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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Van Dyke - The Other Wise Man, part 2 - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

 Horse lovers can enjoy today's continuation of the story of "The Other Wise Man."
from the Unwanted Horses Coalition (.org)
Today's section of the story is only slightly shorter than part one, but it's the turning point in the quest by this Magi.  From here on it picks up speed like the horse, Vasda, who shoulders a huge role in this journey.  There are images of people with a horse bearing the name, but here I believe the images in an audience's mind are more powerful.  The journey also includes an unfamiliar term for distance, the parasang, but I believe the story's explanation of how far a traveler on horseback can go is sufficient.  That Wikipedia link says an army could travel five parasangs in a day and compares the ancient Iranian/Persian term to the European league.  It's sufficient in my mind to notice the love and familiarity Van Dyke shows for the partnership between Artaban and his swiftest horse.

As for the geography and the history behind today's story, I'll leave it for the end since the story shouldn't be delayed.  I will say that maps don't reveal the terrain Artaban and Vasda traveled.  Here are two quick views.
The river Orontes shows in this view from Biblical, a site you might find fascinating if Biblical history interests you
The view from that height is contrasted with this 1836 print by British artist, William Henry Bartlett showing the Turkish port near the mouth of the river Orontes, with Mount Cassius or Jebel al Aqra near the Turkish Syrian border.
Clearly the trip on horseback was quite an undertaking and Artaban must hurry if he hopes to join with the other magi.
While Van Dyke's book, The Blue Flower, doesn't illustrate this part of the story, I bet you pictured the story of "The Good Samaritan."  Many artists have tried to show their view of this act of mercy. The closest to what I picture in this story is 
by Dutch painter, Pieter Lastman, in the 1600s
From here on the story will move in much shorter sections matching Artaban's own haste and our busy lives at this time of year.

For those wanting to look at the geographical and historical information Van Dyke liberally sprinkles through the text, start where Artaban did, in Ecbatana.  You can get the larger picture in an article about what is now called Greater Iran.  That territory encompasses way more than present day Iran or its neighbor, Iraq, so it's probably better to call it Greater Persia
and recognize the Parthian Empire and its twin rulers of the period, Phraates V (seen only on a coin) and his mother and later wife, Queen Musa, titled the Queen of Queens.  She has quite a story, starting as a Roman concubine given by the Roman emperor, Augustus, to Phraates IV.  By all means take a look at the link about her for a tale of palace intrigue and murder!
Here's a few more Wikipedia links of locations mentioned in the story for those wanting "just a bit more." Nisaea, which had plains of horses, Bagistan in Uzbekistan, and as for the Temple of Astarte, it's simplest to say she got around and, of course, the 400 pillars of her temple is now a ruin.  Some of the names like Concabar lead nowhere, but I leave it up to you if you wish to search a bit further. 

I prefer to think how might Van Dyke talk of all this.

I hope you return for the rest of this story.  If it could last for more than a century and move audiences, including me remembering hearing it years ago, I think you will find it worth the "time."


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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