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Saturday, January 9, 2021

Heath - Bird That Forgot to Sing - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

I'm feeling a bit like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, calling out "I'm late!  I'm late!"  There are many reasons I am slightly overdue (the librarian in me makes a <GASP!>), but this story from Janet Field Heath in the book with the unlikely name of The Hygienic Pig and Other Stories fits it well.  Here it is and further comments can follow.

The metro Detroit weather forecaster tells us we are currently in the time when the winter temperatures, on average, are at their coldest.  I certainly hope so.  There have certainly been colder winters, but it always seems too long.  Hikes in the woods seem quiet and missing birdsong.  Still, as I chipped away what looked like snow, but was really ice with a snow topping, it was great to hear the few birds remaining in our frozen land singing back and forth to each other.  I know scientifically birdsong sometimes is not a form of expressing happiness, but territoriality. Lovers of birdsong and observers of birds, whether from a window or outside,   will appreciate the site Wild Bird Watching and their article, "Why Birds Sing?  Are They Just Happy?" which explains it is not just asserting territory.  

I chose this book, not just for its story, but because this is one of 15 books I own now in the Public Domain.  That link celebrates a year now freely available to all of us to reprint, sing, and view.  Having recently appeared in the dramatized form of The Great Gatsby, I applaud its availability, along with songs like "Always" by Irving Berlin, which seems appropriate.  Silent films of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton can now be freely examined, too.  As a lover of the Public Domain, who hates the 20 year delay U.S. copyrights endured to keep the works alive for the public, I cheer!  Maybe that's why this year the book Nick by Michael Farris Smith has just been published.  It looks at the narrator of The Great Gatsby before meeting Gatsby.  Having the freedom to now consider F. Scott Fitzgerald's work freely, I find myself hoping Smith goes on to consider a bit further, offering us a look beyond Fitzgerald.  This is a perfect example of how permitting works into the Public Domain  enriches our world.


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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