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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Hearn - The Story of Umetsu Chubei - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Today's story could be titled "Strength."  It's a natural to tell boys (or any who enjoy superheroes) with a samurai who has to exhibit unnatural, dare we say, superheroic strength?

This includes a Japanese name and prayer.  It's always best to hunt up someone able to give you pronunciation, but at the end I'll give an easy way to learn today's names and prayer before telling the story if you don't have the opportunity to do this.

Some might say a literary story should be memorized and given unchanged, but I would certainly add to the final line "by Lafcadio Hearn in 1905."  You should also add the book it was in his A Japanese Miscellany.  By the way did you notice the footnote on the first page?  He gives his source of Bukkyo-Hayakkawa-Zensho, but I will leave that to those more able to handle Japanese than I.

I promised "an easy way to learn the names and prayer" and you may hear them in a YouTube video of The Story of Umetsu Chubei by Lauren Flinner and Ryan Mihaly. They abbreviate the story, but at least the names and prayer can be heard.

Before telling the story it would probably be well to give a brief introduction to samurai and the concepts of Japanese goblins and Shinto deities, the Ujigami, and their local followers, the Ujiko.

Of course if you are telling this to young lovers of superheroes, you might also talk about how Umetsu had to adjust after receiving such strength and how it might be difficult.

Today's story can be found in's publication of the book, A Japanese Miscellany in the subsection called Strange Stories.  I love some of the stories there and next week, the weekend before Halloween, will give yet another.  Also look ahead to an extra here on Halloween day itself to close out this month of Hearn's spooky tales.  One of the two very brief stories then will be "Riki Baka" -- and "Riki" means "Strength", but "Baka" means "the Simple" or "the Fool", so there is a simple or foolish bit of continuity with today's story topic.
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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