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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hearn - Earless Hoichi - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Play of Hoichi the Earless  Kobe City Suma Temple
Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things is an excellent source of spooky stories by Lafcadio Hearn.  Fans of a movie version saw today's story.  Here is an excerpt of Kobayashi's Kwaidan and it specifically shows Earless Hoichi.  Hoichi the Earless even has its own Wikipedia article, but most of it is a summary of . . . brace yourself for the longer Japanese name, Mimi-nashi Hoichi.  There is, however, a great picture from a theatre production.

Hoichi's Shrine.

Probably few reading this can read Hearn's source by Isseki Sanjin -- one of the reasons Hearn's work is such a valuable window on Japanese folklore.  Wikipedia also notes a variant exists, "Ear-cut  Danichi" from another area, Tokushima Prefecture on Shikoku island.  Personally I dearly love the article's pointing out the actual Buddhist temple where the story is set, even showing what is now know there as 

What I don't care to do is give you a scan from my own copy of the story.  Why? I penciled in notes of how I adapt the story.    O.k. first of all I confess the librarian in me has a problem with writing in a book.  The storyteller in me had two other problems: some of it is too faint to reproduce well and then I also hate to tell people my adaptations are the way to tell the story.  Theres a further practical aspect, it's 20 pages long!  Does that mean I'm not going to give you Hearn's story?  Dunberidiculous!  Internet Sacred Text Archive has done an excellent job of posting it and, besides the online version of the entire anthology of Kwaidan, which I definitely recommend, I would send anyone seeking more Japanese folklore also to the Sacred-Texts page on Shinto and Japanese Religions.  It is not just religious as it includes not only folklore, but also Public Domain cultural resources and all translated in English.

I hope today's segment of Keeping the Public in Public Domain encourages you to try some additional stories too good to be allowed to get dusty in an archive or, worse yet, disappear because nobody reads them.  Remember libraries have limited space, so books not borrowed are eventually removed.  Librarians use a gardening term, weeding, but it means the book is on its way to oblivion unless it can be added to online resources.  Thanks to recent copyright law, many books are a long way from being safely in Public Domain and online collections.  That's a rant for another day and I'll try to put my soapbox away.

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.    

There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I recommended it earlier and want to continue to do so.  Have fun discovering even more stories!

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