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Friday, October 21, 2022

Danielson - A Legend of the Golden-Rod - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

The work of Ada and Eleanor Skinner have been represented here before.  Sometimes it has been their original work or stories they adapted.  This is especially true because of their anthologies for each of the seasons.  Autumn stories and poems are gathered in The Topaz Story Book.  The subtitle says why now it is worth returning to and prowling for "Stories and Legends of Autumn, Halloween, and Thanksgiving."  I'm not always certain how authentic the "legends" may be, but they do give us a chance to think about how something came to be.  Such stories are called "Pourquis" tales, from the French word for "Why."  As frost starts to kill off flowers it's no wonder the few remaining catch our attention.  So it is with the Goldenrod.  Fields with asters and goldenrod take our eyes off the changing leaves both in the trees and on the ground.  Topaz has two short poems and two stories about this plant.  Like the plants, let us enjoy it while it lasts.


Photo by Isabella and Zsa Fischer on


On the hill the golden-rod,  

And the aster in the wood,  

And the yellow sunflower by the brook, 

In autumn beauty stood.  

                 William Cullen Bryant.


Just as that poem mentions both goldenrod and aster, one of the two stories is about both.  This story is about the goldenrod alone. 


Frances Weld Danielson

(From “Story-Telling Time.” Used by permission of Pilgrims Press.)

Once there were a great many weeds in a field. They were very ugly-looking weeds, and they didn’t seem to be the least bit of use in the world. The cows would not eat them, the children would not pick them, and even the bugs did not seem to like them very well.

“I don’t see what we’re here for,” said one of the weeds. “We are not any good.”

“No good at all,” growled a dozen little weeds, “only to catch dust.”

“Well, if that’s what we’re here for,” cried a very tall weed, “then I say let’s catch dust! I suppose somebody’s got to do it. We can’t all bear blueberries or blossom into hollyhocks.”

“But it isn’t pleasant work at all,” whined a tiny bit of a weed.

“No whining allowed in this field,” laughed a funny little fat weed, with a hump in his stalk. “We’re all going to catch dust, so let’s see which one can catch the most. What do you say to a race?”

The little fat weed spoke in such a jolly voice that the weeds all cheered up at once, and before long they were as busy as bees, and as happy as Johnnie-jump-ups. They worked so well stretching their stalks and spreading out their fingers that before the summer was half over they were able to take every bit of dust that flew up from the road. In the field beyond, where the clover grew and the cows fed, there was not any to be seen.

One morning, toward the end of summer, the weeds were surprised to see a number of people standing by the fence looking at them. Pretty soon some children came and gazed at them. Then the weeds noticed that people driving by called each other’s attention to them. They were much surprised at this, but they were still more surprised when one day some children climbed the fence and commenced to pick them.

“See,” cried a little girl, “how all the dust has been changed to gold!”

The weeds looked at each other, and, sure enough, they were all covered with gold-dust.

“A fairy has done it,” they whispered one to the other.

But the fairies were there on the spot, and declared they had had nothing to do with it.

“You did it yourselves,” cried the queen of the fairies. “You were happy in your work, and a cheerful spirit always changes dust into gold. Didn’t you know it?”

“You’re not weeds any more, you’re flowers,” sang the fairies.

“Golden-rod, golden-rod!” shouted the children.


According to Frances Weld Danielson was "an acclaimed writer of children's books" and it lists some of her early 20th century work.  Her publisher, The Pilgrim Press, is "North America's oldest English language publishing tradition" going back to "the Bay Psalm Book produced in 1640 by the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay Colony."  Certainly Danielson's story and its publisher deserve their place in the Public Domain.

The following Goldenrod poem is attributed to Anna E. Skinner.  At first I thought it might be a typo, but the name looks like it might honor Eleanor in its middle initial.  <SIGH!>  The work of the authors in Public Domain don't always tell us much about them.  Their work must speak for them.

Photo by Emily Thompson on Unsplash


Pretty, slender golden-rod, 
Like a flame of light,  
On the quiet, lonely way,
Glows your torch so bright.
With your glorious golden staff,  
Gay in autumn hours,  
Now you lead to wintry rest,  
All the lovely flowers.
Cheering with a joyous face, 
All that pass you by,  
How you light the meadows round,  
With your head so high.  
                Anna E. Skinner.
As I write this, the ground is starting to be coated by wet snow that the weather report says, as of this weekend, will be replaced by temperatures in the 60s and 70s.  Fortunately Goldenrod will still survive a while longer to brighten our fields!
Similarly the stories, poetry, illustrations, and music will survive in Public Domain as long as we continue to pay attention to them.

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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