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Friday, February 4, 2022

Mutt - The Gift of Father Frost - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Current and last week's winter weather makes any check of a creature seeing its shadow unnecessary.  While we may long for warmth, most of North America knows we're in for more than just six weeks more winter.  

What would you give to be able to control the weather?

What would happen to you if you could control the weather?

Estonian folklore considered those questions and it's still fairly close to what might be expected now.

I'll tell a bit more about the source of this story after we enjoy it.

WELL!  Where's a good heat-sack when you need it?

This is from a delightful book of Estonian tales called Fairy Tales from Baltic Shores. 

There are various editions and covers, but as far as copyright searching could reveal, this 1930 book's copyright was never renewed.  The publisher, The Penn Publishing Company, the author, Eugenie Mutt, or the illustrator, Jeannette Berkowitz, all had the opportunity to renew the book and didn't.  Under the older 1909 copyright law it needed to be renewed 28 years after it had been published.  When that wasn't done, the book entered Public Domain at the renewal year. 

Here I could get on my soapbox and begin my rant about Sonny Bono singing "I Got You Babe" in the Great Beyond.  His constituents when he was in Congress included the Disney Studio, who were about to lose their royalties for the use of Mickey Mouse.  His Copyright Term Extension Act (known also as the Sonny Bono Act or the Mickey Mouse Protection Act) protected works from 1964 onward, getting our copyright law to cover works that had been renewed.  It's more complicated for those renewed works so I alway search 1963 and earlier, avoiding reproduction if renewed.  By the way "Mickey Mouse specifically, having first appeared in 1928, will enter the public domain in 2024[5] or afterward (depending on the date of the product)."  That's from the Wikipedia article hot-linked earlier in this paragraph.  I love the footnote to "Mickey's Headed to the Public Domain! But Will He Go Quietly? - Office of Copyright". Office of Copyright. October 17, 2014. Retrieved January 14, 2018Earlier this year we saw the copyright on Winnie-the-Pooh has expired this year.  I expect to see all manner of products using it, especially using E.H. Shepard's illustrations of the characters.  

Searching for the illustrator of this story, Jeannette Berkowitz, I'm only certain she illustrated a similar book The Penn Publishing Company didn't renew, Old Swedish Fairy Tales by Anna Wahlenberg.  (Note to self to consider it for this blog as I own the book.)  Additionally Berkowitz illustrated The Adventures of K'Ton Ton; A Little Jewish Tom Thumb.  It was published in 1935 as the "first major work of Jewish children's literature written in English."  For a glimpse of one story and a few other illustrations, Ariel S. Winter has posted "Ktonton Takes a Ride on a Runaway Trendel."  (Trendel is another spelling of the Hanukkah top more familiarly called a dreidel, but spelled many ways when it's transliterated).  Other than her work on those three books I'm uncertain about her, as the name Berkowitz is not easily verified to know more.

In contrast, how would you like the last name of Mutt as a child in school?  Fortunately that's Eugenie's married name and she's more easily located.  She was born in Tartu, Tartumaa county in eastern Estonia in 1892 as Jevgenia Parts, the daughter of Johann (Jaan) Parts and Sinaida Parts and had a brother named Paul.  I'm not sure when she married Viktor Johann Mutt, but they came to the U.S. in 1928 with their two sons, Oleg and Viktor.  I imagine they probably wished their father's name had been changed during immigration.  Beyond that she was one of four translators into English for The Piper:  A Selection of Estonian Fairy Tales compiled by Juri Talvet and published by the Estonian publisher, Tallinn Perioodika Publishers, in 1987.  By that time she had died in 1983, probably one of the reasons for four translators.  

While the country of Estonia is not as well-known as many other northern European countries, it has had a sizeable immigration history to the U.S., especially after World War II when 11,000 were allowed to immigrate and apply for citizenship as Russia claimed the country.  Today Estonia is once again independent and that's certainly an Estonian trait.  These descendants of the Vikings deserve to be better known. 


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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