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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Thorne-Thomsen - The Princess on the Glass Hill - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

I confess it freely, I HATE WINTER!  On Facebook I found this from "U.P. Michigan"
I don't just "Like" that, I flat out Love it.

It's a reminder of that story starter: It Could Be Worse.  In fact today's story proved prophetic.  More on that in a bit.

Frankly we haven't had anything near that much in snow as pictured, but we've had snow.  I'm originally from St. Louis, MO (didn't even know there was a St. Louis, MI 'til I moved here) and they're usually about 10 degrees warmer, or more.  I miss it, what I don't miss is their ice.  I vividly recall a scary drive up and down on the Kingshighway Bridge.  YIKES!  Such memories are usually stirred up here around New Year's when it often hits, but as I started writing this earlier this week I felt like the Princess in today's story.  Our bunny slope of a hill was glass.  The dirt road at the foot of it was glass.  Climbing it last Monday, after finding my car couldn't make it over the crest of the hill, I was just looking forward to being safe in the house.

Little did I know that Thursday I would fall and break my wrist on yet another "glass hill."  Fortunately most of this was written already.

You'll not catch me rhapsodizing about snow and winter, but maybe I can pass along a story to warm up with by a fire . . . or whatever heater warms you through this weather.  I've seen some collections list this among Swedish tales, but it's definitely claimed by the Norwegians from the time Asbjornsen and Moe published Norwegian Folktales (Norwegian: Norske Folkeeventyr) throughout the 1840s.  It probably first appeared in English when Sir George Webbe Dasent in 1859 translated their work in Popular Tales from the Norse (there are copies all over the internet, that link is to the Project Gutenberg edition).  There are tons of translations in Public Domain, but I chose the one by Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen from her landmark book East O' the Sun and West O' the Moon. The title page continues "with Other Norwegian Folk Tales", it also says it's "retold", so why use her version?  Because she's Norwegian through and through, born along the fjord in Trondheim, but turned dedicated Chicagoan at age 15, eventually teaching at the University of Chicago and as a pioneer storyteller in the Chicago Public Library branches.  That 1912 book and her work eventually moved her into doing still more in education and storytelling nationally, including two more books and recording her storytelling for both the Library of Congress and (later RCA) Victor records.  Before her death in 1956 the American Library Association honored her work pioneering library storytelling with a day-long storytelling festival at their annual conference.

Today's story is long enough I can imagine some saying it should start at the dividing mark 1/3 of the way into the tale.  It's possible to do that giving a brief summary, but beyond the princess or the slippery hill the story is as much about the CinderLad, Boots, if not more so.  Some versions, in fact, just call him the CinderLad, but then again the name of Boots is popular in Scandanavian stories.  Keeping his earlier part, whatever we call him, of the story presents a splendid example throughout the tale of the traditional folklore use of threes.  Many versions of the story are in Public Domain, including illustrations.  I'll insert some beyond the only one in Thorne-Thomsen's version.  So put your feet up and warm up a bit with a story that's been a classic for a long, long time.

from Andrew Lang's The Blue Fairy Book illustrated by H.J.Ford or G.P.Jacomb Hood, 1889
Illustrated by Frederick Richardson in Gudrun Thorne-Thomsen's East O' the Sun and West O' the Moon, 1912
illustrated by Kay Nielsen in his East of the Sun and West of the Moon, 1914
illustrated by Elizabeth MacKinstry in The Fairy Ring edited by Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora Archibald Smith, 1906

from Andrew Lang's The Blue Fairy Book illustrated by H.J.Ford or G.P.Jacomb Hood, 1889
illustrated by Kay Nielsen in his East of the Sun and West of the Moon, 1914
from Andrew Lang's The Blue Fairy Book illustrated by H.J.Ford or G.P.Jacomb Hood, 1889
Don't you love that ending?  So much better than the unrealistic "they all lived happily ever after."  I notice they still couldn't manage that glass hill.  Neither can I!  I'll do my best to keep this coming on schedule, just as I have performance commitments also coming up throughout January and February.  Much of today's information about Thorne-Thomsen came from Storytelling: Art and Technique by Ellin Greene in the second chapter, "Storytelling to Children in Libraries."  Google Books offers the third edition online, but I asked friend and colleague, Dr. Janice Del Negro, who co-authored the fourth edition, if that chapter remained in the fourth edition and she assured me it does as it dates back to the original edition by Augusta Baker, who knew Thorne-Thomsen.  Janice is going to try and get additional information about Thorne-Thomsen and I hope to include it -- broken wrist and all -- with a very brief tale also in Thorne-Thomsen's East O' the Sun and West O' the Moon because it helps solve an important archeological mystery.

Hope that whets your curiosity and you keep coming back!

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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