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Friday, December 4, 2020

Ransome - Salt - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

My comments here are moderated and I have difficulty just showing them.  Recently a friend on Facebook commented on how happy she was to see in the sidebar I had included stories here by Arthur Ransome.  She said how much she enjoyed his work, even though it wasn't seen much nowadays.  That's part of the reason I believe in "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  Prior to this I've posted four of his tales.  If you prowl them you will learn what a fascinating and unusual person he was.  Ian Fleming's background creating James Bond has similarities!

Today's story is so long I'm going to split it into two parts.  You may remember Shakespeare in "King Lear" had the old boy not value his daughter, Cordelia, when she said she loved him "as meat loves salt."  That has folktale roots I may follow after this story, but for now let us stick with the Russian tale.  Maybe I can track down a Public Domain Jewish version for Hanukkah as it seems to be the source of Shakespeare's re-interpretation.

There will be no illustrations as Ransome's book is from 1916, but the illustrations in the best known Nelson publishing edition is 1971 and Faith Jaques illustrations are still under copyright -- use your imagination!

I've mentioned before some collections of tales use a "frame."  Ransome uses such a device, having the stories told by "Old Peter" to a group of children.  When possible I cut it off, but this tale includes a brief return during the story, so I didn't remove it.  This isn't Shakespeare's "King Lear", but it includes several familiar folktale elements.  Don't rule it out for including what may seem familiar.  I suggest instead you enjoy the journey and see if it takes any unexpected twists in the reassuring elements.


Here the Nelson edition has an illustration showing Ivan secretly dropping his pinch of salt in all the dishes.  (Now your "Ivan the Ninny" is your mental picture.)

That's a little over half-way through our tale.  It sounds like "and they all lived happily ever after" doesn't it?  Not so fast.  Next week our "Ninny" has complications adding seasoning to the story.  

Yes, you may read ahead.  The book is available online, but I hope you return next week and think about this story when we pick it up at "All day long. . . "  Until then most of North America and the northern half of the globe may have opportunities for using salt on our sidewalks and roads as well as in our meals.


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 the late 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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