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

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Hale - The Peterkins' Christmas Tree - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

A lot of people have their Christmas tree up, but I'll bet that, no matter how much trouble it may have caused, it was nothing like today's story of "The Peterkins' Christmas Tree."

The illustration to the left comes from a website called Garden Therapy; Better Living Through Plants and the article there on "How to Make a Nine-Foot Grinch Tree" .  Of course that refers back to the Doctor Seuss story about How the Grinch Stole Christmas!  including that long tree which the Grinch's poor dog, Max, pulled up the mountain.  (The book's Wikipedia link gives some interesting inside views about it.)  If you go to the article on making one, you will see not only how to do it, but various versions of it.

My reason for muddying the storytelling waters here with a decidedly not Public Domain tale (even though it's become a major Christmas tradition in many formats) is the way it clearly touches the ceiling, a ceiling complete with the mitered corners put in place by a carpenter.

The Peterkins did precisely that, calling a carpenter to literally raise the roof -- or at least the ceiling -- to accommodate their tree.  Back on November 23rd I gave the first glimpse of the Peterkins with their story of "Why the Peterkins Had a Late Dinner."  I've never told that story, although maybe in the future I will.  Today's story, however, will once again be part of my Victorian Christmas program when I tell as the Hired Girl.  This year I've particularly had the program spotlight the botanical aspects of Christmas in my stories because I'm telling to a Garden Club, but this story is from 1880 and would have definitely been popular around the turn of the century when my Hired Girl persona would  look back on the way the holiday changed due to the influence of old Queen Victoria who barely made it into the 20th century by dying on January 22, 1901. 

I gave a hint of the Peterkins with their own Wikipedia article which said:
The Peterkins were a large family who were extremely intelligent, but didn't have a lick of common sense among them. Whenever they were confronted with a problem that had a simple solution and a complex one, they unerringly went for the complex one--the simple one never occurred to them. They were usually rescued by their neighbor, the Lady from Philadelphia, known for her wisdom; which usually amounted to the plain, commonsense solution that had been staring them in the face and which any normal person would have seized on immediately.
I also gave various links about the author and her famous relatives and ancestor, but if you have the least bit of curiosity look up the New England Historical Society article about Lucretia Hale's inspiration!  It's somewhat like Doctor Seuss (Theodore Geisel) confessing about his creation of the Grinch.  I find it's always fun to know how an author or any kind of artist lets something lead to a creative work.
I believe strongly in keeping these stories in the Public Domain, but also recognize they need people remembering them.  In the 1960s the book was republished and a whole new audience discovered them.  I've not seen Elizabeth Spurr's The Peterkins' Christmas, as a picture book illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin, but the book information says Spurr adapted it.  I've also just discovered the 11/23 posting of "Why the Peterkins Had a Late Dinner" has been similarly adapted by Spurr and Halperin as a "companion book", The Peterkins' Thanksgiving.   
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: