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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Riley - The Bear Story - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Forget the calendar.  Winter begins earlier on my hilltop.  We've had snow dustings and coverings for some time now (the start of November?).  I'm not a fan because everything becomes more difficult.  Maybe I'd like it more if all I had to do was look at it, since it is pretty, or hop into my car and drive on dry streets?

I've found myself thinking about bears and hibernation.  The Truth About Bears and Hibernation says they don't truly hibernate, just become dormant or go into a torpor, sleeping deeply, possibly snacking a bit, but clearly reducing their accumulated fat.  Sounds like a great idea to me!

Of course I got to thinking about bear stories and when I went prowling at the old Story-Lovers website, on Archive.org's Wayback Machine to the October 22, 2016 snapshot and then scrolled down to and clicked on SOS: Searching Out Stories, I then scrolled down it to the second category, of Animals, Birds, Amphibians, Fish, and Insects Stories Folklore and Facts, and clicked on it, then clicked on Bear Stories, including Riley's Bear.  The "Riley's Bear" surprised me as it was James Whitcomb Riley's poem as told in dialect.

Oh my!  As a performer in plays as well as storytelling, I have a healthy respect for dialect knowing the fine line between becoming unintelligible and keeping the flavor of a different way of speaking.  I also remember vividly being a young reader and not appreciating the difficulty of understanding what was said.  Years later I ran into this in my attempts at developing a reading knowledge of Russian.  A classic story had a German accent transliterated into Russian's Cyrillic script!  Yikes!  As if I didn't have enough trouble.

By State of Indiana - The Chronicle of Your State in Pictures, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10246628
In his day James Whitcomb Riley was noted for his stories in dialect.  Later critical opinion criticized them.  It also pointed out that, although the poems supposedly used the language of the common people of his home state of Indiana, they really used the language of children.  That's an interesting coincidence as Halloween reminded me of his "Little Orphant Annie" with the refrain of "An' the Gobble-uns 'll git you Ef you Don't Watch Out!" (That article about Riley reveals her name was supposed to be "Allie", but a typesetter's error changed it.)  The late Fort Wayne, Indiana storyteller, Larry Givens, used to tell that poem as Riley remained popular as the "Hoosier Poet" and may still be required in schools there.

"Riley's Bear" not only confused me with its dialect, but its title was confusing as I sometimes found it headed up as "That Alex 'ist maked up his-own-se'f' " . . . HUNH?  I also had difficulty learning where the poem originated.  Prowling under Riley's name and "The Bear Story" I found The Accuracy Project gave the poem and said it came from The Works of James Whitcomb Riley: Vol. X -- A Child-World (1899) but checking Project Gutenberg shows A Child-World is the tenth of Riley's books collected.  Going there I finally understood "That Alex 'ist maked up his-own-se'f' " is part of the introduction to it.  The preceding section also tells about the boy making up the story.

The poem is quite long, so you may choose to go to The Accuracy Project link above, which gives the original.  Another resource is a YouTube video of John Cooksey reading the poem. It may give you an idea why the story has remained a favorite with so many people.  It also may make it easier to understand by hearing it rather than trying to read it because of the dialect.

I love the way the story is definitely being changed by the little boy, Alex, making it up as he goes along.  He tells you something and then says NO! and changes what happens, giving further details.

I'm going to translate it next week, omitting the dialect -- some may consider this sacrilegious to change the poet's work.  For those of us not interested in trying to decipher words like "'ist", I hope you'll return next week for a lively tall tale.

In the meantime I need to decide how much I want to attempt hibernation, torpor, or whatever!  I think bears miss one wonderful part of curling up in their dens ... READING!
That and the usual fine print after a "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" segment, should give you some suggestions.  I hope you come back next week for my translated version of "The Bear Story" as it is a lot of fun.
**************************
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!"
The email list for storytellers, Storytell, discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional suggestions:            
         - David K. Brown - http://people.ucalgary.ca/~dkbrown/stories.html
         - Richard Martin - http://www.tellatale.eu/tales_page.html
         - Spirit of Trees - http://spiritoftrees.org/featured-folktales
         - Story-Lovers - http://www.story-lovers.com/ is now only accessible through the Wayback Machine, described below, but Jackie Baldwin's wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google search doesn't work), at https://archive.org/ .  It's not easy, but go to Story-lovers.com snapshot for October 22 2016  and you can click on SOS: Searching Out Stories to scroll down through the many story topics and click on the story topic that interests you.
       - World of Tales - http://www.worldoftales.com/ 
     
You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links.  Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job.  In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it.  Possibly searches maintained it.  Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine.  It took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally in December of 2006 it appears!
    Somebody as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website is the late Chuck Larkin - http://chucklarkin.com/stories.html.  I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a. Archive.org, when that becomes the only way to find them.
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

11th Day of the 11th Month at the 11th Hour

How appropriate it is this week I again get to bring to life the story of World War I's the "Hello Girls" and this area's Oleda Joure Christides.  This Sunday, here in the United States November 11 is Veterans Day and throughout the British Commonwealth it's Remembrance Day.  Oleda's daughter, Helen, will be at Chaumont, General Pershing's headquarters in France, where her mother served.  France is one of many locations where it's called Armistice Day or, just informally, Poppy Day.

This picture is from an Australian article about their memorial, with the poppies scattered to replicate how they grow and the soldiers fell.
62,000 handmade poppies, 1 for every Australian life lost in World War I
Not far from here in Guelph, Ontario, I've had the privilege of joining with their storytelling group many years ago for Remembrance Day.  Back then I didn't realize the poet who wrote "In Flanders Fields", talking about the poppies and the dead, was Canadian physician, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, who was born in Guelph and only a little later died and was buried in France.
from the John McCrae memorial in Guelph (By Lx 121 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=845579)


Those poppies grew on the old battlefields and new cemeteries because the ground was so disturbed and the lime content of the fields made it one of the few plants to grow. There's a British site about the war, which is still referred to as The Great War.  The site has a page specifically about the poppy and Remembrance Day.

Aside from doing a program this past week, I began thinking about it when I saw this on the page of a friend and former co-worker's Facebook page.
I knew about the origin of the saying "the eleventh hour", but I'd never heard about the positioning of the flower and it sent me looking further.  I still didn't find the origin of the Facebook article, but a site called That's Nonsense.com, which claims to explore internet nonsense, did an article on it.  By and large they didn't really debunk it.  I liked their concluding its symbolism is up to you as long as you are respectful and they turned to the Royal British Legion's conclusion:
There is no right or wrong way to wear a poppy. It is a matter of personal choice whether an individual chooses to wear a poppy and also how they choose to wear it…The best way wear a poppy, is to wear it with pride

I love the section in my program when I tell how it was called out "La guerre ç'est finie!"  Of course the negotiations were just the beginning as Oleda saw both the final year of getting the soldiers home and the 60 year fight of the Hello Girls to gain veterans recognition.  She was one of the few to make it all the way through that part of Women's History. The decisions made in those negotiations, unfortunately, are usually pointed to causing World War II. 

As of this point I am booked to bring the program through March of 2019, but hope to continue to keep the story alive beyond 2019 as it is indeed Women's History, military history, and an important stage in world history.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Jacobs - The Hobyahs continued - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

There is a certain degree of follow-up needed on The Hobyahs.  

I was a bit rushed on posting June Barnes-Rowley and Marilyn Kinsella's information about the Hobyahs.  

Marilyn was a bit late in responding and said what I posted from her website deserves a bit more credit to January Kiefer as they used to perform it in tandem for several years.  



As Marilyn described the story:
Very powerful....FUN...story to tell. When I read one of the original stories
I thought - yeesh! 
But, January thought of the humor. Thanks for asking.
June, of necessity, had to be contacted too close to my posting it.  She responded:
A fantastic blog, Lois. You’ve broadened my knowledge of *The Hobyahs *and you’ve reminded me of one of the things I loved most about the traditional tales – the stories behind/around the tales. Papa Joe does a great rendition of *Hobyahs*. I’m honoured that you have included my videoed telling of the story – and even enhanced it. :)
As for different versions of the story, I think the version in the Victorian Second Grade Reader is excellent for young children. They identify with Little Dog Dingo who, like them, is vulnerable in the power of adults and unable to articulate why he is behaving the way he is. The animal character provides just enough distance whereas if the character were a child the identification would be much stronger, and therefore extremely unsettling.
Because the children have empathy for Little Dog Dingo, they feel the suspense of wondering whether he will survive. They share his frustration at not being able to make himself understood. They rejoice when he is finally taken seriously by his significant adult and, as a result, saves the day. At the end of the story, when the terror is over, the child’s world is restored to harmony – Little Dog Dingo is put back together and the Hobyahs are no more.
I believe Bruno Bettleheim said something along the lines of a scary story being a safe place for children to work through their fears. I think*Hobyahs* is a good example of that.
Of course, young children in the second grade in Australia ‘back in the day’ were tough kids and most had a connection to the land where life is brutal so, although they would be concerned for Little Dog Dingo, they wouldn’t necessarily fall over in a swoon on reading the story as today’s shielded children might.
As for the origins of the story, I’m inclined to think they are more likely to be Scottish than Australian. For one thing, when Jacobs was working on *More English Fairy Tales*, he was living in the United Kingdom.
The fact that he doesn’t identify which Perth he is talking about suggests he assumes the reader will know he is talking about the only Perth in the UK. If he’d been talking about the Australian Perth from his base in the UK, he would probably have identified it as Perth, Australia.
Also, when the Victorian Readers were compiled Australia was still joined at the hip to Britain and, although there was some concern to have stories that reflected Australia, most of the stories provided to schoolchildren were sourced from the UK. I think *The Hobyahs* is unattributed in the Victorian Reader but it is possible it was sourced from Jacobs’ publication then reworked.
And as for ‘swag of yarns’, I’m afraid it is no more. Yes, priorities and time. But it is nice to know it is missed.
Nice talkin' to ya, Lois. 

JB :)
From time to time I mention the email list, Storytell, hosted by the National Storytelling Network.  Of course spooky stories and their options  are a popular topic in October, so I did a "heads up" about this blog discussing The Hobyahs.  Two storytellers discussed their experiences with it.  (Blogger took my pasting their comments plus those of June and Marilyn and made some strange formatting.  My apologies.)

MaryGrace Walrath said:
When I tell "Hobyahs" I use "exaggerated" facial reactions as I describe how the Hobyahs look.
I do the same thing every time I say, "Poor Little Dog Turpy".
I end the story with "The hunter took the little girl to the remains of the house where she used to live. They gathered Little Dog Turpy's body parts and took them to a veterinarian and, because I like dogs, the vet sewed Little Dog Turpy back together as good as new."
While discussing it a bit further, she told me about a workshop she attended ages ago on telling spooky stories that advised, for young children, letting out a giggle and a smile to let the children know it really wasn't as spooky as it might seem.

Additionally fellow Missourian, (but she stayed, while I moved to Michigan), Mary Garrett said on Storytell:
That was one of the first stories I learned to tell, in a workshop with Lynn Rubright.   
Then I told it to children at the pre-school, who were not scared because I'm just not scary.  

I've seen others tell it successfully, softening with humor, "tasted like chicken," and finding a 

happy ending in the child's real parents coming to the rescue at the end.  I've since learned other 

stories I like better, but it is a classic.
That safe ending is key. Jackie Torrence's line was often, "and no one ever saw that . . . . again. And that's the end of that."
Mary was told afterwards she probably told it with a smile and she agreed!
May you keep a smile on your face with or without those Hobyahs.
******************************** 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Jacobs - The Hobyahs - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

I've a large repertoire of scary stories because I enjoy them and have had years to tell them, but today's story has always been too creepy for me to tell.  I consider Papa Joe Gaudet both a friend and mentor, so I wasn't surprised to see a video where he did a great storytelling, but it was this story.  Still definitely creepy and I'll show it after the story in print.  I'll also include its Australian connection even though Joseph Jacobs put it in his anthology, More English Fairy Tales.  I then will give a variety of responses and ways of handling it.  The story has had many people adapt it and I'll discuss that, too, but first ... The Hobyahs.








Here's Papa Joe's telling with fellow storyteller, Simon Brooks, playing on the bodhran.

Simon also did a second version of the story where there is only the audio and a picture of the two of them.  On that second video Simon says:
This is a recording for ADULTS. This is NOT something you would play to young children. Papa Joe Gaudet wanted to record a story with drums, and asked me to work with him on the old tale called The Hobyahs. Papa Joe did the lion's share with the story, with minor suggestions and edits from myself. I play a Alfonso daBlonde bodhran, and join in with my voice in places. We recorded it on a handheld Zoom voice recorder in my front room, and frightened my dog Moe in the telling. Enjoy it - if you can!

Jacobs grew up in Australia and posted the story first in the Journal of American Folklore, citing as his source a Mr. S.V. Proudfit of Perth.  The muddying of things start because Jacobs omits whether that was Perth, Scotland or Perth, Australia.  There's additional reason to think it's Australia from colonial days because Aussie storytellers point to a version found in the Victorian Readers, a series of school readers produced between 1927 and 1930 for school children in the state of Victoria and used (with revisions) until the 1950s.

Two Aussie storytelling friends who are also writers, Ellen Frances Burdett and June Barnes-Rowley, long ago began to make me wonder about how the story could appear in a school reader.  (I learned in researching this it was the Second Reader and was the curriculum for seven year olds!) Ellen sent me scans of that version of the story.  One page is a bit blurry, but I think it's still clear enough to follow.
I mentioned June Barnes-Rowley, who nowadays is a novelist in addition to her storytelling, but I remember her founding Swag of Yarns (I bought many issues of it years ago), Australia's National Storytelling Magazine.  In the spring of 1999, June published an Australian version, explaining the dog is named Dingo, but it barks while actual dingoes howl.  Here's June telling her version of The Hobyahs and it's definitely set in Australia.
If you notice, the Victorian Reader and June's version leave out the little girl and also has the dog put back together.  This interests me because of what I read in Michelle De Stefani, Ph.D.'s paper on "Taming the Hobyahs" (written for Monash University, in Victoria's major city of Melbourne).  She mentions its roots include a cautionary element in colonial tales of errant children or lost babes in the bush:
children who become, through the process of storytelling, didactic exemplars of the danger and precariousnessof growing up and living in the wilds of a ‘savage’ island outpost. Among the host ofmythical creatures the child could encounter within the hostile landscape of theAustralian bush, none could be more terrifying than a horde of Hobyahs. To appreciatethe true terror of Hobyahs – as well as their close ties to Australian childhood and to fairy-tale traditions – one must acknowledge their history in print as well as their adaptations and re-visions in the twentieth century.
There's more in her paper, which progresses all the way through to an Australian film, Celia, which could be called a modern version of the story.  Her paper's quite interesting, tracking the tale from its "ori-genesis", but it doesn't take us to the telling or revision of this story.

Here in the U.S. Marilyn Kinsella posted the way she tells the story.  She makes them sound slightly humorous looking, but she reminds us:
Now, there are two things you need to know about the Hobyahs. Thing number one: Hobyahs hate the light. Thing number two: Hobyahs can't stand dogs! You remember that.
After that she involves the audience, getting them to join in on the Hobyah's chant.  She does include the little girl, but doesn't get the dog put back together, using essentially the version Jacobs wrote.  At the end she concludes with something all versions seem to point out "That's why to this day, you never see nor hear about those Hobyahs...unless, of course, you listen to this story."

Thinking about whether or not the girl is in the story -- she's omitted from the Victorian Reader -- is important.  Omitting her lets young listeners avoid identifying with the old woman and the old man.

I began looking on the internet to find even more and found Barbara Ruth Brown Paciotti's blog, where she says she first heard the story when she was "very, very young" from her grandmother and used to beg to hear it repeatedly.  As an adult she compared her version and how it differed from what was surely Jacobs.  The dog's tail makes a "wiggle-waggle" whenever it's mentioned; the feet similarly "pitter-patter", and Turpie "bark, bark, barks."  There's no little girl and the old man puts the dog back together.  It's interesting how her gentle version has the dog merely chasing the Hobyahs away, concluding "but the Hobyahs were too afraid of little dog Turpie and they never came out of the forest again, so the little old man and the little old woman and little dog Turpie lived happily ever after."

Another version, in Public Domain, is very similar to the Victorian Reader, from Fanny E. Coe's The Book of Stories for the Storyteller the tale is re-told by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, who certainly knew how to tell to young audiences.  It contains the note that "This story is suitable for children age 6 to 8 approx."  No girl, Turpie is put back together by the old man to rescue the old woman, and concludes "And that is why there are not any Hobyahs now."

Leila Berg has a book called Little Dog Turpie with humorous illustrations by George Him.  A blog called What's the Story, Morning Glory, with permission from the author and artist, shows those copyrighted illustrations and Berg says, "It was George's idea to make Dog Turpie into a toy-type figure, so that his different pieces didn't have to be brutally chopped off, but were just taken apart." Again it also omits the girl and concludes with "And that's why there are no Hobyahs today, not one."

Several wrote about how hearing the story as a child "seriously creeped them out", giving years of nightmares. 
  • Back in Australia, Inga Clendinnen writes in The Age newspaper her own looking again at that Victorian Reader doubting the Gemanic roots someone told her the story had and putting down the way the Old Man "remained cosily hidden while the house-pulling-down and the kidnapping were going on, repented his earlier actions and reassembled the little dog, having frugally kept the bits", and how the Old Woman and the dog return to him.  Her most important doubt, however, is "But we didn't and we don't believe it. There were too many hobyahs. How could one little dog possibly eat them all up? At best he might have bitten one or two and then made a run for it. So they must be still out there in the bush."  She goes on to say "You don't believe me? Try whispering "Hobyahs!" to anyone over 40 when you're out in the bush, when the dusk comes creeping from the gullies, between the grey gums. Then watch them run."
  • Engrams in the Cloud says "When I was very young my mother would read stories to us, some of which caused me and my younger brother to have nightmares. The story of the Hobyahs was one such story." (Lois: The dog is put back together and there's no little girl.)
  • Eliza Leigh warns, before giving the Jacobs version from The Junior Classics set,
    Seriously. This gave me the heebie jeebies for years.
    **WARNING** Visciousness to poor dog Turpie and mean-a** farmer within. Actually, it never says he’s a farmer, I’m just assuming, it just says old man. Wonder where they got a little girl. . . 
A mixture of positive and negative reactions I enjoyed came from a children's librarian, Eva M., tells in her Book Addiction blog about an aggravating neighbor dog named Teddy who reminded her enough of Turpie that she confessed:
  "That little dog Teddy barks so that I can neither sleep nor slumber, and if I live 'til morning, I'm going to cut off little dog Teddy's head."

This despite the fact that 1. I consider myself an animal fan, being the proud companion of a passel of hens and a tangle of rats and one scrofulous hamster 2. it's not Teddy but his human who deserves my ire and 3. little dog Turpie remains a shining example of selfless, courageous heroism to me.
She goes on, however to tell of how she "once saved Teddy's life sort of/maybe" (LoiS: read it!) and, when her husband asked why she saved him, she replied:
"Well, think what might get us if it weren't for Teddy, " I answer. "The Hobyahs might be out there right now, waiting to tear down our hemp stalks."

But I still can't help sympathizing with the old man, just the tiniest little bit.
After Eva's own post there are some comments including an Australian who remembers back to 1947 and how it made an impression on a 7 year old.  (Lois: bold type and underlining is mine.) and this final comment from a Czech storyteller and her own reaction to telling it.
 I watched the movie Celia long, long ago and recently I thought about a story to "make mood" before summer camp night game, so I tried to find anything about that children's story. Searching was little hard, because I haven't remember neither the name of the movie, neither the name of the story, just bits, so I searched for hobiahs, hobias, hobiars etc. before I somehow found it.
I read some versions, most of them (as you say) bowdlerized (I had to find out what that term means) and found the original one absolutely fit to the purpose.
Some children were so scared, but they all enjoed the story and made me read it once more! And they don't even know english well, the story is not translated into Czech. Nice to see thirteen years old macho, who during the day have only contemption for everything, eyes full of primal fear of creep creep creeping in the night!
I tried to find something more about how the hobyahs look like before I found out that everyone has his/her own hobyahs, that imagination makes them so creepy...
While searching for it, I found this page and it makes me really happy, your story is so heart-warming :) Yeah, everyone has some Teddy the dog, that one wants to be silent and is willing to "cut his head off", but when tough time comes, is nice that your humanity prevails.
You made my day better, thank you!
Z. Švajda, Czech Republic.
O.k., if you're considering telling it, I found June Rowley has a blog, Oral Storytelling, and she gives this:
Note to storytellers: Don’t make the mistake of portraying the hobyahs as loud and fierce during the refrain; Hobyah. Hobyah. Hobyah. Pull down the hut, eat up the little old man, and carry off the little old woman.
The hobyahs are planning an ambush and their intended victims are sleeping. Sombre and sinister (or ‘sepulchral monotone’ as S. V. Proudfit puts it) is appropriate here rather than loud and fierce.
The moment for the hobyahs to be loud and fierce is when they are trying to intimidate the woman in the bag – at this point they are in a heightened state, excited about the victory of capture and anticipating the meal ahead.
Point taken.  You will notice it followed both in her own video and that by Papa Joe.

So where does this leave me?  Hmmm.  Maybe it's worth looking at one more version.  Robert San Soucie, who is no stranger to spooky storytelling having produced many anthologies of such stories, dared to do a picture book version.  I must admit I loved his additional poetic comments that appear on clouds facing the main part of the story.  He definitely has the little girl.  What I found most interesting was my reaction to the Old Man and Old Woman, who raise the orphan girl, have five dogs.  One by one each dog, Turpie, Topie, Tippy, Tarry, and Teeny, are beaten and chased off into the woods for sounding the alarm.  The elderly couple are eaten for their failure to listen to their dogs, while the girl is carried off and cries in the bag.  It makes perfect sense the dogs, who were chased into the same woods, hear and rescue her.  (Lois: Wonder what the Australian newspaper writer would think of five dogs finishing off all the Hobyahs?)  The happy ending with the little girl and the dogs is appropriate to the picture book audience level.

O.k. I find myself, as always, thinking about my audience.  San Soucie has revealed to me how I personally am very uncomfortable with dismembering the dog.  One version made a point of saying it uses magic to put the dog together because it was available then.  Doesn't matter to me.  Unless I want to really be creepy, the idea of multiple dogs works for me and I also believe the distance in the story by eliminating a child works against the very thing storytelling does best -- identify with the main character and form a picture in your mind (movies miss that by substituting a picture).  When would I want to be "really creepy" and give the Jacobs version?  That comment from the Czech Republic says there are indeed audiences needing it, those adolescent listeners with a "Can't scare me!" attitude deserve the story to have "primal fear of creep creep creeping in the night!"

Today's posting of multiple versions and reactions and considering how it might be told has gone on long enough.  I'm omitting the usual "fine print" listing other places to find stories.  It usually is attached to my Keeping the Public in Public Domain segments.  If you want to find more, I heartily recommend my colleagues listed there.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Service - Cremation of Sam McGee - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

It's been beautiful watching autumn's confetti, but weather forecasters are already using a four-letter word starting with "S".  Beyond that, twice now I've heard people tell Robert Service's "The Cremation of Sam McGee" as their spooky tale.  I've long said I feel like Sam McGee when Michigan winter arrives.  I'm from St. Louis -- that's Missouri, never knew there was a St. Louis, Michigan until I moved here.  (It's a nice town.  I have told at their library and they even had a sign out front with my name on it!)

I don't know which gives me the shivers more, Michigan winter, Service's poem, or the idea of trying to tell a poem this long from memory!  One of the two people I mentioned read the poem.  I've done that and recommend Ted Harrison's illustrations for the book version. The colors chosen and facial expressions, even the howling sled dogs, catch the shivery, slightly macabre humor of the story-length poem.  By the way, I mentioned the poem and the book to a children's librarian who was shocked she didn't know this little gem.  I started out by telling her about last week's Fisk Farm Fright Night and how it was used.

Cowboy poetry, or any long narrative poetry told, instead of read, is tricky.  Our cowboy storyteller hit just the right style, shuffling his way through the story.  It was new to the audience and they applauded half-way through, throwing him.  Fortunately he did what I've seen other cowboy poets do, he had his wife "holding book" to prompt him when he hit rough patches.  I've told Seuss books and can fake it if I hit a blank spot, but would I try this from memory?  Dunberidiculous!

Until you get your hands on the Harrison illustrated edition, here's the poem and then I've a bit of further interesting related information to add.

The Cremation of Sam McGee

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
      By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
      That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
      But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
      I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he'd often say in his homely way that "he'd sooner live in hell."

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see;
It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, "I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I'm asking that you won't refuse my last request."

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
"It's the cursèd cold, and it's got right hold till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet 'tain't being dead—it's my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you'll cremate my last remains."

A pal's last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn't a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: "You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it's up to you to cremate those last remains."

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows— O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the "Alice May."
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then "Here," said I, with a sudden cry, "is my cre-ma-tor-eum."

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared—such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn't like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: "I'll just take a peep inside.
I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked"; ... then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: "Please close that door.
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear you'll let in the cold and storm—
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm."

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
      By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
      That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
      But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
      I cremated Sam McGee.

The poem is indeed Public Domain and I chose the Poetry Foundation page as it gives easy access to the rest of Service's poems, including his other well known poem, "The Shooting of Dan McGrew", which was also illustrated as a book by Ted Harrison.  You will also see a tab on the Poetry Foundation that says "More about this poem", which includes a link to a Robert Service biography, but I heartily recommend the Wikipedia biography instead as the section about about his life after the Yukon period gives a fascinating life beyond all the attention of those Gold Rush times.

This barely digs past the crust of the Yukon snow.  PBS has a program, "The Klondike Gold Rush", and that link lets you see the entire show and supplementary material,as well as offer you the opportunity to purchase the video.  Don't stop there!  There's another documentary, a two hour film called  "Dawson City: Frozen Time" worth catching.  "Rotten Tomatoes" claims 100% of film critics gave it a positive review.  I saw it and found it could have benefitted from being cut, but it definitely includes some fascinating silent film footage of the Klondike Gold Rush.  The prospectors were legally required to carry (or hire it carried) a year's supply of tools and provisions.  The film also shows a large number of prospectors climbing up the mountain when an avalanche buried many of them.  The film itself comes from 533 silent film reels discovered buried under a community center's swimming pool turned ice hockey rink in 1978. 
One further bit of interesting background can be found on Wikipedia.  The article on Service just quotes "1905 R. W. Service: Bard of the Yukon", Whitehorse Star online archive, September 11, 2008, saying: 
 'A month or so later he heard a gold rush yarn from a Dawson mining man about a fellow who cremated his pal.' He spent the night walking in the woods composing "The Cremation of Sam McGee", and wrote it down from memory the next day.
However, if you go to the Wikipedia article, "The Cremation of Sam McGee", the section of "The reality behind the fiction" tells more about that yarn, as well as the fact that the Ted Harrison edition is widely read in Canadian elementary schools, and this Canadian stamp (which isn't shown there.)

Now for a treat, go to YouTube where Johnny Cash reads the poem with some of Harrison's illustrations.

Brrrrrrr!  Whether you find the story of Sam McGee, the historical story of the Yukon, or the weather forecast makes you shiver, look out winter's coming!
********************************
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!"
The email list for storytellers, Storytell, discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional suggestions:            
         - David K. Brown - http://people.ucalgary.ca/~dkbrown/stories.html
         - Richard Martin - http://www.tellatale.eu/tales_page.html
         - Spirit of Trees - http://spiritoftrees.org/featured-folktales
         - Story-Lovers - http://www.story-lovers.com/ is now only accessible through the Wayback Machine, described below, but Jackie Baldwin's wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google search doesn't work), at https://archive.org/ .  It's not easy, but go to Story-lovers.com snapshot for October 22 2016  and you can click on SOS: Searching Out Stories to scroll down through the many story topics and click on the story topic that interests you.
       - World of Tales - http://www.worldoftales.com/ 
     
You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links.  Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job.  In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it.  Possibly searches maintained it.  Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine.  It took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally in December of 2006 it appears!
    Somebody as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website is the late Chuck Larkin - http://chucklarkin.com/stories.html.  I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a. Archive.org, when that becomes the only way to find them.
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Ingram - Andrew Jackson and the Bell "Witch" - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

This is published early to publicize this Saturday event.

Hope to see you, but I also want to give a story with an interesting history.  It tells of Andrew Jackson and describes his interesting adventure with a ghost or witch in Tennessee.  Paranormal investigation isn't new, even North Oakland County Storytellers have had to share Fisk Farm with ghost hunters in the past.

The "Bell Witch" story has been well investigated over the 19th and 20th centuries.  Wikipedia has an article about it, including a paragraph about whether Andrew Jackson could have witnessed the apparition included in Martin V. Ingram's 1894 book, An Authenticated History of the Famous Bell Witch.  

Whether you believe what you find in Wikipedia or not, I say why let the facts get in the way of a good story?  Time enough to read what the experts say later.
Here's an update:
Tennessee Historical Commission marker along U.S. Route 41 in Adams, Tennessee by Brian Stansberry
There's lots more to search online about the "Bell 'Witch'" including Pat Fitzhugh's official The Bell Witch website.
********************************
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!"
The email list for storytellers, Storytell, discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional suggestions:            
         - David K. Brown - http://people.ucalgary.ca/~dkbrown/stories.html
         - Richard Martin - http://www.tellatale.eu/tales_page.html
         - Spirit of Trees - http://spiritoftrees.org/featured-folktales
         - Story-Lovers - http://www.story-lovers.com/ is now only accessible through the Wayback Machine, described below, but Jackie Baldwin's wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google search doesn't work), at https://archive.org/ .  It's not easy, but go to Story-lovers.com snapshot for October 22 2016  and you can click on SOS: Searching Out Stories to scroll down through the many story topics and click on the story topic that interests you.
       - World of Tales - http://www.worldoftales.com/ 
     
You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links.  Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job.  In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it.  Possibly searches maintained it.  Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine.  It took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally in December of 2006 it appears!
    Somebody as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website is the late Chuck Larkin - http://chucklarkin.com/stories.html.  I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a. Archive.org, when that becomes the only way to find them.
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!