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Saturday, September 1, 2018

Daudet - The Last Lesson in French - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

As schools start up again, imagine being suddenly told you could no longer speak the language you normally speak!  This has happened at times.  Here in the U.S., when many Native American children were shipped off to "Indian" boarding schools in the late 19th and early 20th century, it almost resulted in the loss of those languages.  (There's a lot more to say than the Wikipedia link.  Search using the term "Indian boarding schools."  Here in Michigan the topic is in The Tree That Never Dies.)  Even today some are told they may not use American Sign Language, although much less than in the past.  To return to the idea of being told your language was forbidden, imagine the northeastern U.S. being told French only or, vice versa, Quebecois told no French.  In the southwest or Mexico it would be Spanish or English being forbidden.

Today's story is by Alphonse Daudet, a French author not from Alsace-Lorraine where this story is set, even though he tells it as if it was a memory from his childhood.  I'll say more later, but it's true that area has been at times French and at other times German depending on who was controlling the area over the centuries and various wars.

My copy comes from Child Life in Many Lands, a 1911 textbook meant as a Third Reader.  I mention the textbook along with others in my One-Room Schoolteacher program.  As a result it begins with vocabulary words.
I found the Wikipedia article on Daudet interesting, especially how he began as a teacher, only to find it intolerable and claimed for months afterwards "he would wake with horror, thinking he was still among his unruly pupils", but used it in his writing.  The story's certainly realistic enough and also re-tells easily.  This happened repeatedly over the centuries in the area where he set it, especially when he tells about it during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, but also in the two major wars of the twentieth century.

Daudet was primarily a novelist and sometimes wrote for children.  It took detective work to find the story originated in Contes du Lundi (1873; English: The Monday Tales, 1900; short stories) .  While searching I found a teacher's lesson using the story to raise many questions and ideas about the importance of language and cultural identity.  I also found an article on this short story from the National Council of the Teachers of English which explained Daudet was so nearsighted he wasn't a soldier during the war, but did observe the area and the times while serving in the French National Guard and used it in many of his books.

May the 2018-2019 school year be a good one for you.  And now for something called in English, "the fine print."
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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