teller had in mind.
I intentionally chose a story where the story's "message" may not be the same for everyone. (It also happens to be the time of year when people may need to find caretakers for gardens, pets, whatever, while they are away.)

Proverbs are a great story starter and many books of fables do give us the intended moral for stories.  At a recent storytelling meeting the story of getting an animal to dig until they have dug a pit too deep to escape was told.  In this case the digger was a tricky fox -- always a creature good to represent creativity and sly intelligence.  The story ended with the fox stuck in the pit and the moral was stated that "There's always someone smarter."  That's a good lesson.  It brought the story to a close with a snapSometimes that's what is wanted because a fable, by its nature, is a teaching story.  The drawbacks are the three possibilities named earlier, although the third option tends to be the same as the first.  The possible benefits are that your audience will know what you wanted them to remember and it also is a bit more memorable.  The fellow storyteller who used it on his digging fox version caught me so off guard that it took me several days to remember the story itself instead of just his stated moral.

In the recent show, one of the tales I told, "The Pigeon and His Turtle Dove Wife", was from another ancient Indian collection of teaching tales, the Panchatantra.  The setting for the show was to be at a wedding reception.  Essentially the story, like the familiar "City Mouse, Country Mouse" has a pigeon leave his home-loving wife for a series of adventures that all leave him eager to return home.  I chose to end with "East, west, home is best."  Didactic?  Yes, a bit, but it gave that snap of conclusion and showed how it fit the setting, letting me go on to another more modern example from Indian culture.

The two books, Jataka Tales and More Jataka Tales, are easily found online and I've given hotlinks, but Ms. Babbit made it clear in both books she was retelling the work of other translators, the Cambridge scholars of the Sanskrit "Guild of Jataka Translators" directed by Professor E.B. Cowell.  If you go to that work you get the subtitle: Stories of the Buddha's Former Births.  She omits that aspect in her retellings.  If you want it, then a more academic translation, like Cowell's, is wanted.  Personally I love the way her tales return to teaching (and in an entertaining way) everyone without limitation for age or religious outlook.  There's a reason the Jatakas have been among the earliest literature and have spread so widely throughout international folklore (Aesop, Boccacio, Chaucer, et al).  Both the Jatakas and the Panchatantra are animal fables illustrating the wise conduct of life.

Oh, and about that "sticky note", I listed these stories: - "The Girl Monkey and the Pearls" which Anne Rockwell delightfully turned into The Stolen Necklace;

- the Golden Goose (no, not the Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs -- this one deals with the gift of golden feathers and how the gift was abused);

- the Stolen Plow (I know this as a Fox tale, but both versions deal with tricksters in a similar way);

- Prince Wicked and the Animals (reading it again, I really must post it in this election season even though it's the longest Jataka in the book!)

- the Elephant and the Dog (just a lovely little story of animal friendship).

Those were the stories I might only have continued re-reading, but as I said at the start: Just fell in love once again with Natalie Babbitt's two Jataka Tales books.  The More Jataka Tales book is slender enough and the tales are brief enough that I once again went through the book and was so glad I did. (The original Jataka Tales is just as accessible.)

With or without a stated moral, don't let that stop you from enjoying them!
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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 normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings as often as I can manage it.    



There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I recommended it earlier and want to continue to do so.  Have fun discovering even more stories!