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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Lang - The Goat's Ears of the Emperor Trojan - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Goat.svgSometimes I get bothered by the way goats get ranked lower than sheep.  Think about the implications when talking about the phrase "separating the sheep from the goats."  Even the Chinese Year of the Goat, which is about to end, is sometimes listed as the Year of the Sheep or the Year of the Ram.  BAAAAA!

I've raised goats.  They're social animals and smart.  Sheep aren't usually described that way.  They also can be stubborn, maybe that fits sheep, too, I'm not sure.  They are fairly good at eating omniverously -- if you still have your Christmas tree and it has no chemical treatment, they love it!  They do not eat tin cans.  That myth came because they love eating the glue and paper labels on cans.
Before the Year of the Goat ends and we have to wait another 12 years, I went looking for a good goat-related story and knew I couldn't resist the very popular Serbian tale about the Emperor Trajan (Lang lists him as Trojan).  Lang attributes the story to Volksmarchen der Serben but this is all I found in a translation of that book:

Classic and Mediæval Influence
When paganism had disappeared, the Southern-Slavonic legends received many elements from the Greeks and Romans. There are references to the Emperors Trajan and Diocletian as well as to mythical personages. In the Balkans, Trajan is often confused with the Greek king Midas. In the year 1433 Chevalier Bertrandon de la Broquière heard from the Greeks at Trajanople that this city had been built by the Emperor Trajan, who had goat’s ears. The historian Tzetzes also mentions that emperor’s goat’s ears ὠτία τράγου. In Serbian legends the Emperor Trajan seems also to be confused with Dædalus, for he is given war-wings in addition to the ears.

The actual story is fairly short and, since the actual Trajan, while the first non-Italian Roman emperor, probably wasn't too popular in Serbia, I imagine it originated as a bit of fun poked at the emperor.  Coins of the day don't show goat's ears, but what emperor would have permitted that?  Still this comment from a coin collector is fun: The Emperor With Many Faces

Many of the coins of Trajan feature a marvelous heroic and realistic bust. However, when Trajan was raised to emperor the mints were faced with a quandry as they had no official portraits to copy for their engraving. Trajan complicated the issue by staying on the frontier with his troops a full year before returning to Rome. Thus, many of the early coins minted during his first consulship [COS II, 97-99 CE] bear images that were the best guesses of the celators. Often the images have a distinctive Nerva look.

I knew I had heard this story before, but I checked Amazon and  the only picture book version re-telling by Katarina Jovanovic and illustrated by Phillippe Beha doesn't look familiar.





Here's Lang's version of the story.


I like playing Native American flutes and now have one from somewhere in the former Yugoslavia, possibly from Serbia.  Bet the stories behind the making of my flutes can't match this one!

Whether your New Year has begun or is about to end and become the Chinese Year of the Monkey, happy storytelling!
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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.  He has just loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so one can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression he likes by pressing one key. http://folkmasa.org/motiv/motif.htm

He also loaded to his server the doctorate thesis of Prof. Dov Noy (Neunan) "Motif-index of Talmudic-Midrahic literature" Indiana University, 1954, as a PDF file.
in the hope that some of you would make use of it.

You can see why that is a site I recommend to you.

Have fun discovering even more stories!
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