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Saturday, March 17, 2018

O'Donovan - Two tales of Finnachta - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

March is filled with Irish performers who have to work like crazy for a month and then work like crazy the rest of the year to get a chance to work.  Saint Patrick may not be celebrated in Ireland the way Irish Americans and would-be Irish-for-a-day pay attention to him, but it's a great excuse to Go Green!  (Woops, I'm not talking about Michigan State University there.)
Vintage postcard found on, a "Vintage Image Treasury"
There are so many wonderful Irish resources in my library, today's story is strictly a matter of quirky personal choice.  After it, I will give a few story ideas more suited to children.

For those wanting the arcane history of today's story, it comes from John O'Donovan's translation of The Annals of Ireland also known as the Annals of the Four Masters.  Those hotlinks are to Wikipedia articles about O'Donovan and the "Four Masters", with the middle one taking you to the actual book.  If you go to that book I suggest the PDF version as it is not easily skimmed, giving both the original in Irish and English.  My own source today went to O'Donovan by way of today's stories being included in Irish Literature edited by Justin McCarthy in 1904, another mammoth work, but organized alphabetically by the authors included in it.  The alphabet's a tool...Use it!

So here are the stories, with the second one possibly giving a bit of back story about King Finnachta. Frankly the old boy is slippery to track down, but after the stories I'll give a bit of my own suggestions about him and the kings of Ireland.  If ever a land existed with enough kings to keep the storytellers busy it's Ireland!  (Of course kings want a tax to keep them in power, don't be thrown by the name of the tax, "the Borumha" and nobody wants to pay a tax, including clerics here seeking a "remission" or exemption.)
That last part reminds me of an incident in the life of Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert. I've been watching the PBS Masterpiece episodes of Victoria and wanted to know more about Fact or Fiction in Episode 5, where they stay at a Scottish croft.  The author used Victoria's diary for some of her research, but if you, too, are curious about where fact begins or ends click that link.

For my own part I was curious about Finnachta.  There are 32 counties in Ireland nowadays and Wikipedia groups its List of Irish Kingdoms in the following areas:  Ulster, Meath, Leinster, Munster, and Connacht, but the article about the Monarchy of Ireland gives a supplementary view of the Gaelic kings up through the 12th century.  The footnote to the story claims Finnachta, A.D. 678, reigned seven years.  If you can find a king who fits those dates and comes close in name, you should have a golden magnifying glass as your detective skills pass the fictional Sherlock Holmes!  The answer may lurk on the O'Finnerty clan website on the page about Finnerty Monarchs, since "Fionnachta Fleadhach, also known as Finachta the Festive" ruled starting in 673.  While you're on the O'Finnerty website click some of their links for some additional interesting tales and insights.

Other stories I've actually told this week in my school residencies
I told my own composite of a story about a giant potato.  You may know a story about an enormous carrot or turnip or potato, it's a story that just begs for a tug of war and we had one along with looking at the many ways we eat potatoes.  Additionally I told a slightly adapted version of Joseph Jacob's "The Field of Boliauns."  Hmmmm I see it's never been listed here although I have posted here several stories in his anthologies.  Next week?  We'll see.  I tend to take each week as it comes, but if I do, I'll give ideas on how I adapted it for American children.
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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