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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Ideas & Thoughts Upon a New Year

This version of Tolkien's "The Road Goes Ever On" seems appropriate as 2014 comes to an end and 2015 approaches.
The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Tolkien Gateway, a network and encyclopedia that says anyone can edit it, includes a page with an appropriate look at the walking song, "The Road Goes Ever On" fictionally written in three versions by Bilbo Baggins in the last chapter of The Hobbit as he's finally returning to the Shire; the version I posted here is when Bilbo in The Fellowship of the Ring sets out for Rivendell and later slightly changed by Frodo; and a final version at the end of the trilogy again by Bilbo.  J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit was turned into three movies by Peter Jackson -- as many as the three films he made of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy -- but finally in 2014 even that had to end.  I don't know if the Gateway's future will ever end, but Tolkien lovers have plenty of resources there.  It currently has 11,329 articles, 41,774 pages and 8,711 images.  They are careful about copyright, but don't seem worried about the Tolkien estate suing for copyright infringement, so I trust my giving the version I used here is acceptable and considered Fair Use.

On Facebook a great idea for the coming year is highly adaptable for storytelling or life on the Road That Goes Ever On.

"This January, why not start the year with an empty jar and fill it with notes about good things that happen. Then, on New Years Eve, empty it and see what awesome stuff happened that year. Good way to keep things in perspective! ~Krystal~ — with Dorinda White."

That message has been shared by many on Facebook.  It took a bit of prowling to find it apparently originated with Dorinda White and Krystal and was posted on The Pagan Circle page.

As a storyteller I see various storytelling ideas in it.  Put your story ideas there, too.  I'm not too inclined to write stories about my life, but that might change with a jar of "good things that happen" or I might toss in ideas for original stories as I am inclined that way.  Yes, your teachers who required journaling might have been suggesting something roughly the same, but journals and diaries seem to require constant regular input.  This is a bit more sporadic, spontaneous, and doesn't require more than writing just enough to later know what happened.  

Prefer techie methods?  Get an app for notes or use Evernote.  Here's an article to help you find anything in Evernote if it becomes like an overstuffed file drawer.  While you're at it, does your cell phone have a voice recorder for taking notes?  That or a mini-voice activated tape recorder could go with you hiking with your dog or hands free while driving.  

As local storytelling friend and current president of the Detroit Storytelling League, Loretta Vitek, puts on her business cards and email signature, "There is always a story, be a shame not to share it!" She grew up in an Italian storytelling family.  In contrast I sometimes say I became a storyteller because families like that were so different from my own upbringing and I felt "story deprived."  Maybe that's why she is comfortable with personal storytelling and I'm not.  Still I do enjoy story creation, so even if it's not personal happenings, the jar or Evernote deserve to become a new habit for 2015.

Of course I also love the other comment Loretta couples with the previous message: Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for thou would be crispy and good with sauce."

May 2015 bring you only the best stories!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Christmas Wish for You Forever

This is my wish for you.  Christmas is my celebration, but I also grew up in a Jewish neighborhood with a love of Hanukkah.  For either holiday and the beliefs of still others -- Peace Forever.  My Victorian Christmas programs mention Christmas cards started in the 1860s.  Here's a beautiful example from 1900, the year before Queen Victoria died.

by American artist, J.C. Leyendecker.

Those kings or Wise Men traveled because of the prophecy that a Prince of Peace would be born and a most unusual star would guide them to Him.  In our century we could use this more than ever.

By the way, Henry Van Dyke wrote a lovely story of the Fourth Wise Man.  It's too long (50 pages) for me to post in my Keeping the Public in Public Domain, but I recommend it heartily.  The novella, The Story of the Other Wise Man, can be found at Project Gutenberg.  I first heard it told as an entire program by an Indiana storyteller who has gone to tell stories in the hereafter.  I've forgotten his name, but definitely not the story.

Peace forever to you.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Baum - How the First Stockings... - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

I had the pleasure of spotting Cindy Who and the Grinch

Just as Dr. Seuss's Grinch is now THE popular story for Christmas, over the years there's an old traditional tale of Santa Claus that goes beyond "A Visit from St. Nicholas" -- the 1823 poem (complete with author controversy) and the popular 1881 illustration by Thomas Nast.

Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was the best selling children's book of his time (1900 and 1901) and its popularity led to 13 nearly annual Oz creations.  Before those sequels, however, in 1902 he published a very unusual look at The Life and Adventures of Santa ClausIt relates Santa's life, from childhood as a foundling adopted by the wood nymph, Necile, through discovering his role in life that matches what we know, but is developed and done in ways unlike those you may know, and on into old age and how he gained immortality. I had heard about it for several years before I finally found my own copy.  I also love the illustrations done by Mary Cowles Clark (1870-1950).  She's not well-covered by online research, but since she was originally from Syracuse, New York, where Baum once lived, it's believed he met her on visits back to the town and chose her to illustrate the book.  She didn't illustrate many books and this was her best known work, but here's a link to a few of examples of her charming work at a digital exhibit by the Nantucket Art Colony.  

I was surprised to find the first edition contained 20 full color plates.  By the second printing it only had 12 color plates and many black and white illustrations.  My own paperback volume was less costly, with black and white illustrations to open the three "books" of Claus's life, along with charming openings and closings for each chapter, plus a dedication page to Baum's son.  Dover Publications created a version that is now out of print.  My own copy was a book club edition from the New American Library.  Unfortunately my book would fall apart if I scanned it.  Further unfortunately, the online digital publication from Project Gutenberg omits the illustrations.  (P.G. even has audio downloads of the story.)  To see any of those illustrations you will either have to purchase it or borrow it.  That's the bad news.  The good news is that Michael Hague, who does wonderful illustrations of Public Domain children's books, has done his own version while keeping the Baum text.
Another considerably abbreviated version, but with attractive illustrations, is by Janeen R. Adil.  Perhaps you will find that version helpful if you wish to tell the Baum adventures, but I would strongly advise seeing the original text first.  Storytelling literary tales often works best with careful editing, but first be sure you check to see if you are omitting too much.  Speaking of an abbreviated version, I'm told there's a claymation movie version of the story that was a 1985 television special, but haven't seen it.

Baum's text is done in folklore style.  His book creatively explores the connection between toys and gifts at Christmas and how the familiar elements like reindeer, stockings, and the tree became part of the holiday.  Some other year I'd like to post how it says he became called Santa Claus.  It is as close as the book comes to mentioning Saint Nicholas. 

For a taste of  Clark's style, I open "Chapter Eleventh -- How the First Stockings Were Hung by the Chimney" with partial scans of the opening illustration and at the end of the closing picture for the chapter.  (Wish I could flatten the book without hurting it.)  I'm giving the entire chapter as it gives a glimpse of some of those other Christmas elements, but the story actually matching the chapter title begins near the end of the chapter.  I'll mark that spot for you.
How the First Stockings Were Hung by the Chimneys
When you remember that no child, until Santa Claus began his travels, had ever known the pleasure of possessing a toy, you will understand how joy crept into the homes of those who had been favored with a visit from the good man, and how they talked of him day by day in loving tones and were honestly grateful for his kindly deeds. It is true that great warriors and mighty kings and clever scholars of that day were often spoken of by the people; but no one of them was so greatly beloved as Santa Claus, because none other was so unselfish as to devote himself to making others happy. For a generous deed lives longer than a great battle or a king's decree of a scholar's essay, because it spreads and leaves its mark on all nature and endures through many generations.
The bargain made with the Knook Prince changed the plans of Claus for all future time; for, being able to use the reindeer on but one night of each year, he decided to devote all the other days to the manufacture of playthings, and on Christmas Eve to carry them to the children of the world.
But a year's work would, he knew, result in a vast accumulation of toys, so he resolved to build a new sledge that would be larger and stronger and better-fitted for swift travel than the old and clumsy one.
His first act was to visit the Gnome King, with whom he made a bargain to exchange three drums, a trumpet and two dolls for a pair of fine steel runners, curled beautifully at the ends. For the Gnome King had children of his own, who, living in the hollows under the earth, in mines and caverns, needed something to amuse them.
In three days the steel runners were ready, and when Claus brought the playthings to the Gnome King, his Majesty was so greatly pleased with them that he presented Claus with a string of sweet-toned sleigh-bells, in addition to the runners.
"These will please Glossie and Flossie," said Claus, as he jingled the bells and listened to their merry sound. "But I should have two strings of bells, one for each deer."
"Bring me another trumpet and a toy cat," replied the King, "and you shall have a second string of bells like the first."
"It is a bargain!" cried Claus, and he went home again for the toys.
The new sledge was carefully built, the Knooks bringing plenty of strong but thin boards to use in its construction. Claus made a high, rounding dash-board to keep off the snow cast behind by the fleet hoofs of the deer; and he made high sides to the platform so that many toys could be carried, and finally he mounted the sledge upon the slender steel runners made by the Gnome King.
It was certainly a handsome sledge, and big and roomy. Claus painted it in bright colors, although no one was likely to see it during his midnight journeys, and when all was finished he sent for Glossie and Flossie to come and look at it.
The deer admired the sledge, but gravely declared it was too big and heavy for them to draw.
"We might pull it over the snow, to be sure," said Glossie; "but we would not pull it fast enough to enable us to visit the far-away cities and villages and return to the Forest by daybreak."
"Then I must add two more deer to my team," declared Claus, after a moment's thought.
"The Knook Prince allowed you as many as ten. Why not use them all?" asked Flossie. "Then we could speed like the lightning and leap to the highest roofs with ease."
"A team of ten reindeer!" cried Claus, delightedly. "That will be splendid. Please return to the Forest at once and select eight other deer as like yourselves as possible. And you must all eat of the casa plant, to become strong, and of the grawle plant, to become fleet of foot, and of the marbon plant, that you may live long to accompany me on my journeys. Likewise it will be well for you to bathe in the Pool of Nares, which the lovely Queen Zurline declares will render you rarely beautiful. Should you perform these duties faithfully there is no doubt that on next Christmas Eve my ten reindeer will be the most powerful and beautiful steeds the world has ever seen!"
So Glossie and Flossie went to the Forest to choose their mates, and Claus began to consider the question of a harness for them all.
In the end he called upon Peter Knook for assistance, for Peter's heart is as kind as his body is crooked, and he is remarkably shrewd, as well. And Peter agreed to furnish strips of tough leather for the harness.
This leather was cut from the skins of lions that had reached such an advanced age that they died naturally, and on one side was tawny hair while the other side was cured to the softness of velvet by the deft Knooks. When Claus received these strips of leather he sewed them neatly into a harness for the ten reindeer, and it proved strong and serviceable and lasted him for many years.
The harness and sledge were prepared at odd times, for Claus devoted most of his days to the making of toys. These were now much better than the first ones had been, for the immortals often came to his house to watch him work and to offer suggestions. It was Necile's idea to make some of the dolls say "papa" and "mama." It was a thought of the Knooks to put a squeak inside the lambs, so that when a child squeezed them they would say "baa-a-a-a!" And the Fairy Queen advised Claus to put whistles in the birds, so they could be made to sing, and wheels on the horses, so children could draw them around. Many animals perished in the Forest, from one cause or another, and their fur was brought to Claus that he might cover with it the small images of beasts he made for playthings. A merry Ryl suggested that Claus make a donkey with a nodding head, which he did, and afterward found that it amused the little ones immensely. And so the toys grew in beauty and attractiveness every day, until they were the wonder of even the immortals.
When another Christmas Eve drew near there was a monster load of beautiful gifts for the children ready to be loaded upon the big sledge. Claus filled three sacks to the brim, and tucked every corner of the sledge-box full of toys besides.
Then, at twilight, the ten reindeer appeared and Flossie introduced them all to Claus. They were Racer and Pacer, Reckless and Speckless, Fearless and Peerless, and Ready and Steady, who, with Glossie and Flossie, made up the ten who have traversed the world these hundreds of years with their generous master. They were all exceedingly beautiful, with slender limbs, spreading antlers, velvety dark eyes and smooth coats of fawn color spotted with white.
Claus loved them at once, and has loved them ever since, for they are loyal friends and have rendered him priceless service.
The new harness fitted them nicely and soon they were all fastened to the sledge by twos, with Glossie and Flossie in the lead. These wore the strings of sleigh-bells, and were so delighted with the music they made that they kept prancing up and down to make the bells ring.
Claus now seated himself in the sledge, drew a warm robe over his knees and his fur cap over his ears, and cracked his long whip as a signal to start.
Instantly the ten leaped forward and were away like the wind, while jolly Claus laughed gleefully to see them run and shouted a song in his big, hearty voice:
       "With a ho, ho, ho!
       And a ha, ha, ha!
And a ho, ho, ha, ha, hee!
       Now away we go
       O'er the frozen snow,
As merry as we can be!
       There are many joys
       In our load of toys,
As many a child will know;
       We'll scatter them wide
       On our wild night ride
O'er the crisp and sparkling snow!"
(The part of the story about The First Stockings)
Now it was on this same Christmas Eve that little Margot and her brother Dick and her cousins Ned and Sara, who were visiting at Margot's house, came in from making a snow man, with their clothes damp, their mittens dripping and their shoes and stockings wet through and through. They were not scolded, for Margot's mother knew the snow was melting, but they were sent early to bed that their clothes might be hung over chairs to dry. The shoes were placed on the red tiles of the hearth, where the heat from the hot embers would strike them, and the stockings were carefully hung in a row by the chimney, directly over the fireplace. That was the reason Santa Claus noticed them when he came down the chimney that night and all the household were fast asleep. He was in a tremendous hurry and seeing the stockings all belonged to children he quickly stuffed his toys into them and dashed up the chimney again, appearing on the roof so suddenly that the reindeer were astonished at his agility.
"I wish they would all hang up their stockings," he thought, as he drove to the next chimney. "It would save me a lot of time and I could then visit more children before daybreak."
When Margot and Dick and Ned and Sara jumped out of bed next morning and ran downstairs to get their stockings from the fireplace they were filled with delight to find the toys from Santa Claus inside them. In face, I think they found more presents in their stockings than any other children of that city had received, for Santa Claus was in a hurry and did not stop to count the toys.
Of course they told all their little friends about it, and of course every one of them decided to hang his own stockings by the fireplace the next Christmas Eve. Even Bessie Blithesome, who made a visit to that city with her father, the great Lord of Lerd, heard the story from the children and hung her own pretty stockings by the chimney when she returned home at Christmas time.
On his next trip Santa Claus found so many stockings hung up in anticipation of his visit that he could fill them in a jiffy and be away again in half the time required to hunt the children up and place the toys by their bedsides.
The custom grew year after year, and has always been a great help to Santa Claus. And, with so many children to visit, he surely needs all the help we are able to give him.

May your Christmas be merry and the coming New Year be filled with Storytelling (and, yes, Research).
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!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Victorians Had Fun, Too!

This weekend I will return to Victorian Christmas programs, so it's a good time to check the information I posted earlier and add a few new things.  For example Victorian parlour games from Old Fashioned which are not specifically Christmas, but of the era and many could be given a Christmas flavor.

For lovely old illustrations and views of the season go to Scrap Album's Victorian Christmas pages (although they've made many so the illustrations don't reproduce, but they give you a good view into the times)
-- the 14 pages go on past Christmas to Boxing Day, New Year's, and even Twelfth Night.  Along the way they show picture postcards and more of Seasonal Decoration; Christmas Music Makers (as noted in previous Victorian Christmas articles here, caroling was a very Victorian contribution); Home for the Holidays (it was very family oriented and took Macy's in 1870 to start the commercial tendency with sales of European toys); Christmas Eve and Day; Presents (yes, the postcards and article are show "store-bought", but homemade gifts were a treasured and long-planned part of gift giving; Christmas Fare -- although this is definitely not looking to see how much here in the U.S. we may or may not have served the same.; After Dinner with another parlor game, Christmas crackers, and more music; and on to those days that stretch the holiday season

For a quick summary of the holiday here in the pre-Civil War and barely re-United States there's Conner Prairie Interactive History Park in Indiana's "History of Antebellum Christmas."   Victoriana magazine's online look at Christmas always keeps growing with ideas, too.
Be sure to look at last year's article about Scary Ghost Stories.  In it I mentioned the connection between Charles Dickens and Christmas.  David Perdue's Charles Dickens has many sections on the author, but the link I just gave is to the Christmas page on Dickens.  The author's lectures in our country surely spread his emphasis on the holiday.  I love the quote there about hearing of his death in 1870, a little costermonger's girl in London asked, "Mr. Dickens dead? Then will Father Christmas die too?" Our modern song, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" mentions "scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago", which goes back to those Victorian traditions including Dickens own efforts.  As a storyteller I applaud any storytelling traditions.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Give a Cheer for Summer Reading!

It all began with a very tiny cheerleader outfit; then I found Priscilla Gorilla hanging around a Garage Sale and knew I'd found a new puppet sidekick to join me whether for National Reading Month or Summer Reading as I Give a Cheer for Heroes in the 398s! 

As winter starts to punch its way in, it's always great to think ahead to summer!  The multi-state library cooperative for summer reading programs in 2015 featured heroes. 2016 will continue those stories as they are all based on various sports.  This is why I especially thought about those heroic aspects so often found in folklore.
Of course I always have lots of stories filled with male and female heroes from folklore, BUT that cheerleading idea started to um, er, well . . . Snowball!

Priscilla already is looking forward to her debut, but in the meantime here are cheers for libraries, reading, and especially Summer Reading.  Because this also works for reading at all times of the year, some have alternate wording beyond summer.

  • My mother doesn't have to beg
          Or resort to any bribery
          'Cause I love reading all summer (or year) long

          At my local library!

(This next one might benefit from a bit of a southern accent)
  • Rah, rah, rah, and a Sis Boom Bah!
          All who love reading will go far!

  • Some kids play video games
          And keep on getting dumber,
          But I keep reading such good books

          All through the summer!

  • My brain never runs out of steam
          I'm on the (Summer) Reading Team!

  • Reading books will take you far
          Be a Summer Reading star!

and here's another cheer done two ways
  • 2, 4, 6, 8
          Summer Reading's really great!
         (or Reading books is really great!)

I stopped there because I know Priscilla and I will only have time for so many cheers in between stories and I will want my audience to join in, BUT I'm definitely interested in hearing from other readers if they might have even better cheers to contribute.  If permission is given, I'll either update this article or, if enough arrive, post a follow-up article.  Librarians who may never see Priscilla and me could always use something to cheer about, so feel free to get in touch with me.  Because I'm all over the internet with my storytelling I already gets hundreds of spam emails daily, so I don't mind mentioning my email address here: and you can see more about Summer Reading and my other programs at -- come and look!
LoiS(ummer...what a concept and Summer Reading makes it even better!)