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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Van Dyke - The Other Wise Man, part 1 - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Several years ago I was given this magnet with the quote from Henry Van Dyke as an added Thank You after a program.

Yesterday I did my first Victorian Christmas program of 2017.  It includes music, traditions, and, of course, stories.  One story I love, but don't attempt, because it would require an entire program unto itself, is Henry Van Dyke's haunting "The Other Wise Man."  It's a novella and frankly more than I want to take on to do justice to it.  That doesn't mean it can't be done.  I discovered it from the storytelling of Fort Wayne, Indiana storyteller, Larry Givens, who told it beautifully so many years ago.  I learned he has died.  He told in schools, churches, and at the Johnny Appleseed Festival.  I knew him from the Michigan Storytellers Festival since he was a regular attendee and told there long ago.  It took quite a bit of calling around to find out this, but fellow Fort Wayne storyteller, Scott Mertz, confirmed my suspicions about the passing of someone whose stories have stayed with me. We storytellers tell in the moment and it's written in the sand!

Then I searched for information about Henry Van Dyke beyond what I've given when posting another story of his this past Easter.  He not only wrote several stories about Christmas and Easter, but Van Dyke told this (1896) and, in the following year, "The First Christmas Tree", to his congregation as sermons.


He was an extremely popular author and also an English Literature professor at Princeton.  Again...don't let that stop you.  The man knew how to talk to an audience.

Van Dyke's quotations fill the internet (and magnets?) and it's definitely not because they're preachy. People continue to find their rare wisdom valuable.  His book, The Blue Flower, not only includes "The Other Wise Man", but also "The First Christmas Tree", which is only slightly shorter.

"The Other Wise Man" is divided into five parts, perfect for the coming weeks leading up to Christmas.  (I suspect he broke those "sermons" into five weeks, too.)  In the future I will also give some of the background about Van Dyke and a few of those quotations along with the weekly section of the story.

Since Christmas was extra important to him, and as we look at the coming season, let's open with this quote of Van Dyke's.
The first section of this story is far longer than the other sections (especially the final three), but if Van Dyke didn't split it, I won't either.  Possibly for re-telling to modern tastes, however, some might choose to summarize this setting the scene for the rest of the story.  It does, however, include an explanation of the character and mission of our "Other Wise Man" as well as a view of how the Magi came to the idea of their historic journey, so I would point to the importance of the discussion of whether it should be done.
I hope you, too, will return to hear the rest of this story.  Yes, that was a long start to the story, but appreciate the words, "it is better to follow even the shadow of the best than to remain content with the worst.  And those who would see wonderful things must often be ready to travel alone."  May we all follow that advice and hope it's not a "long pilgrimage and a fruitless search."

Here's a very brief biography at American giving you access to the entire story if you can't wait, as well as his other stories and poetry.

And here's another Christmas quotation of Van Dyke's expanding on the idea of keeping Christmas and seems appropriate in a world with hate, evil and death which certainly didn't end in 1895.
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 .  It's not easy, but go to snapshot for October 22 2016  and you can click on SOS: Searching Out Stories to scroll down through the many story topics and click on the story topic that interests you.
       - 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.  Possibly searches maintained it.  Unfortunately Storytell 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 now only on the Wayback Machine.  It took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally in December of 2006 it appears!
    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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