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Saturday, June 13, 2020

Fillmore - The Wood Maiden - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Remember when the first writing or speaking assignment every year in school was "What I did on my Summer Vacation"?  A bit of wood bark from a tree that came down sparked the idea of a fairy house.  The project started with me and my husband joined in.  At first I wanted to be a preschooler say, "NO!  It's MINE!", but his skills working with tiny N Scale railroad modeling couldn't be denied.  I knew better than to make a fairy and went looking on  So many fairies!  I play Native American flute a bit and have four earlier posts about this.  When I saw this little fairy from NWWholesaler I knew she was the perfect choice for me. 

Decided for this opening beyond the "Shelter in Place" posts to give a story of fairies and music.  The available selection is large indeed.  Frances Jenkins Olcott's The Book of Elves and Fairies is easily prowled with its own subject index.  I have the Dover reprint which omits the poetry beginning and ending each section plus a very few (five) stories.  I could understand the omission of two from Charles Perrault as they are easily available.  Lovers of Stephen King's The Tommyknockers may miss the omission of "Tom and the Knockers" as possible inspiration for the novel, and it would have helped the brief story of "The Knockers' Diamonds" that is included.  What caught my attention in the Project Gutenberg's posting the full book was the story of "Fairy Do-Nothing and Giant Snap-'Em-Up."  What a title!  I understand the story is moralistic, told with old-fashioned style, and they probably thought it was worth omitting, but oh if told or read with a sardonic style it's great!  I recommend this look at a boy who hates school lessons and loves eating "goodies."  Hmmmm parents trying to homeschool their children during the pandemic would never have that problem, would they?

Searching Olcott I chose "The Wood-Lady" listed as from Bohemia.  You may notice that's not today's story.  Why?  Well it does include a fairy orchestra (although it lists birds as the musicians), but it also has a girl, Betty, who is expected to help her mother in the production of flax into linen.  Here in Michigan we have a storyteller who not only tells stories, but is a weaver who can tell stories from that knowledge, Barbara Schutzgruber.  Barb and I have traveled and roomed together for a National Storytelling Network conference and, aside from her weaving knowledge, I wanted to congratulate her on receiving the Oracle award this year for the North Central Regional Excellence at the first-ever virtual conference.  Unlike previous conferences she had to sit there while we could see her close-up while she was praised.

Her acceptance speech stated, "Folktales shaped my belief that regardless of external differences, people are not that different deep on and showed me that the world is not one of Either/Or, but rather one of Both/And."  I've been struggling to find a way to say this during the current additional time of civil protest about human dignity.  If you go to the Oracle link (while it remains on Facebook) of the entire award ceremony you can hear her entire acceptance speech as well as seeing Michigan's other Oracle winner, Corinne Stavish, who not only won the Circle of Excellence award, but was on the original committee where the name "Oracle" was chosen as an acronym for what it represents.  If you watch the ceremony, you'll also see Corinne introduced by past Oracle recipient, Michigan's Judy Sima and another from Yvonne Healy, who has relocated to Denver, but was a long-time Michigander and at one time chair of the NSN board.

By now you're wanting the story, but why did I use the version by Parker Fillmore in Czechoslovak Fairy Tales instead of Olcott's?  I called Barbara and she led me to his superior version.  (I knew it was more accurate as the girl is called Betushka, and that was the familiar form of a name probably changed from the Czech/Bohemian Alzbeta, or in English, Elizabeth, which of course is nicknamed Betty among other things.)  Barb especially pointed to how Betushka uses her head quite literally to handle the flax since she doesn't have a distaff.  For us non-spinners, think of using your arm to wrap a cord or, in this case, unspun fibers.
Betushka normally is able to take those unspun fibers, wrap the flax around her head to fill her spindle even while tending goats, eating, and dancing.  Let's hear it for this tale of female multitasking until distracted by fairy music from the woods. 

Barb and I both were happy she didn't throw away any more of those leaves!  Adding to all of that I guess we should be careful when hearing fairy music.  In my searching I found several stories where the fairy music can entice you to their world and keep you -- I'm saving one for Halloween as that's when the story occurs.
As for this story versus the Olcott version, her re-telling is shorter, but doesn't seem to leave anything out, except her acknowledgement section omits crediting its source.  Hmmm.  His book appeared in 1919, while hers was 1918.  He worked with the original Slavic texts, but she gives no clue to how she learned the story.  Today's researchers would expect that.

While looking at tales of fairies I found one in Andrew Lang's multi-colored books I dearly loved.  It will probably appear here next week.  We'll see, but for now, this is the end.
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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