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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Ransome - Fool of the World and the Flying Ship - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Because I knew I would be away for several days in a workshop about arts accessibility for individuals with disabilities, I went looking to see if I could find a good story about an individual considered disabled.  Rather than choose a story where a disability is "cured" like the Native American "Cinderella" tale of "Scarface, I specifically wanted a story where the individual remains different.  I say different because today's tale at times seems hard to qualify and yet it does.  The title character is called a fool and the opening describes him as basically being childlike, even though the people in his life describe him as "simple."  How often is someone with Down's Syndrome or even some on the Autism Spectrum possibly perceived and dismissed this way?  His own parents consider him worthless and focus on his brothers.  Added to that, the company the "Fool" keeps are all different from the typical person. Are they disabled or is it just the way they are perceived?  Perhaps the term "differently abled" is appropiate.  The Tsar's servant dismisses them as just "a lot of dirty peasants."

The great thing about storytelling is it leads us into making pictures in our minds.  "The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship" is one of my favorites in a book of favorite tales -- Arthur Ransome's classic Old Peter's Russian Tales.  Three illustrators have enjoyed making their own pictures of this story.  It's great when more than one illustrator's version of a story can be compared, BUT it should come only after the story's audience has made their own pictures in their minds.  The book has illustrations but mine are more recent than the 1916 edition.  I removed them as they are still under copyright.  Don't let that bother you.  Your own images are just as valuable.  I'll show the covers of the three illustrated picture book versions at the end.  The story is long and involved, but every part of it proves important.
All right, when he wore fine clothes, he was judged quite handsome and was liked by everyone.  I can't help wondering if he changed or, more likely, the royals and the court changed their opinions and only then found value in his way of thinking.  It reminds me of yet another story, "Hans Clodhopper" by Hans Christian Andersen.

I also want to recommend you look at the UPDATE I made on my previous post.  It's at the end of the very short article.  It takes you to Autistic Mama's website and an article about "Autism in Adults -- Signs That May Have Been Missed in Children."

As summer winds down I'm not ready for winter, but wouldn't mind a little bit of that straw to cool summer's heat to slightly cooler temperatures whenever it starts to flare up again.

Amazon offers these three illustrated versions (given in order of their publishing).  If you're good at illustrating, maybe there will be yet a fourth, but we all should have illustrations in our minds.

Illustrated by Uri Shulevitz (& Caldecott winner)

Retold & illustrated by Christopher Denise

Illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev
And now the "fine print" for Keeping the Public in Public Domain.
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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