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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Bryant - The Dagda's Harp - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Today's story is of ancient Irish legend and music, but it comes from a book with a title that may turn off some  readers.

Titling a book, Best Stories to Tell to Children is certainly presumptuous, but Sara Cone Bryant was a major leader in the early 20th century encouraging and teaching storytelling.  These are  the Best Stories or what she calls "a handful of the very dearest" stories from her very popular earlier books, How to Tell Stories for Children and Stories to Tell Children, both of which, like Best Stories, are online in more than one location.   In the Introduction to How to Tell we discover some of her suggested stories, like today's post, have fascinated listeners in college.  (How to Tell also shows children are anything but an easy audience.)

Little is known about Bryant personally, but her work, both in teaching storytelling and the stories she suggested, continue to be found all over the internet and reprinted.  Online teachers curriculum continues to point to their educational value.  Bryant, reveals her married name on the title page of Best Stories as Mrs. Theodore F. Borst.  Reading the Introduction to How to Tell is where I discovered she gave English lectures on German literature and found storytelling helped college students unable to read the original.  In contrast, she tells of her difficulty gaining the attention of 60 rambunctious children at a settlement house.  Storytelling gradually won them over, but the scene could certainly match many a gathering today of youth unaware of the fun and power of stories.

I'll list the tales in Best Stories after today's selection.  In both How to Tell and Stories to Tell Bryant suggests appropriate grade levels.  (I think today's children might not be quite as advanced for some of the stories.)  "How" goes to fifth grade and "Stories" gives today's tale, but the grade listing, which goes to fourth grade, omits it.  It's definitely a more mature legend.

Storytelling friends with Michigan ties, Yvonne Healy and Richard Marsh, come to mind with this tale.  Yvonne came from Ireland as a girl and recently took her very teenage, very Michigan daughters back for a tour with Richard.  Richard relocated from Michigan to Ireland, giving "Legendary Tours" among other ways of storytelling.  He swears he can't tell without his hands in bus driver position.  Not true, but his tours + tales won over what could have been a difficult teenage audience.  Yvonne has a Bibliography for Irish Stories and Irish Storytelling on her site and Richard's site definitely includes Irish material, but also Spanish, Basque, and more.  (There's an interesting tie to Ireland in Basque history.)

Now for the list of Best Stories according to Bryant.  They seem to be arranged in order of difficulty, starting with nursery tales for the youngest and "The Dagda's Harp" second from the end.  Remember all of these stories can be found online.

Next will be a story and a look at Bryant's How to Tell Stories to Children.
This is part of a series of bi-weekly posting 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.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories. 

Currently I'm involved in projects taking me out of my usual work of sharing stories with an audience.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  This fall I expect to return to my normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Depending on response, I will decide at that time if "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings.

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