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Friday, June 24, 2022

Simon Brooks - The State of Mind

Today's blog is for performers, teachers, librarians, and parents about a situation we all should know about and be prepared to handle.  

Fellow storyteller out in the New England area, Simon Brooks, has expanded an article I saw initially on Storytell (email list for storytellers).  I said I planned to share it with fellow performers for Michigan Arts Access which brings the arts to people of all ages with disabilities as I knew we would soon be gathering to prepare for returning to classrooms that were affected by the pandemic.  Even beyond that I see a far wider need and asked him if he would let me reprint it here.  We also talked about how it related to an earlier blog article, from April Fools Day! of this year, that he wrote and it seemed to contradict it a bit.  The result has graciously been given for me to show here.  Simon even says it's a ten minute read.  They will be well spent!

The State of Mind

This is a ten minute read about what I am seeing going back in-person, into schools and other community events.

Back in April 2022, as you may or may not have read, I had what I felt was my first real gig back in-person for a long time. It was certainly the first time since March 2020 where I was not 20 feet from the first row. It was certainly the first time since March 2020 where most folks were maskless and I was not wearing a mask, or a face shield. It was the first time I had had three large presentations to different groups of kids since the pandemic began. There was this wonderful, euphoric feeling of togetherness. It felt like a normal presentation – well three! The kids had been prepped on behaviour, there was some silliness, as it was the first event at the school with “an outsider” since March 2020, and it all felt wonderful and thrilling!

Since then, I have done a number of other first events as a visiting guest. Some have gone really well, others have been a little challenging. I am writing this because there are some folks, some performers out there who have not physically visited, in-person, a venue since March 2020, and things, I believe, have changed since then.

The amount of time people have been actively engaged in technology since the pandemic began – screen time, the amount of time people have been distracted by virtual meetings and calls, children who need help, and not being able to go outside and play to a large degree, has been huge, and at the end of the day many of us just vegged in front of a box or device. This has had a severe effect on not just kids, but everyone. I think we need to participate in a lot less digital engagement. AND I THINK WE NEED TO ADDRESS THIS WITH PARENTS AND CARE GIVERS WHEN WE HAVE ACCESS TO THEM! We need to take time out for ourselves as humans, to disengage from digital content and seriously get back to analogue.

I am not a Luddite! I am NOT calling for people to throw out their devices, or run into schools and businesses and destroy computers and the like! I am suggesting that we step away from them for a while, go on a digital vacation, to some degree! Put devices in a time-out box!

I have been in schools on and off since the pandemic began, and since the beginning of 2022, have been regularly back in, in-person and I am seeing a difference in child behavior. This is at the elementary level, and middle school level. I am also seeing this with my own high school aged daughter and her friends - she is 17 and will start her final year of high school at the end of the summer. When I originally posted this as a letter to listservs I am on, I have heard back from others, including Milbre Burch who said: “I’ve seen what you describe from first graders to Masters students.”

I have presented Gilgamesh to sixth graders at a local school many times prior to 2019. The kids were spellbound by the story (and hopefully the telling). I presented it (at the same school) virtually, via streaming media during COVID. Because it was streamed, I have no real idea of how students were engaged those two years.

This April of 2022, I took Gilgamesh back to the school, in-person, in front of 6th graders. Same school with the same teachers, although in a different space. The reception was totally different. Lack of focus, getting up, whispering to friends next to each other were all happening which never happened in 2019 and the years prior to that. I had worked on Gilgamesh, probably more this year than in the past, and put a lot more work into being as engaging as possible, both with physicality and with word choices. And dramatic action! What I found was that the 'same' 6th grade students were behaving like 4th graders.

This is not my only experience this year. I have been into a number of schools, and performed at community events and found, to more or less a similar extent, children, students especially in elementary and middle school, have little attention span at all. I put a lot of this down to being remote for two years; having parents working from home, trying to work and engage the kids, and help them where possible. I imagine there was a lot of  - go play on your device, go watch a movie. Being stuck indoors for much of the first year, there was little play, little reading, just a lot of screen time. Habit forming, addictive screen time.

 By doing what we do, analogue storytelling in front of warm bodies, we need to start with shorter stories, build up to longer ones, get the span of attention longer, larger, more resilient. The attention muscle has atrophied! It needs retraining. I believe we need to tell folks to read to their kids more often. Start with short stories, get into longer ones, combine stories. Heck, read them anything they will listen to. Discuss things with them. Get magazines like the Smithsonian or National Geographic and find articles to engage the kids, Mountain Bike Action magazine - anything! I think we need to be like that - try on multiple different fronts to engage young people, and retrain adults, quite possibly, based on a recent experience!

 As storytellers, I feel this year, we need to be far more "accepting", maybe tolerant, way more patient with young people. It's Not Their Fault. We will, in my experience thus far, need to take more deep breaths, show patience, and try to work to gather them into the stories we tell, like a blanket on a cold day. From what I have seen this might be tough, and also not needed everywhere. We do need to be the fireplace where young people can gaze and lose themselves to their imaginations (which are being stripped from them by technology). They need to learn (for the little ones) or relearn (for the older ones) that the imagination is a wonderful (and much needed) tool and place. We need parents to realize that reading to kids, telling them stories, is so, so important right now. The tv and devices need to be Put Away. A return to analogue. And when we face children, young people this summer at libraries and camps, etc., we need to give them space and be tolerant of their behaviour, and guide them back gently.

Karen Chace on a 12-week class she led this year (and has led in the past many times): “Was every student difficult? No, but the vast majority had trouble listening, attending to their work, many were even disruptive during the interactive games, and practice time outside of class was fairly non-existent.”

And I have also experienced some wonderful interactions with students. In fact, last week I did three presentations at a large school (5 – 6 year-olds, 7 – 8 year-olds, and the last group 9–10 year-olds). The smallest group I had had around 65 kids in it, the others much larger. With each group I set expectations. The first two groups were amazing – wonderful, we had a lot of fun. The 4th and 5th graders (9 - 10 year-olds) were challenged in their ability to concentrate or sit still, or even listen. At one point in a story Goldilocks ran into the bedroom, landed on a really hard bed and cried out: “Crud! That really hurt!” Some of the kids, I think mis-hearing my British voice, told me I couldn’t use that word. So I said, Goldilocks ran into the room, and landed on the really hard bed crying out: “Bother!” Again, the kids called out, “You can’t say that!” So, I did the same thing again and again substituting the ‘bad’ word until I was using words like ‘shoe,’ ‘saucepans,’ and ‘fish hook’ until we agreed on: ‘Oh, oops-ee-daisy!’ and moved on. This took up about four minutes of the story as the kids cried out and then settled down before starting over again. This I would expect from 2nd graders, not from too-cool-for-cucumbers 4th and 5th grade students. And it was fine. I tried other things in another story when one of the characters was granted a wish. I asked the kids (by raising their hands) what they might wish for. I used every trick in the book to engage on a more personal level and used some tricks that came to me, spur of the moment! They settled in, but it took time.

Like Karen, I had to have a serious talk with one of the kids (Karen had three and she eventually called the parents during her 12-week program). I rarely do this, and hate having to do this, but sometimes it is needed. Again, I don’t believe it’s the fault of the child.

 This brings me to another point! At another gig with very little, delightful pre-school kids with wonderful parents and staff, I had some issues. It was a special event and held outdoors. It was hot and sunny, and I was placed in a pavilion, and invited kids and parents into the shade with me throughout my set. Some of the kids later joined me, but it got a little wild. Some kids walked about the space, some came and sat next to my feet, and one little girl for a while stood between my feet and rested her elbows on my knees and rested her chin in her hands as I told a story. Engaging the other children, and the parents continued, and after the story some of the kids went back to their parents. Some kids were whispered to, others were not. Those who were not whispered to came back and goofed about a bit on the pavilion platform.

 When I finished and was packing up, a mother came over with her daughter. I thought we were going to have a nice little chat about stories, and by the look on the girl’s face, she though the same thing, but the mother then told her daughter to apologize to me for mis-behaving. This was a parent who had said nothing to their child during the performance, in fact I wasn’t sure if she was the mother until that moment. The look in the girl’s eyes changed and I thought she was going to cry. I felt pretty annoyed myself. The parent had done nothing to educate her daughter, and her girl was just being a little preschooler – being who she was supposed to be. I felt the parent was the one who should have been apologizing. I said pretty much, just that – the girl was being a little kid, that’s all. No harm done. And that kids need good role models, they need guidance as to how to behave, especially when it might be their first sort of experience like this. I gave lots of smiles to both of them and hope the point was made.

 Parents might need reminding that we, the performers, are not their children’s care providers. That care providers need to keep a check on their wee ones, that their wee ones might not know how to behave, but they, as parents, should be able to remember! I try to make light of a lot of this sort of thing and chalk it up to experience, and learn from it. We might have to tell parents that more than ever their children need active attention from them.

The kids have been through a lot, and I am sure many of these children have not escaped seeing or hearing about the horrific news about shootings. They are daily. Some are worse than others. There is so much division in the country, I am sure children feel that anxiety coming off parents and other adults around them. Kids sense a lot. We have to cut slack, as I said, breathe deeper, be more forgiving and supportive.

Again, from Karen Chace: “The principal was very aware of the problems and agreed the vast majority of students at the school were affected by the lack of social contact during the pandemic.” They are craving for contact, for attention. And it’s not all bad out there, as I said. We just need to be aware of the audience’s needs, and limitations. It is a changed world. As Fran Stallings wrote about her first time out in-person with children (K-2): “…they were great. Nobody moved, except with my gestures. Whew!! Teachers were dumbfounded. I credited the stories (with active participation tapping off excess energy). I’m glad we all survived together! Summer reading programs, with a wide range of ages and distractions, are a different challenge!”

And I Know we will rise to it. Milbre Burch again: “There’s a lot of work ahead, not all of it the kind you get paid for. Let’s all hold hands and jump!” Welcome to the new times ahead. Have fun out there and Love Your Audience.

Peace,

Simon

Odds Bodkin, Karen Pillsworth, and myself in the before time!

Friday, June 17, 2022

Wenig - About the Real and Unreal Devils - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

It seems like whenever it gets really HOT, I think of stories by Adolf Wenig in his Beyond the Giant Mountains; Tales from Bohemia.  Why?  The book is filled with stories about the devil.  Looking back to 2018 and 2020 for Wenig's stories I also found this sign from 2020.

From me.me
 

 

 

 

Can't help but notice those two extra heat spells happened every two years.

If ever there was a time that sign and Wenig's stories seemed appropriate, it's now with a "heat dome" over most of the U.S.  But what if the devil went on vacation?  Wenig has a story for that and I found another meme.

Found on memedroid.com by Akane420

I doubt meteorologists will accept either meme's explanation, so let's shift to a story from Bohemia of old.  

Before we begin, it might be useful to discuss one thing that might seem odd to modern thinking: asking a total stranger to give you lodging.  Long ago if you were far away from cities,  there were no motels and hotels, so you could ask if somebody would let you spend the night.  Often your lodging would be in the barn!  In this story the stranger stays in the home of the person asked.  

While the common saying about weather is "Everybody talks about it, but no one does a thing about it", this tale is not about the weather so "chill out" and enjoy the story.





At least two thoughts popped into my mind after that story.  One is if this heat is a time when the devil's on vacation, I hate to think how hot it may get if he returns.  The other is that Czechoslovakia or Bohemia is a region not that far from the Ukrainian War.  I picture Russia as the "sedlak" or jealous neighbor seeking Ukrainian wealth.  I truly would love to see that jealous neighbor carried away from the Ukrainian house.  

*****************

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 the late 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/ 

 
           - Zalka Csenge Virag - http://multicoloreddiary.blogspot.com doesn't give the actual stories, but her recommendations, working her way through each country on a continent, give excellent ideas for finding new books and stories to love and tell.

     
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

Friday, June 10, 2022

Flag Day - Bailey - Their Flag - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

With the current jump of gas prices, there's promotion of a "near-cation."  For some of my readers Three Oaks, Michigan, over in the far western corner of Michigan barely across the Indiana border, might qualify.  Their three day celebration of Flag Day is complete with what they call "The World's Largest Flag Day Parade" on Sunday.  All the flags shown at houses in still closer Clarkston and throughout even rural Oakland County starting with Memorial Day got me looking for stories and facts about Flag Day.  

Magnet from my refrigerator

 A magnet on my refrigerator from the History Channel led me to an article there, "What is Flag Day"  with "13 surprising facts about the American flag and how to properly display it."  (Be sure to drop down to the text.  At first a large black section appears which eventually becomes a two minute video.)

Beyond the factual, I wanted a story and found one by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey.  She's always attuned to her young readers and her little known book, Tell Me Another Story, from 1918 has a Patriotism section of three stories with today's story about how two children displayed their family's heirloom flag.  We aren't told if it dates back to the 35 star flag of the Civil War, but it would be logical to think it was the flag their great-grandfather carried.  I appreciate how Lincoln refused to allow the removal of any stars when the South seceded.  Beyond that, let's take the liberty of changing the time in the story from Washington's Birthday (when it's awfully cold for a parade!) and switch it to Flag Day.





Ever since Memorial Day our own entrance (or the entrance to our camper made in '76...1976, but decorated accordingly) has this Uncle Sam my husband made.  I've seen similar ones, but his holds Our Flag and will through the Labor Day holiday.

*****************

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 the late 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/ 

 
           - Zalka Csenge Virag - http://multicoloreddiary.blogspot.com doesn't give the actual stories, but her recommendations, working her way through each country on a continent, give excellent ideas for finding new books and stories to love and tell.

     
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


Friday, June 3, 2022

Mockingbirds...including Lanier - Bob: The Story of Our Mockingbird - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Sometimes it just isn't possible to find exactly the story I want to tell.  <GASP!>  It's true, even with a computer and a large library.  I've been enjoying the return of songbirds from their winter homes in the south.  At the same time I was afraid I might have lost hearing one I especially love.  We had the utility company trim a tree growing around various utility wires.  Supposedly it's a mulberry although I've never seen any berries.  What I have noticed is it's the favorite perch for a mockingbird.  It's lovely to be out on our deck at the barbecue or the laundry line and be serenaded.  I'm relieved to say that tall utility pole and companion tree still attracts my mockingbird, but it also has chosen the top of another tree a short flap of his wings away.

How do I know it's the same bird?  Of course I don't, but All About Birds says "If you’ve been hearing an endless string of 10 or 15 different birds singing outside your house, you might have a Northern Mockingbird in your yard."  I can't be sure it's the same bird year after year, but "Northern Mockingbirds continue to add new sounds to their repertoires throughout their lives. A male may learn around 200 songs throughout its life."  That lifespan can be long with "The oldest Northern Mockingbird on record was at least 14 years, 10 months old when it was found in Texas."  I'm also told they may sing at night, especially if not yet mated and that females may sing, too, just "usually more quietly than the male does."  My boy sings quite loudly and if he's mated, I hope he's teaching the rest of his family.

I've gathered two songs, "Listen to the Mockingbird" and "Mockingbird Hill", but a story I might use with them continues to escape me.  

Thornton Burgess has a book, The Adventures of Mr. Mocker, but the bird isn't seen until right before the book's end when a mystery is solved about how he's been tricking other birds and even a tree toad by singing as they do.  The book's title lets young readers in on the joke from the beginning.  Burgess also gives the Mockingbird part of a chapter called "Jenny Wren's Cousins" in his The Burgess Bird Book for Children, again with its tricky nature featured.  

In contrast the poet, Sidney Lanier, in Bob: The Story of Our Mocking-Bird tells about a real bird from the time his sons found the hatchling abandoned on the forest floor until its death years later.  Be sure to catch an e-version with illustrations as:

The illustrations which form so important a part of the effort to make a picture of Bob, are unusual in their origin and in their method. Mr. Dugmore made photographic studies of a young mocking-bird, or, rather, of a number of young mocking-birds, the photographs were colored by him, and the plates from these photographs were printed in color. The variety of rare tints in any bird's plumage, their extreme delicacy, and the infinitely fine gradations of shading have almost always baffled the artist and the printer. The present attempt to reproduce Mr. Dugmore's masterly pictures in color shows at least a handsome advance in the difficult art.

I'm going to skip to the raising of the bird and even its battle with a pin cushion and mirror, going instead to the mature bird.  

*****

The most elegant, trim ... little dandy
"The most elegant, trim ... little dandy"

At this present writing, Bob is the most elegant, trim, electric, persuasive, cunning, tender, courageous, artistic little dandy of a bird that mind can imagine. He does not confine himself to imitating the songs of his tribe. He is a creative artist. I was witness not long ago to the selection and adoption by him of a rudimentary whistle-language. During an illness it fell to my lot to sleep in a room alone with Bob. In the early morning, when a lady—to whom Bob is passionately attached—would make her appearance in the room, he would salute her with a certain joyful chirrup which appears to belong to him peculiarly. I have not heard it from any other bird. But sometimes the lady would merely open the door, make an inquiry, and then retire. It was now necessary for his artistic soul to find some form of expressing grief. For this purpose he selected a certain cry almost identical with that of the cow-bird—an indescribably plaintive, long-drawn, thin whistle. Day after day I heard him make use of these expressions. He had never done so before. The mournful one he would usually accompany, as soon as the door was shut, with a sidelong, inquiring posture of the head, which was a clear repetition of the lover's Is she gone? Is she really gone?

A sidelong, inquiring posture of the head, ... Is she gone?
"A sidelong, inquiring posture of the head, ... Is she gone?"


letter T

here is one particular in which Bob's habits cannot be recommended. He eats very often. In fact if Bob should hire a cook, it would be absolutely necessary for him to write down his hours for her guidance; and this writing would look very much like a time-table of the Pennsylvania, or the Hudson River, or the Old Colony, Railroad. He would have to say: "Bridget will be kind enough to get me my breakfast at the following hours: 5, 5.30, 5.40, 6, 6.15, 6.30, 6.45, 7, 7.20, 7.40, 8 (and so on, every fifteen or twenty minutes, until 12 M.); my dinner at 12, 12.20, 12.40, 1, 1.15, 1.30 (and so on every fifteen or twenty minutes until 6 p.m.); my supper is irregular, but I wish Bridget particularly to remember that I always eat whenever I awake in the night, and that I usually awake four or five times between bedtime and daybreak." With all this eating, Bob never neglects to wipe his beak after each meal. This he does by drawing it quickly, three or four times on each side, against his perch.

He eats very often
"He eats very often"

Bob never neglects to wipe his beak after each meal
"Bob never neglects to wipe his beak after each meal"

I never tire of watching his motions. There does not seem to be the least friction between any of the component parts of his system. They all work, give, play in and out, stretch, contract, and serve his desires generally with a smoothness and soft precision truly admirable.

Merely to see him leap from his perch to the floor of his cage is to me a never-failing marvel. It is so instantaneous, and yet so quiet: clip, and he is down, with his head in the food-cup: I can compare it to nothing but the stroke of Fate. It is perhaps a strained association of the large with the small: but when he suddenly leaps down in this instantaneous way, I always feel as if, while looking down upon the three large Forms of the antique Sculpture, lying in severe postures along the ground, I suddenly heard the clip of the fatal shears.

His repertory of songs is extensive. Perhaps it would have been much more so if his life had been in the woods where he would have had the opportunity to hear the endlessly-various calls of his race. So far as we can see, the stock of songs which he now sings must have been brought in his own mind from the egg, or from some further source whereof we know nothing. He certainly never learned these calls: many of the birds of whom he gives perfect imitations have been always beyond his reach. He does not apprehend readily a new set of tones. He has caught two or three musical phrases from having them whistled near him. No systematic attempt, however, has been made to teach him anything. His procedure in learning these few tones was peculiar. He would not, on first hearing them, make any sign that he desired to retain them, beyond a certain air of attention in his posture. Upon repetition on a different day, his behavior was the same: there was no attempt at imitation. But sometime afterward, quite unexpectedly, in the hilarious flow of his birdsongs would appear a perfect reproduction of the whistled tones. Like a great artist he was rather above futile and amateurish efforts. He took things into his mind, turned them over, and, when he was perfectly sure of them, brought them forth with perfection and with unconcern.

He has his little joke. His favorite response to the endearing terms of the lady whom he loves is to scold her. Of course he understands that she understands his wit. He uses for this purpose the angry warning cry which mocking-birds are in the habit of employing to drive away intruders from their nests. At the same time he expresses his delight by a peculiar gesture which he always uses when pleased. He extends his right wing and stretches his leg along the inner surface of it as far as he is able.

He stretches his body until he seems incredibly tall
"He stretches his body until he seems incredibly tall"

*****

There's more in the book, including a discussion of whether it was a good idea to keep the bird.  All About Birds says:

It’s not just other mockingbirds that appreciate a good song. In the nineteenth century, people kept so many mockingbirds as cage birds that the birds nearly vanished from parts of the East Coast. People took nestlings out of nests or trapped adults and sold them in cities such as Philadelphia, St. Louis, and New York, where, in 1828, extraordinary singers could fetch as much as $50.

Because Lanier is a poet, there is a poem introducing the story and later an Epilogue about the bird's death. 

The problem with animal stories is so often the ending, since every story needs a conflict.  I remember a girl, who is now an adult, when she attended a movie series at the library where I worked.  Her mother said "Don't mind ___, she covers up her eyes when the animal is in danger, but she'll be fine."  


Recently I was telling to some disabled adults.  I've no idea what disabilities were represented, but I quickly found a very bright young woman loudly and emphatically objecting to each story I was going to tell because there was hunting (even if in the most ridiculous tall tale style) or some other way an animal might be hurt.  After the program I learned she had injured a frog long ago, felt guilty, and felt strongly about any animal cruelty.  I, too, agree, but hadn't seen the stories in that way.  To try and help her find a way to enjoy the program, I brought out some of the reusable sticker sets sold by Melissa & Doug I've been using with groups to help the audience create stories.  She was able to join the others, helping create the story, although I had to remind her a story needs some kind of conflict to be resolved.  Unfortunately that didn't leave her able to accept other stories.  Seeing it wasn't going to work for her, the group leader asked her out into the hall while I told to the remaining audience.  They knew her, so they seemed to accept the problems we were having, but wanted to hear the stories.  Nothing says I handled this unexpected problem correctly, but it did leave me thinking further about the dangers of stories with animals or if I ever again have a group vocally unhappy with my stories.  It was the first ever to happen in more years that I will bother to number, but it's a lot!

With all of that in my mind, I'm surprised to find the bird has so little in the way of folklore.  Of course I am limited here in what I can reprint to stories that must be in the Public Domain.  I could find an Aesop tale supposedly about the mockingbird; Eggleston has "The Mocking-Bird's Singing-School"; and Young's Plantation Bird Legends story of "Mocking Bird's Theft" about stealing corn and how people now have it.  None of them are what I wanted to tell. 

Even beyond that, still under copyright I found only four more stories: a Mayan tale learning a song (Bowes - Bird Kingdom of the Mayas); a Hopi story of it giving out calls to the birds (Courlander - People of the Short Blue Corn: Tales and Legends of  the Hopi Indians); another Hopi tale where the mockingbird wins the contest for calling the dawn (Brown - Tepee Tales of the American Indian); and Sis Mockingbird teaches a crude courting song to Br'er B'ar, but a fine one to Br'er Rabbit (Faulkner - Days When the Animals Talked: Black American Folktales and How They Came to Be ). 

I did find two non-fiction articles worth reading.  I'd long heard birdsong is territorial, so "Why Do Birds Sing? (6 reasons and what their songs mean)" attracted me.  Scientific American has an article with a very long title if we include the sub-title, "Mockingbirds Are Better Musicians Than We Thought" followed by "Their complex songs have striking similarities to Beethoven, Tuvan throat singing, a Disney musical and Kendrick Lamar." 

Going back to those two songs I mentioned way earlier, the upbeat melody of "Listen to the Mocking Bird"  is misleading as the song's original lyrics are remembering the bird's song at a grave.  I must have been remembering one of the other versions of it.  It's a story, but not the one I want to tell.  "Mockingbird Hill" has lyrics matching my enjoyment of the bird.  It's interesting that those lyrics take you up there on Mockingbird Hill "Only me and the sky and an old whippoorwill Singing songs in the twilight on Mockin'bird Hill."  I did a quick Wikipedia check thinking maybe Whippoorwill is another name for Mockingbird.  It's not.  The good news for lovers of Whip-poor-will's is there are many stories mentioned there.  The bad news is that bird's becoming rare and now is considered "near threatened."

I'm grateful the tree trimming has not made "my" mockingbird rare.  As for a story and a song, I still don't think I have it. . . unless this search is the story.

*****************

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 the late 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/ 
           - Zalka Csenge Virag - http://multicoloreddiary.blogspot.com doesn't give the actual stories, but her recommendations, working her way through each country on a continent, give excellent ideas for finding new books and stories to love and tell.
     
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!

Friday, May 27, 2022

Hartwell/O'Brien - Night Fishing in the South Seas - Keeping the Public in Public Domain



With all the activity in May, I've been using stories from three of E.C. Hartwell's Story Hour Readings.  Today is from the Seventh Year book and originated in Frederick O'Brien's travel book, White Shadows in the South Seas.  I've never seen the 1928 classic silent film of the same name.  It was supposedly "loosely based" on the book, but it would have been a challenge to film this wild adventure O'Brien lived.   The Wikipedia article on Swordfish doesn't hint at the danger of this story, but in that article's footnotes we learn they can kill even sharks and ancient Hawaiians feared the swordfish for their attacking and piercing fishing canoes.  A CNN article talks about one killing an experienced fisherman in 2015.  All information talks about the swordfish and the related marlin as being the fastest fish using their agility to catch their prey.  

With all of that in mind, let's dive into this tale from the South Seas.



Obviously our grandparents or great grandparents classroom reading went far beyond "Dick and Jane."  It was meant for Seventh Year students.  My own Storytelling Cruise Around the World is often open to children too young for this story, but teens and adults might appreciate it.

*******************

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 the late 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/ 
           - Zalka Csenge Virag - http://multicoloreddiary.blogspot.com doesn't give the actual stories, but her recommendations, working her way through each country on a continent, give excellent ideas for finding new books and stories to love and tell.
     
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!