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Friday, July 30, 2021

Cooper - A Quartet of Tree Fables from The Argosy of Fables - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

White Lake Township in Michigan is right next to my own township.  I often substitute at their library and there is the huge Pontiac Lake State Recreation Area and the Indian Springs metropark as two major places where I take my malamutt (malamute/husky) for some of our roughly every other day hikes.

Photo by Lukasz Szmigiel on Unsplash

That township is currently trying to get disaster recognition after this past weekend's tornado.  Yes, our area had trees toppled and branches torn off, but it's painful in White Lake.  Traveling through the township through the middle of this past week was an obstacle course as some roads were closed (some still are) and everywhere tried to cope with the damage.  Trees overnight have gone from something that looked like this 

Instead to something a bit closer to these two photos, except both are more orderly.

Photo by Ca Ku on Unsplash

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Those photos may eventually look like the area with a semblance of order, but right now trees are uprooted, laying all over.  

Right now it just hurts to see the randomness of damage that was done with a heavy blow.  It's not like the horrible fires decimating the western U.S. in the sense that it seems so very random.  Scientists have been discussing the consciousness and possible communication of trees in recent years.  A good example is the March 2018 Smithsonian article "Do Trees Talk to Each Other?" I would hate to hear them shouting and crying out right now.  It all seems rather like J.R.R. Tolkien's the Ents.  (If you don't recognize who they are, I strongly recommend learning.  Trees may never seem the same to you.)

From ancient times trees have been with us, so it's no wonder they even are in fables.  I found four in An Argosy of Fable selected and edited by Frederic Taber Cooper.  The book starts with Classical Fables and the ones I've selected are in that section by Aesop and Phaedrus.  Aesop opens and closes this group of four.

Argosy has other less prolific classical fabulists, then continues with "Oriental Fables" (Hindoo [sic], Persian, Chinese, Armenian and Turkish), then goes on to "Modern Fables" (English, French, Spanish, Russian, German, Polish) and finally a section called "Kraal and Wigwam Fables" (African and American Indian).  Some of those have been given here in earlier blogs.  Obviously Cooper not only selected but edited a work that attempts to cover the teachings of a great many cultures.  It's interesting that the Wikipedia article says so little about him personally (although his Latin and Sanskrit professorship gives a hint) and somehow doesn't even list the Argosy.

If the trees have any wisdom or thoughts I suspect these four fables give a hint of their thoughts at this time.  Anthropomorphic?  Perhaps, but it hurts to see their present condition.

I believe the Jewish fable of the old man planting trees he'll never see grow is appropriate here.  His answer is that he's planting them for the next generation.  I've long talked about Arbor Day and the Arbor Day Foundation.  I don't know if baby trees can save the western part of our country, but I certainly hope, here in the middle and beyond, trees continue to provide shade, be useful, and beautiful while adding their necessary oxygen to our planet.


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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