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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Jacobs - The Old Witch - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

  'Tis the season to tell spooky stuff!

(as if losing Net Neutrality isn't scary enough)

Of course some stories are scarier than others.  Today's story is on the gentler side, incorporating a familiar Tale Type I won't name before presenting it.  Next week I'll give a very different story I find especially haunting.

Both come from Joseph Jacobs' More English Folk Tales.  That link takes you to the five stories I've already used from his various anthologies.  He collected such a variety of folklore I haven't scratched the surface of his work.  All of his books were illustrated by John D. Batten.  I've mentioned Batten in the past because my own maternal lineage has Batten roots.  Fortunately the internet continues to grow.  The Batten link from Wikipedia is from this year and more recent than Sur La Lune's gallery  of his illustrations from ten years ago when they were unable to give further information about him personally.  Wikipedia's biographical information isn't very extensive, but it shows him living in England through his death in 1932.  Guess it was only the most distant of connections, if at all.  His artwork, however, is so interesting I must go back and edit previous posts to tag and credit him.

The Jacobs anthologies are pure gold mined in the days when folklorists were still beginning to preserve the oldest tales of Britain, Ireland, and Europe.  As a result I know I'm not familiar with all he collected and today's story is one I've missed before, but now find very useful.  (Those Tale Types I mentioned earlier are how storytellers can identify themes.)
There might be other versions, scarier versions where the witch might treat the other sister worse, but the thing I found most interesting was its use of the Kind and Unkind Girls Tale Type.  To understand more about this classification system, the Wikipedia article, The Aarne-Thompson classification systems, tells about it, including why, since 2004, it's now the ATU  types since Hans-Jörg Uther updated it.  (I also recommend following the link there to the Wikipedia article on Motifs as Thompson's motif index supplements tale types.)  A discussion of this particular tale type can be found on the SurLaLune Fairy Tales Blog article, Not really a Cinderella type: ATU480 the kind and unkind girls.  Personally I have found Asian tales where it's neither females nor even relatives, but the idea of one kind person being treated well, while an unkind person receives punishment.  This is good for pointing to the benefit of good actions without being didactic.

Next week I will present another Jacobs story.  It's one of my favorite tales to tell when spooky stories are requested.

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 -
         - 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
       - 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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