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Friday, January 22, 2021

Oxford Library Program + Hutchinson - Travels of a Fox - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

This coming Friday you might want either to go to the Oxford Public Library (Michigan)   at 2 p.m. for an intimate Fireside Chat or sign up for the virtual presentation of "The Civil War from the Homefront", to signup, as I bring Liberetta Lerich Green alive from the Oxford Cemetery, where several of her family are buried.  It's part of the library's two months of programs on Michigan in the Civil War.  

They own today's story and the classic book where it originates, Chimney Corner Stories, by Veronica S. Hutchinson along with her other three anthologies,  which form a basic collection of "nursery tales."  Her books are intended for preschoolers and primary grades with stories that should be known by all young children.  The other books are: Chimney Corner Fairy Tales (1926), Fireside Stories (1927), and Candle-light Stories (1927).  Hutchinson also produced two books of poetry selections, Chimney Corner Poems (1929) and Fireside Poems (1930).  It's hard to find information about her, but "Library Journal" of October 1914 lists her as a graduate of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Training School for Children's Librarians who was hired as Assistant Children's Librarian for the Cleveland Public Library.  Today's story is from a book that has just become Public Domain.  I look forward to the next two years bringing each of her anthologies into the Public Domain as they are true classics.  I recommend them to anyone with young children in their family or working with that age group.

To show how Chimney Corner Stories has the basics, here are the contents and all but today's story and possibly "Mr. and Mrs. Vinegar" and "The Cock, the Mouse, and the Little Red Hen" are well known.  The stories are: Henny Penny; The Old Woman and Her Pig; The Pancake; The Three Bears; The Three Billy Goats Gruff; Peter Rabbit; The Three Pigs; The Little Red Hen and the Grain of Wheat; Little Black Sambo (nowadays he is portrayed as being from India, but the illustration and the names of his parents needs to be discussed); The Cock, the Mouse, and the Little Red Hen; today's story; Lazy Jack; Mr. and Mrs. Vinegar; The Elves and the Shoemaker; Bremen Town Musicians; and Cinderella.  While I dislike the stereotypical illustration of Sambo's "Black Mumbo" and "Black Jumbo", the illustrations are by the multiple award winning Lois Lenski, whose Wikipedia article includes a section on  "Controversies and criticism".  To give a good overview of the book's style, I am showing the title page.

"Travels of a Fox" is a great story for teaching how to predict what will happen next -- a basic educational skill -- as well as an interesting bit of nonsense.

Let's let this less well-known story speak for itself. 

I love the Fox going to see "Squintum's", but believe that rascally Fox was a bit of a con.  He knew curiosity almost guarantees opening the bag.  Of course we know no Fox could put the Ox in a bag and throw it over his shoulder.  Personally I like foxes, so while this "wicked old Fox" got what he deserved, the story is definitely a bit of childlike nonsense.


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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