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Friday, September 22, 2023

Cooke - Golden-rod and Aster - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

It's beautiful seeing the goldenrod and purple asters decorating roadsides and fields right now.

Lately I've been looking a lot at The Topaz Story Book's many stories for autumn. So when I went looking for stories about goldenrod and asters I was delighted to see a story about both plants in the same tale.  I also saw it was in The Topaz Story Book.  Read it there and noted it was "adapted."  Since the original author, Flora J. Cooke, was also easily located at Project Gutenberg, I compared the two.  Differences are minimal...almost as if the Skinner sisters wanted to take credit for "adapting" it.  

Ms Cooke was active during the first half of the twentieth century's "Progressive" school movement and especially for the secondary school.  As a result her book title of Nature Myths and Stories with the title continuing as For Little Children I think is a bit misleading as we would apply it today.  Similarly her other book, Greek Myths for Children, might today have a slightly broader audience than the title of the two books implies.  (Another view of her work is an essay at

Here's her story of why these two plants are so often seen together.  May it pop into your head when you see them!



OLDEN HAIR and Blue Eyes lived at the foot of a great hill.

On the top of this hill in a little hut lived a strange, wise woman.

It was said that she could change people into anything she wished. She looked so grim and severe that people were afraid to go near her.

One summer day the two little girls at the foot of the hill thought they would like to do something to make everybody happy.


“I know,” said Golden Hair, “Let us go and ask the woman on the hill about it. She is very wise and can surely tell us just what to do.”

“Oh, yes,” said Blue Eyes, and away they started at once.

It was a warm day and a long walk to the top of the hill.

The little girls stopped many times to rest under the oak trees which shaded their pathway.

They could find no flowers, but they made a basket of oak leaves and filled it with berries for the wise woman.

They fed the fish in the brook and talked to the squirrels and the birds.

They walked on and on in the rocky path.

After a while the sun went down. The birds stopped singing.

The squirrels went to bed.

The trees fell asleep.

Even the wind was resting.

Oh, how still and cool it was on the hillside!

The moon and stars came out.

The frogs and toads awoke.

The night music began.

The beetles and fireflies flew away to a party.

But the tired little children climbed on towards the hilltop.

At last they reached it.

There at the gate was the strange, old woman, looking even more stern than usual.

The little girls were frightened. They clung close together while brave Golden Hair said, “we know you are wise and we came to see if you would tell us how to make everyone happy.”

“Please let us stay together,” said timid Blue Eyes.

As she opened the gate for the children, the wise woman was seen to smile in the moonlight. The two little girls were never seen again at the foot of the hill. The next morning all over the hillside people saw beautiful, waving golden-rod and purple asters growing.

It has been said that these two bright flowers, which grow side by side, could tell the secret, if they would, of what became of the two little girls on that moonlight summer night.



The story was also anthologized in Bailey and Lewis's For the Children's Hour; Hall and Gilman's Story Land. 2d reader; McFee's Treasury of Flower Stories;  Pratt's Fairyland of Flowers as well as by the Skinners.  Obviously a sign of a story considered worth "Keeping the Public in Public Domain.


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 December 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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