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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cushing - How the Coyote Danced with the Blackbirds - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

This comes a bit early as I am leaving today for the Northlands Storytelling Network conference in Lake Geneva, WI. It also might look a bit different because I'm not viewing it on my own computer. (More about that at the end.)
I love Coyote tales!  The trickster, however, in most Native American folklore traditions may only be told during winter months.  (Whenever I have told "Coyote in the Land of the Dead" out of season I've gotten some whopping respiratory infections.  Coincidence?  Dunno, but I no longer do that.)  Doubt reading is a problem, but Frank Hamilton Cushing's coyote tales found in Zuñi folk tales is never listed as if it's "The Coyote" archetype...but it sure seems like him! 
That ending of "Thus shortens my story" is the closing for all stories in the book.
Another well-known story in the collection is "The Poor Turkey Girl", which the Introduction discusses briefly, saying it has Cinderella elements, but should NOT be considered just a taking of that story and making it their own. Rather it tells of the Pueblo experience.
As for Cushing himself, his role as a pioneer ethnologist is also explored by PBS in text and a program.
There's more that can be found about Cushing's work, but that is taking it on other trails. Today I prefer to stay with Coyote. I have material I plan to add later that came my way after the Clara Bayliss story on Coyote. I may also do a bibliography on Coyote stories. All of this depends on retrieval of some backup of my computer. I can manage to get into computer trouble without blaming Coyote for my posting his adventures online.
Until later,

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 normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings as often as I can manage it.   

Friday, April 18, 2014

"Just the facts, er bones, ma'am"

The old Dragnet t.v. show used to have a deadpan policeman say to people, "Just the facts, ma'am" (or sir).  Storytellers tend to be like those witnesses, fleshing out a tale, bringing it to life.  Still storytellers know the outline, called the bones of a story, gives room to personalize a story.  Both the storyteller and the story listener come to a story with experiences shaping the way a story is told and heard.  The bones, however, like a skeleton, form a framework worth uncovering.

Switching to a more modern television detective metaphor, if we take the "C.S.I." forensic approach we can reconstruct a story while staying true to its origins.  But where can we dig up these bones?!?  I have some favorite sources worth keeping handy.
  • Conrad Bladey's website provided probably my first experience with story bones.  All his 192 stories are Irish.   I vividly remember a story there helping me teach a new storyteller to jump into the craft of storytelling.  Some of the stories are barely an idea and require adding the basic story elements of beginning, middle and end.  When I use his material in a workshop I either stick to what is truly a story or warn the briefest ones require more work.
  • The work of Jackie Baldwin's wonderful Story-Lovers site looks as if it won't grow beyond what is currently online.  For years Jackie incorporated suggestions from Storytell, an international email list for storytellers,while maintaining the privacy of contributors in her SOS, Searching Out Stories section as a type of searchable archive.  Storytell, by the way, continues.  The National Storytelling Network provides the list on its own website as a service to all.  Go to Jackie's SOS to find those suggestions which often are in bones format with additional sources frequently given.  Jackie's site is still up thanks to her planning for the day she would stop maintaining it.
  • Talking about site continuance, while not part of actual bones, if you're ever digging up a site that has disappeared, use the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive by taking the site address there to locate a past time when it appeared.
  • In Germany English storyteller, Richard Martin, created a list of Tales to Read, with about a dozen so far in story bones format.  They are Beth Gellert; Blood-Covered Vampire; Candle in the Barn; Death and the Gardener; Frightened Mouse; Kate Crackernuts; Miraculous Crane; One Innocent Farmer; Rabbi's Journey;
  • Throughout the Middle East and beyond, from Egypt on into Turkey and the Islamic countries of the former Soviet Union a "wise fool" is told about.  In Egypt he's called Goha.  Turkey claims his origins as the Hodja, from back in the days of the ruler called Tamerlaine in English speaking countries.  (That's a mispronunciation of Timur Ling, which means Timur the Lame, but his orthopedic difficulties were not something people pointed out in his presence for fear of being killed!)  Stories about the Hodja are a favorite of mine and About Nasruddin has 15 tales fully told, but then you could go back to their summaries.  The summaries don't quite work as bones by themselves, but after reading the story it would be almost complete.
  • While the Hodja originates in Islam, Stories for Preaching and Teaching from Father Tommy Lane's site has a Christian focus, but like the Hodja, can fit needs way beyond religion.
Those are some online sources.  Some print authors of bones are Pleasant DeSpain; Jeanne Hardendorff's Just One More; Man in the Moon; Sky Tales from Many Lands by Alta Jablow and Carl Withers includes 11 about the moon; in the Public Domain, but not online yet, Angela M. Keyes wrote Stories and Story-Telling which ends with 47 pages of "Some Very Short Stories"; Shari Lewis (yes, the puppeteer) wrote several books of "1 Minute" stories; Margaret Read MacDonald has both a 3 and 5 Minute book of stories, with Three Minute Tales particularly useful.

Just this past week, in doing a Literacy Evening at a school, I used some of these bones as part of teaching how to tell stories.  As storyteller, Donald Davis, puts it so well in his book, Writing as a Second Language,
if you ask people: When you have a computer, you have the hardware, which is the computer itself, but you also have to have ______."  It's true, people do say software, although one creative child first mentioned in my program you have to have a person.  Davis goes on to ask: Do you have to have anything else besides hardware and software to work a computer program?

That is where I sometimes hear a person, but agree with Davis that Bill Gates's fortune came from the realization of the importance of language or what is now called an operating system and similarly, just as such language is important and has changed over the years it is crucial for children to hear language.  Reading can help, although that is easier with a good spoken vocabulary, and reading alone can lead to occasional mispronunciation.  Traditionally family stories and folklore helped children transition to reading and written language.  I love the back of the book where Donald Davis quotes overhearing an actual elementary school teacher say: Stop talking!  You're supposed to be working on language!

The elementary students I had this past week, with their parents, were young enough the children didn't know the word, outline.  It was easy to show how my final story was squeezed in by knowing the bones. Those bones helped me give the essential 8 elements of the story and we all could "flesh it out" by thinking how the characters and place looked, sounded, and maybe even smelled to make a richer story.

I also was delighted with the way a Romanian mother there was keeping her children aware of her cultural background and, therefore, their family's background.  As Ramon Royal Ross says in his book, Storyteller, "For storytelling, in all its richness and variations, is, ultimately, a way for people to know themselves and to know others."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Curtis - An Old Tale / Schoolcraft - Mondawmin - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Today I'm posting two stories for the price of one...Oh, that's right, they're Public Domain stories and free for the retelling and publishing, but I'll give full credit to the folklorists keeping these stories alive and known.  

Natalie Curtis created a lovely look at not only Native American stories, but also music in The Indians' Book.

Her recording of the music in Standard Music Notation offers songs as a major part of the book.  There's also an index to her collection of stories and music of the Wabanaki, Dakota, Pawnee, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, Winnebago, Kwakiutl, Pima, Apache, Mojave-Apache, Yuma, Navajo, Zuni, San Juan, Acoma, Laguna, and Hopi.  I used the names she used for these nations as the exonyms (names given to the people by others) are better known, even though I know autonyms (names for themselves) may exist.  For example Winnebago is more than the name of a recreational vehicle, it's often used for the Ho-Chunk or Hocąk people.  In most cases the autonym means something along the line of The People, or in the case of the Ho-Chunk or Hocąk, translations include: "the fish eaters," "the trout people," "the big fish people", "the big speech people," "the people of the big voice," "the people of the parent speech", and "the people of the original language." Current elders say it means, "the people of the big voice" or "the people of the sacred language." 

Here in Michigan our People of the 3 Fires, the Anishinaabe, are given multiple names, but their exonyms of Chippewa or Ojibway, Ottawa, and Pottawatomie are the better known names.  Today I'll again include one of the Schoolcraft Anishinaabe stories since the Cheyenne tale in Curtis's book is typical of many Native American stories telling how food and especially corn became available.  Henry Rowe Schoolcraft fell in love with Michigan, the other Great Lakes states, and the Anishinaabe through his work as surveyor and later Indian Agent and, not least, his marriage to Jane Johnston, also known as (Obabaamwewe-giizhigokwe in modern spelling), meaning "Woman of the Sound [that the stars make] Rushing Through the Sky."  At some time in the future I'll do a look specifically at their work since so little attention seems to be given to our own Native people and their folklore.  The better known western Native American nations are included in Ms. Curtis's book, but not our own area.  In the future when I look at the Schoolcrafts I will be sure to include Jane's contribution since it has been overlooked for too long and was critical to her husband's work.  Yes, for now, I'll use her shorter name. 

Natalie Curtis is quickly summarized by Wikipedia, but I hope you'll also look at the more detailed, Center for American Culture Studies organization devoted to Natalie Curtis. Through that site you will discover that music was her main focus, explaining the reason it's such a large part of The Indians' Book, her involvement with early 20th century composers like Percy Grainger who used folk themes in classical music, and how her work led to the creation of Ferruccio Busoni's "Indian Fantasy."  I can't resist a picture here of her collecting music using an old wax cylinder recorder.  Better living through technology happened even before computers!
The Indians' Book did more than the cover would indicate.  Curtis was fortunate in her selection of Angel DeCora (Hinook Mahiwi Kilinaka), a Winnebago artist, to introduce the different nations in the 18 title pages appearing at the beginning of each section.  DeCora adapted her lettering to the decorative style of each tribe or culture group.  According to the Center for American Culture Studies:
The innovative title page designs for The Indians' Book came about in an unexpected way. To provide designs for the section title pages, Curtis had collected original artwork on paper from contributors of many tribes. She asked DeCora to make a design for the Winnebago title page. DeCora created a beadwork design for the page as requested, but she also included the words "Lake Indians -- Winnebago" in lettering that matched the rest of the design. Curtis described the lettering as "beautiful" and of "startling originality."

"We can't have one page looking like this and the others labeled with prosaic printing!" said the publisher. "We must have this sort of lettering all through the book." So Harper commissioned DeCora to produce the same lettering for all the other title pages. However, Curtis wrote later, when DeCora finished her work, "we found to our astonishment that the lettering was not in the least like that with which Angel had decorated the Winnebago section. She had invented a different kind of lettering for every Indian picture, and the forms of the letters were composed of motifs from the drawings which they accompanied."8

Here's the Cheyenne title page 

and, finally the story -- which has no music, since not all stories in The Indians' Book do.

George Bird Grinnell's  By Cheyenne Campfires is a major look at Cheyenne folklore.  It has a 1926 copyright, but the Hathi Trust Digital Library says it's in Public Domain.  Maybe I'll later dare to go beyond the safe Public Domain date of 1923 and include a story from it.

Here is how receiving corn is told in Michigan as collected by Jane and Henry Rowe Schoolcraft.  The Schoolcraft book goes by more than one name, but can easily be found at Project Gutenberg, as written by H.R. Schoolcraft, The Myth of Hiawatha, and Other Oral Legends, Mythologic and Allegoric, of the North American Indians.  Leave it to a 19th century folklorist to have a title like that.  

Unrelated to today's story, if you're wondering, yes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic poem, "The Song of Hiawatha", was inspired by the work of the Schoolcrafts, but memorializes a mistaken name for the Anishinaabe "trickster-transformer" commonly called Nanabozho.  Since Hiawatha was an Iroquois name, I'm sure it could easily be called a bit of continuing the trickster heritage. 

At the risk of being called "corny", I love the way the boy brings corn to save his people after a vision quest, how he battles with the stranger, then endures a whole year of seeming failure, while he tended the "grave", and finally the gift of Mondawmin is revealed and makes people less dependent upon hunting and fishing, while developing an agrarian society.  

What's the first foreign country south of Detroit? -- a trick question I love because it shows how close this part of the U.S. is to its neighbor, Canada.  Many of my readers live near Canada, so watch for Mondawmin Road when traveling east out of Sarnia if you take the Port Huron entrance into Canada.
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 normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings as often as I can manage it. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Annual Foolishness 2014 Farewell

Today is a personal look and yet it relates to storytelling since that's so much a part of me.

Canadian storytelling friend, Elinor Benjamin calls her holiday year's end review her Annual Foolishness.  Mine is a return to my theatre roots.  Yes, that's with an "re" as my undergraduate degree is in Theatre Arts.  Back then we were taught "Your body is your instrument."  That training hurt when Larry Linville died.
I learned his lung disease could be traced back to years of smoking.  He was one of the professional actors at Webster College (now University) and the Loretto Hilton Repertory Theatre who trained me so long ago.  Not many know he was one of the first American actors studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and was a fine Shakespearian actor.  After his success as Frank Burns in M*A*S*H, that was all Hollywood could see him playing.

While working as a librarian, theatre rehearsal schedules were impossible, although I did bring a bit of it into some of my library work whenever possible.  It certainly influences my storytelling style.  When I switched to full-time storytelling I knew theatre needed to return to my life for its mental challenges, creativity, and a balance to my personal life.  I included dance for physical fitness as it's my favorite exercise.  Experimenting showed me that, while I love directing, it's too consuming to coexist with my storytelling, but I can manage to perform in roughly a show per year.

Two years ago, as summer was ending, I auditioned for Chicago, the musical, figuring it would give me dancing at a time when classes had stopped and, even when they returned, for free.  Didn't realize those warm-ups that were always the beginning of class weren't a part of rehearsals but my own responsibility.  Developed a foot injury so bad I thought I would have to drop out!  My foot doctor and later physical therapy got me through it, although it remains as a mild reminder: Your body is your instrument.  I also discovered in this first return to a musical that I loved and missed the dancing and singing even though it takes way more effort than a standard play. 

My Annual Foolishness 2014 has just closed.  It was again with Lakeland Players and a musical, Sweet Charity, which is a great '60s period piece.  Lots of dancing and this time I religiously did a warm-up before each rehearsal and show.  Well, one time I was backstage right before opening and remembered!  Did the most important stuff, since the opening didn't need me dancing until Big Spender and, especially, the 3 in 1 dance later on...the Frug!, a real workout of a number that made the hippie dancing for Rhythm of Life seem like a piece of cake.  Hmmmm, rather like the $17 cake given to Charity in the "I Love to Cry at Weddings" number where we danced as Charity planned to leave her life we all announced in "Big Spender."  Both Chicago and Sweet Charity were Bob Fosse musicals and you may notice I'm still in Withdrawal symptoms.

There's an extra reason I treasure my 2014 Annual Foolishness as it came after a year of serious health problems in 2013.  There were times it was a stretch I wondered if I could manage, but it's great to look back and know I did and still can! 

2013 meant canceling nearly half my storytelling gigs while I looked after myself.  Even in the midst of it I accepted a "small role" -- yes, I agree with Stanislavski "There are no small roles, only small actors."  I took the part when an actor stepped out of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap.  Mrs. Boyle is killed by the end of Act One and I was determined to make the audience cheer when they find the old Bat's been murdered.  I got it! 

Looking back at 2013, however, brought some interesting changes to my storytelling life besides The Mousetrap's Annual Foolishness.  I  took time off for some sabbatical time developing my storytelling work with Alzheimer's and dementia patients in what I call Elder Stories, which keeps their creativity and communication skills active.  Here I also branched out to share stories too good to forget in my Keeping the Public in Public Domain portions of this site.  Additionally I've long told some stories in voice and sign language and have increased my sharing the love of this visual way of communicating. 

2014's Sweet Charity was worth all the effort of my Annual Foolishness focus.  It also included a chance to work with a great bunch of people.
We can all celebrate a show that wasn't foolish to produce and I'd gladly work again with any of them.  (I say this even as I recuperate from getting "The Company Cold.")

Yes, "Your body is your instrument", that includes both mind and body, so I also want to turn to the philosophical wisdom of Charles Schulz's irrepressible Snoopy who wisely said,

"To live is to dance, to dance is to live!"

So, just as I tell many stories that dance, I'm delighted to keep on dancing even as give my farewell to Annual Foolishness 2014.