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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Hearn - Chin-Chin Kobakama - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

'Tis the month for spooky stories.  One of my favorite authors is the American emigre from around the turn of the 20th century, Lafcadio Hearn, who fell in love with both the daughter of a samurai and Japanese culture, especially the ghostly or the "strange" as he simply called it.  I've decided to take the rest of this month featuring two of my favorite Hearn tales and some new -- to me -- discoveries.  I even plan to include a special extra post on Halloween. 

That link to Hearn gives a few more I love to tell including some little known stories.  If you want a brief look into Hearn's life, scroll down to the first story, "The Boy Who Drew Cats" which I posted here two years ago.

Today's story can be found in various anthologies, such as Margaret Read MacDonald's lovely

Tuck-Me-In Tales,

but even with 26 books by or about Hearn on Project Gutenberg, this story doesn't seem to be there.  To find the book where it was published so long ago, go to the Australian for A Ghost Story and others.  I hadn't even realized there was more than one Project Gutenberg!  That's o.k.,  there's never enough sharing of public domain to keep wonderful literature alive.  I could say more, but getting out my soap box for a rant would delay the story.  Just let me take a few lines to point out the home page at includes a section of Australiana, a good resource about the wonderful land my Aussie colleagues and friends call "Oz" -- making it sound positively mythical or, at the very least, a literary treasure house.

This is a bit of a "cautionary tale", and I suggest judging the listener or being cautious in telling.  This may be scarier than you might expect in a book of bedtime stories like the earlier mentioned Tuck-Me-In Tales.  I wouldn't tell it to those wanting the gently spooky, but it can be appreciated by most children.

Obviously how you tell the ending can make the story less likely to be nightmare material.  Less obvious is how to handle the chant of the toothpick warriors.  If there is a chance somebody in your audience may know Japanese, it's great to start by asking if anybody knows Japanese and getting their assistance.  I only use the first two lines of the chant and teach it beforehand for audience participation, having fun explaining my complete lack of Japanese language skills.  Normally when a story has names or language pronunciation help needed, check for local societies, embassies, classes, whatever you can search out, but in this case plunging into it is understandable and can keep the story a bit lighter.
Here's my closing for days when I have a story in Keeping the Public in Public Domain

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. 

Other Public Domain story resources I recommend -
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key.
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!

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