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Monday, March 18, 2013

The AT Numbers Unattached - Part 2 of 3

Looking at the AT numbers in Part 1 of these 3 posts, Wendy Welch proved that " The common misconception that 'research takes too long' is just that." 

Because there is sometimes a bit more I want to add, all my own comments are in blue to clarify when it is me talking or Wendy.  Because Wendy's article went into needed detailed, the first section, which sets out the basic principles, was the longest of three posts.  This next post looks at what to do if the story is not very common and is under copyright.

This is the shortest of the three segments, so let's start with a look at Wendy.

Wendy Welch PhD is a folklorist and storyteller. She has been on the faculty of the Healthy Appalachia Institute and the University of Virginia’s College at Wise as well as serving on both the Board of Directors for the US National Storytelling Network and the National Storytelling Board in the UK.
Beyond these many professional achievements, Wendy co-owns a used bookstore, has written The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book -- with its own Facebook page, tours as a storytelling performer and instructor, is an accomplished  craftswoman, and also blogs at Wendy Welch, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap. (All that was fairly official information, so it's in black, but for a bit of personal opinion -- Wendy's an incredible blogger and, if you, too, are a bibliophile, you owe it yourself to prowl her blog.)

Now back to The AT Numbers Unattached, part 2 of 3
2) Jane falls in love with a story that is not very common (and is under copyright).  She picks up a picture book about a great flood, during which the animals save themselves inside a hollow reed stopped up with wax from Wasp.  The Turkeys are last to enter the hollow tree, because while the other animals have been saving themselves, Turkey and his wife have been gathering the seeds of the earth.

Jane learns from this picture book's author (a woman of integrity, obviously) that it is loosely based on a Navajo myth.  Jane is intrigued with the story; she wants to tell it, but she doesn't want infringe on the copyright of the author whose book she is enjoying.  (Jane has integrity, too).  Also, Jane knows she is not even 1/32nd Navajo; she comes from Irish stock.  But she loves the turkey story.  What does she do?

First, Jane faces facts.  She must also think about what she will do if this tale turns out to be found only in Native American culture.  It would be best for her to decide this before she begins.
Next she decides which motif she likes.  What has charmed her?  Is it the unlikely hero, the Flood, the animals working in cooperation to save their own lives?  These are questions only Jane can answer, and she will need to answer them before she can make her research count.  Jane decides the turkey hero intrigues her, as she is in the midst of putting together a Thanksgiving program.  She starts there in the motif index.
Turkey in the alphabetical index of volume six (omitted online) reveals several interesting possibilities: escape dressed as t. girl K1816.5; why t. has red eyes A2411.2; helpful t. B461.5.  But B461.5 turns out to be a completely different story; the others are obviously different.  Jane could track down one of these motifs in a folktale collection specific to a country.  She has a turkey story now.  But if it were the saving the earth theme with the seeds she wanted, Jane would turn to "seed" - to find only one reference even remotely like her story: magic bird collects seeds B172.3.  Again, it's not even close.  At this point, Jane should abandon the alphabetical index as unhelpful and try the more loosely categorized A-Z one in Thompson's preface to volume 1.  Remember "A" deals with creation stories. One subheading of creation stories is "great calamity" stories: earthquakes, floods. . .  Jane scours the entire section of creation and disaster stories.  She now has several interesting ideas to pursue using the tactics of scenario one (see The AT Numbers Unattached, part 1 of 3), but the turkey and seeds story is not there.  From here, Jane can turn to the Thompson Motif Index of Native American Literature, but she will have to deal with the fact that this story is not found in a culture she can claim as hers.  (The Native American index is equally simple to use.)   

The final of 3 segments will look at how to search effectively, especially for half-remembered stories and more recent stories published after Stith Thompson's Motif Index.

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