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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Butterflies + Im - The Soldier of Kang-Wha - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

by permission of Jim O'Donnell at
Today brings stories and you may think them a curious mixture.  How on earth can I combine Korean folklore (and a bit of Korean history and present-day news) with the stories of Michigan's native people, the Anishinaabe?  As easily as a butterfly on a lilac bush . . .

Just as my lilac bushes are starting to fade, the "dwarf" Korean lilacs outside my kitchen window are starting to bloom.  The air is fragrant as spring continues to bring me purple flowers, wild or otherwise.  Because of that Korean connection I remembered a story I wanted to tell.  Of course the search didn't end there.
That story came from the book originally published in 1913 which I've included in the past (both tales by Im Bang and one by Yi  Ryuk).  I recommend the James Gale translation heartily as a book jam-packed with haunting stories.

Becoming a bit curious -- of course! -- about Kang Wha, I went looking further.  This story talks about its fall in 1637 to the Chinese, but if you go beyond that old transliteration of its name, Ganghwa Island is a place with the misfortune of being "strategically located."  Even I recognized Korean War location names like Kaesong, Incheon, and, of course, Seoul.  South Korea's fourth largest island straddles the Han River to both North Korea and South Korea.  It hardly looks as if it could offer something as peaceful and traditional looking as this lovely photo which looks right at home with today's story.

Those butterflies and knowledge that could only be called supernatural, plus the story's introduction seemed to fit the sort of thing you might find in a Jim Butcher novel in the Dresden Files series.  I've been enjoying the books and recommend them to adults who enjoyed Harry Potter, but would like something set in modern times (Chicago) clashing with fantasy creatures like vampires, zombies, and many others always explained away by the news media and government.  The stories were adapted and presented at one time as a television series, but the books deserve to be read first as it's all about imagination when following the narrator who is a wizard/investigator.  Reading the Wikipedia article I learned Butcher originally was going to title the first book, Semiautomagic, and I agree it combines the fantasy with hard-boiled detective fiction in the series, but I'd also point to its sly humor.  <SIGH!>  That's what you get if you check out this storyteller's light reading and stream-of-consciousness thinking.
Moving back to what I would like to combine with today's creations by "The Soldier of Kang-Wha" is a tale from the People of the Three Fires, the Anishinaabe.  I don't have a written text I can give here, but will briefly give my own version.

Back when the Creator, sometimes called Gitchee Manitou or the Great Spirit had made much of the world, He was happy with it's waters, plants, birds, animals, and people, but regretted that the mountains might not be loved, for they seemed cold, hard and remote.  To get people to explore the mountains He put the colors of the rainbow inside them, reds, greens, blues and more, forming stones we call rubies, emeralds, sapphires, diamonds, to name a few.  People who discovered their beauty would spread the word and it would add to the value of mountains.  Of course not everyone would dig for those stones or even be able to afford them.  Surely there ought to be a way to share them with children.  The South Wind came just as Gitchee Manitou was looking at them and thinking this.  The South Wind carries the warmth of summer, so the Creator tossed some of the stones into the air and let them fly away.  They became what we call butterflies, letting us appreciate their color (and help in pollination).  Now that it's springtime they are returning.  Even as I was thinking about this a little orange butterfly -- no, not a Monarch or even a Viceroy (like the birds, I can't tell them apart, but this was neither even though its wings included some darker etching) -- fluttered down on my not so dwarf Korean Lilacs that come up to my kitchen window.  It was just enough to remind me of a story or two.
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!"
  • The email list for storytellers, Storytell, discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional suggestions:            
               - David K. Brown -
               - Karen Chace -
               - Richard Martin -
               - Spirit of Trees -
           - Story-Lovers - is now only accessible through the Wayback Machine, described below, but Jackie Baldwin's wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google search doesn't work), at and put in in the search box.  I recommend using the latest "snapshot" on November 2016
               - Tim Sheppard -
               -  World of Tales -

    You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links.  Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job.  In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it.  For an example of using the "Wayback Machine", list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is gone, but using the Wayback Machine you can still see it.  At the Wayback Machine I put in his site's address, then chose 2006 since it was a later year and clicked until I reached the Library at  

    Somebody as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website is the late Chuck Larkin -  I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a., when that becomes the only way to find them.
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!

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