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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

De Bosschere - The Convent Free From Care - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Today's story is a riddle tale with a most satisfactory ending, so it's appropriate there are two, no, three things may be misleading about today's story, "The Convent Free From Care", found in the book, Christmas Tales of Flanders.

First, when I bought the book I expected it to be Flemish Christmas tales.  WRONG!  They are Flemish, but not about Christmas.  I didn't mind, however, as I already had a love of Flemish folklore thanks to a little known anthology by Mount Clemens organist, August R. Maekelberghe.  He died shortly before I went to work at the Mount Clemens Public Library, but thanks to Isabel Miller, we have his wonderful retellings of his birthplace's folktales in the book, Flemish Folktales.  She published it for him shortly after his death. She gave me permission to freely tell from it, but I don't feel comfortable reprinting it here.  For even more Flemish folklore, and well told, it's a book worth seeking out.

Second, the title of the story is also misleading.  The author consistently calls it a "convent", but we would probably call it a "monastery" as it is about the abbot and his monks.  Maybe in Belgium or the Flemish section that is correct, but it is a bit confusing.

Third, when I found this book listed in my Cardfile program (I use AZZ Cardfile - a program I can't recommend highly enough!) I didn't find the book on my shelf under Bosschere, but I made a note there to look also under De Bosschere.  Just like the most recent story in the De Blumenthal book, the author's name includes the preposition, "de", meaning "of."  Perhaps Europeans are consistent in how they handle that, but I tend to waffle a bit.  I know it's standard library practice, to alphabetize it omitting the "de", but some people insist on using it when giving their last name.  Somehow I shelved the darned "de" in "da Ds."

Aside from the fact that the book is not about Christmas, something else interesting is worth noticing about this book collected by Jean de Bosschere and translated by M.C.O. Morris.  The anthologizer admits, many stories will be familiar in versions from other lands, but says, "all of them have peculiar Flemish traits."  I especially noticed several collected here can be found in Appalachia by Richard Chase.  As for the illustrator, the Wikipedia de Bosschere article never mentions this book, and while most illustrations seem to be quick sketches, I'm comfortable this is his work . . . and, yes, they refer to him as De Bosschere.

For more laughter and Flemish folklore, you may find the complete Christmas Tales of Flanders at
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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