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Saturday, October 12, 2019

Wickes - The Conjure Wives - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

October used to be known as the "Storyteller's Christmas" because it was the busiest time of year for a storyteller, providing their "Christmas funds."  I've noticed since "9/11" it has been a bit less predictable, but there still is an interest in spooky stories.  This past week I prowled some of the old standards I've never tried.  Interestingly enough there were three I wanted to share, all found in Frances G. Wickes' Happy HolidaysSince the book was published in 1921, it's firmly in Public Domain.  The link will let you get it free from Google.  You may also read it online at

The book may be old, but it is a goldmine of holiday material, even covering Labor Day, Arbor Day, Flag Day, May Day, and one I had to look up -- Bird Day, which can mean several different days and may vary depending on where it's celebrated.

How a noted psychologist and Jungian therapist like Frances G. Wickes also became a writer and playwright for children and teens is not known, but maybe her own son was the reason.  Possibly it was because she was a specialist in child psychology, writing the early classic in child psychology, The Inner World of Childhood.  That was written later in 1927, joining her other books in the field of psychology.

Fortunately Happy Holidays omits any deeper references and lets us discover tales deserving to stay in our cultural heritage as the concept of Public Domain was intended to uphold.  I'm going to be quite busy this month, so I want to set up now what I found for publication in these next three weeks.

Today's and next week's story are quite brief and include only one illustration by Gertrude Kay.  I'll say a bit more about her next week.  Just force yourself to look at it only when it comes up in the story and, while you're at it, the knocking in the story is a great feature for building up the suspense along with the repetition by the conjure wives -- another name for witches.
Even if you saw the transformation of the old women into owls coming, this story manages to avoid slipping into a hard to follow dialect, giving only a hint of it.  Wickes has a fourth Halloween tale I enjoy telling in voice and sign language because it, too, has suspenseful repetition, but she felt the need for dialect that I find hard to fit in today's world.  Fortunately other authors felt the same and so "Wait Till Martin Comes" is in many anthologies of spooky stories.  Unfortunately I've yet to find one in Public Domain that didn't contain that style of language.

Next week catch another short story from Happy Holidays and two different ways of using it.

Until then . . .
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!

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