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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Mooney - The Ball Game of the Birds and Animals - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Today's story comes just in time for the All Star Baseball game on July 12.

Watching a pair of red-tail hawks today reminded me of my only visit to Hannibal, Missouri where I went up on a cliff overlooking the Mississippi and above a flock of hawks circling about like today's pair.  It was great to be above that flock of hawks, looking down.  Remembering this sent me hunting for a story with hawks.  Native American folklore offers a wealth of nature stories and James Mooney did an excellent job collecting Myths of the Cherokee .  Back in February I mentioned:  Not only did a Cherokee storytelling friend once verify the accuracy of the book by saying it didn't even make the elders snicker much -- as in their respecting its getting the material right! -- but the versions often tell well exactly as Mooney wrote it.  Mooney took the trouble to live with the Cherokee for several years, trying to help those of us who are non-Cherokee understand their culture.  Today's story not only tells well, but there are two picture book versions of it, which shows what an excellent story it is.

 While I am giving the Cherokee version, the other picture book version is from the Muskogee (Creek), which, along with the Cherokee, are a member of the "Five Civilized Tribes" of the Southeastern part of the United States.  As a result it's not surprising that they share a great tale.  By the way, up above I gave a link to the Project Gutenberg online copy of Mooney's entire book.  My own copy is a Dover edition and it has something I value, but missing in that online copy, a 28 page index that is quite detailed, making it easy to find today's story.


Most Native American storytelling includes a traditional prohibition against summer storytelling of some sort.  Twenty-first century skeptic that I am, I figure that was started to keep people from sitting around storytelling when they were supposed to be gathering food and preparing for winter.  Here in Michigan I was told by a storyteller friend of the Saginaw Chippewa band, Robyn Henry, it was acceptable to tell about plants and people, but stories about animals should be avoided as they need to gather their strength for the winter.  When I asked the Cherokee friend about this, he said they don't tell in summer for fear the plants will hear and stop growing.  Normally my comment would be to tell to keep from having to mow so often.  That's my usual response, but right now southeastern Michigan has been missed by any rain passing across the country.  The only thing growing right now are some weeds that drive people wanting a "lawn" nuts.  Hmmmmm, it makes you wonder if the plants and animals have computer access.  Talk about WiFi!

O.k. the hawk had only a featured role in today's story, but they do sail high overhead -- with or without computer signals.  Whether watching them from a cliff high above, or below as they whistle and soar, may your own summer games and stories be enjoyable.
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 regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other 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.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so one can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression he likes by pressing one key.

He also loaded to his server the doctorate thesis of Prof. Dov Noy (Neunan) "Motif-index of Talmudic-Midrahic literature" Indiana University, 1954, as a PDF file.
in the hope that some of you would make use of it.

You can see why that is a site I recommend to you.

Have fun discovering even more stories!

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