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Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Iditarod and Aesop - Dog fable - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

This wolf in the lobby of the Potawatomi Inn looks like my Malamutt
 This has been a winter only a sled dog and maybe a musher could love!

This is also the Chinese Year of the Dog and I confess I'm a huge lover of "sled dogs", both malamutes and huskies.  They are the closest to their wolf ancestor.  My current dog is both breeds so I call him a Malamutt, but know he really has the best of both dog breeds.  I get many compliments about him, but when people talk about always wanting to have one, I warn they are not a first dog!  They don't fit everybody and if you made a "sled dog" your first dog it might just be your last.

For those of us who love them, however, no other dog comes close.

Right now the Iditarod is still running and the controversies that pop up every year are running yet again.  Frankly most mushers love their dogs too much to do anything to jeopardize their dogs.  These are dogs who also live to do exactly this and must agree it is indeed up to their humans to recognize when they need to stop.  The Iditarod story began with the 1925 serum run to Nome.  Although's History page reminds us the current Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race wanted also to prevent the mass abandonment of dog teams and preserve the mushing lore endangered by the "iron dog", the snowmobile.  Because the race is so closely watched for animal safety both by animal rights groups and the Iditarod Trail Committee, the treatment of the dogs is especially monitored and mushers who might dope or mistreat their dogs are unlikely to succeed.

To go into the world of the musher, I recommend Iditarod sled dog racer and three times Newbery Honor Winning author, Gary Paulsen, and his very brief, but thoroughly enjoyable book about how he lives with his dogs in Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers.  The subtitle tells even more: Reflections on Being Raised by a Pack of Sled Dogs.  While looking for a cover to show of the book I discovered he had earlier written Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod.  Nothing like going to the source.  Puppies... is officially a children's book, but it would have fit well in issues of a magazine for adults.  As the cover quote by the New York Times Book Review on the paperback says: Nonstop action.  Winterdance was written for adults.  Hmmm.  If I have time between walks with my own four-pawed trail buddy, I may hunt that book up.  I remember well the madness described in the other book and believe both subtitles.

So how would a wolf perceive all of this?  Aesop, who some say was a Greek slave, has a short, but very different view.  There are so many versions of Aesop and Joseph Jacobs, who was an excellent anthologist and put stories in tellable forms has the version I present here.  It's a compact little book unlike Jacobs' better known works.  Jacobs was also a folklorist and concludes with notes about the "Pedigree of Aesop" with special attention to the Indian fables of Bidpai and the European, especially the Greek and Hebrew, forms.  He would also remind us they were first oral tales written down only centuries later, just as Wikipedia notes of the fables, be they of Aesop or his contemporary, the Buddha, source of the Jatakas.

  For all of us owned by our dogs, may we do our best to give them good lives.

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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