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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Bailey (and Cary) - Legend of the Woodpecker - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

I enjoy seeing the woods return to spring.  It's an impressionist painting unfolding.  After winter in Michigan, anything, even "liquid sunshine", is welcome as we get above freezing.  Woodland flowers are popping up, but the songbirds started even before any botanical renewal.  Today's title gives away the sound of yet another bird whose "song" is definitely percussion instead of melody.  It's also an exercise in how a poem or ballad can be made into a story.
Carolyn Sherwin Bailey has been mentioned here in earlier posts and she always knows how to craft a story for her audience, especially children, who are NOT the easy audience some adults assume.  Today she took a poem, which kept its suspense, by just calling it "A Legend of the Northland."  Still I suppose Ms. Bailey preferred clarifying the story for her readers.  In telling the story I would prefer waiting until it was revealed at the end.  Notice the poem looks to many stories where St. Peter and other saints visit ordinary people revealing virtues or vices to form the story.  Folktales, however, also often just use an elderly man or woman who may have mysterious powers.

Here's the story and then I'll give the poem which inspired the story and a bit more about the poet, Phoebe Cary.

Now for the original poem by Phoebe Cary

That's from Ballads for little folk, by Alice and Phoebe Cary; edited by Mary Clemmer Ames. 
Phoebe Cary
As for Ms. Cary, it's certainly not one of her better known works as most of her writing was for adults.  Also notice how it says Alice and Phoebe Cary?  Anybody with an older sibling who always seems to get the most notice will sympathize with her standard Wikipedia biography (and elsewhere).  Phoebe Cary has gone into the afterlife, yet she still is always referred to as Alice's younger sister.  Alice was even prettier.  (Wikipedia chose the best portrait of Phoebe.  All of Phoebe's photos are downright homely.)

Alice Cary
Comparing the Wikipedia article about Alice Cary, with the earlier mentioned one for Phoebe, frankly I think I would have found Phoebe far more interesting.  As for her best known poetry, go to PoemHunter, but I'd also recommend a look at those Ballads for Little Folk. 

One other quick note occurs to me while in the woods where the woodpecker is tapping out bugs.  I recommend a children's book, The Dead Tree by Alvin Tresselt, which shows the whole life cycle of an oak even when it might seem at first glance to have become useless.  


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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