Tell me if you have a topic you'd like to see. (Contact: .)
Please also let others know about this site.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Crows & Scarecrows - 2 stories - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

This Saturday I'm "wine wenching" at the Michigan Renfest for two local theatre groups, so today's post is a bit early.  The festival has themed weekends to keep the public returning.  This weekend they are having a scarecrow competition.  I will definitely visit it for ideas.  You may remember a month ago I wrote and showed pictures of our excavation for a new septic system.  We are now trying to return it to being a lawn.  That means preparing the soil surface -- this area is loaded with rocks from the glaciers that rolled over it aeons ago -- then seeding and adding chopped straw bedding.

The call of a crow to others reminds me that a flock of them is called a Murder of Crows.  Yeah, that definitely makes sense.  Then there's the blue jay calling me a thief as I lay down that straw to hold in the moisture and maybe keep the birds away.

Right now I've got some bits of unseeded patches over the septic tank and on the hillside to return and do.  Otherwise it's all set except for our meadow down by the barn.

All of this made me search for stories about crows -- there's a LOT! and I even found one about a scarecrow.  First come crows and then come scarecrows, so that's the order I'll show the stories, then give a way to find even more stories online about crows.
Marieke Tacken on Unsplash

Back in 1919 the designation of the Arctic people was just lumped under the name of Eskimo.  This story is from Frances Jenkins Olcott's nature anthology, The Wonder Garden.  Today we would say more about the specific nation within either Alaska or Nunavut.
Natalia Y on Unsplash
Right after posting that I went out to hang up my laundry and heard from up the road so many crows cawing that it sounded like dogs barking.  Sure hope they don't feast on my seed.  That story was both an interesting pourquois tale (explaining how or why something became the way it is) and a cautionary tale.  I doubt it will change the behavior of children, but have you ever noticed how whenever someone is told to do or not do something in a story, it's guaranteed to have the opposite effect?
Viktor Dukov on Unsplash
This next story is by Angela M. Keyes in her book,Stories and Story-telling, also from 1911.  I found her book is online, but nothing about her online except the book says she was Head of the Department of English, Brooklyn Training School for Teachers and almost a quarter of the book is devoted to how to use stories with children.  I love her preface:
those "very short stories" often are only a paragraph long.  They come after the section on storytelling and some 32 stories.  While she may have omitted "favorites easily available in other collections", several now fit that availability.

Reading the story, I can see its roots in oral telling.  The repetition works better there than in print, but it's needed.  The magical elements she puts in the story seem right in today's tales where Harry Potter might summon Magic Darkness and Moving Wind, to say nothing of the scarecrow himself.
HLS 44 on Unsplash

I try to tell myself the birds won't eat all my grass seed, but then I think about how a bird has to eat his weight in food daily.  Guess I can handle one crow, but they never stay just one!

Similarly there are lots of stories about crows.  One easy way to find several online comes from the now archived Story-Lovers website which housed the results of storytellers talking on the email list, Storytell.  Storytell is now hosted by the National Storytelling Network and that link would let you subscribe.  I always list Story-Lovers in the fine print ending a Public Domain article, but this link takes you right to the Crow section of books, online stories, and some of the condensed Storytell discussion.  You will notice many stories say they are from India and the Panchatantra is divided into five books with the third being Crows and Owls as part of their war with each other.  Unfortunately there is a "frame" with one story leading into the next (I think this is handled better in the Arabian Nights), plus the Arthur W. Ryder translation from the Sanskrit is loaded with poetry.  I'd need to work like crazy to make it tellable for me, but I do love that the story about this nearly 3,000 year-old collection of fables supposedly was told to instruct a king's three sons who were "supreme blockheads."  
Marija Zaric on Unsplash

Some of the links on the old Story-Lovers page take time to respond and a few no longer can be found.  In searching the site I didn't find on their folklore page an Indian tale of "A Matter of Crows", but instead found Ruskin Bond's story of "A Crow in the House" about a pet (or pest according to one view) crow who ruled a house and was named appropriately "Caesar."  I enjoyed the story and remembered traveling in a carpool with a woman who told about the pet crow she had while growing up.  It rode the handlebars of her bike and, like Caesar, talked.

I don't plan to make a pet out of any crows landing here, but I may decide to make a scarecrow.  It's an old art object, as our local renaissance festival will show.
Mel Poole on Unsplash
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 - 
           - Zalka Csenge Virag - doesn't give the actual stories, but her recommendations, working her way through each country on a continent, give excellent ideas for finding new books and stories to love and tell.
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!

No comments: