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Friday, June 7, 2024

Field - Buttercup Gold - Keeping the Public inPublic Domain

We all have things we wish we could go back and ask people who are no longer with us.  My mother would visit me in the spring and shout "THE OLD MAN SPILLED HIS BAG OF GOLD!" upon seeing our fields covered in dandelions.  

After she was gone and once again we were painted with dandelions, I found myself wondering who this Old Man was and why he spilled his Bag of Gold?  I felt sure it was something she read as a child, possibly in school, so that other people from her generation would also know it.  I've asked about the Old Man and that Bag of Gold for years.  I always mentioned dandelions.  Nobody spoke up.

Venetia Jane, THANK YOU!  I never would have found it as the original was not about dandelions, but buttercups! She wrote on her X account for V
enetiaJane's Garden back on May 10 2023:A tale tells of a greedy man who found the pot of gold hidden at the end of the rainbow. Hastily he carried the gold away but it fell through a hole in his bag, scattering amongst the grass where it was transformed into fields of golden buttercups by the fairies #FolkloreThursday Her glorious photography would have been loved by my mother.

I found it's from Ellen Robena Field's Buttercup Gold, and Other Stories (1894) -- definitely before even my mom, but the book it comes from would have been considered a classic when she was a child

It's at Project Gutenberg (it's a text only and feels a bit dry).  I like a pdf version I found online which is done with a bit more style than just the text.  Unfortunately that pdf doesn't reproduce larger online for easy reading. 
The actual text is:

Did you ever hear of the pot of gold hidden at the end of the rainbow? Some people think it is there now, but they are mistaken, for a long time ago somebody found it. How he happened to find it, nobody knows, for a great many people have searched in vain, and have never even been able to discover that the rainbow has any ends at all. The man who found it was very selfish and did not want anybody to know, for fear they might want some of his money. So one night he put it in a bag, which he slung over his shoulder, and walked across the fields toward a thick wood where he meant to hide it.

In the bag was something beside the gold—something so small that the greedy man in his hurry had not noticed it. It was a hole, and, as he walked on, one by one the gold coins fell out into the grass. When he reached the wood and found all of his money gone, he hurried back to search for it, but something strange had happened. It was a midsummer night, and the fairies were having a dance out in the meadows. They were good, loving little people, and despised selfishness above everything. One little fairy spied the glittering gold among the grasses. She had seen the greedy man passing by, and knew he would soon be back to hunt for his treasure. “It will do him no good,” she said, “if he hides it away, and neither will it help anybody else. I will change it into something that will give joy to rich and poor.”

When the greedy man reached the meadow he could see no gold money, but in its place were bright, yellow flowers—buttercup gold for the children.


If you go to this link you also can hear it and find a student activity which looks at that old man and why he became the man in the story.  I especially like the activity incorporating the fairy and his effort to understand the old man's behavior.  
Since actual buttercups aren't in the student activity, I'd reproduce or send them to VenetiaJane's work and also spend some time on buttercups.  Unfortunately that includes "Everything you need to know about buttercups" including the fact they "are considered poisonous and may cause dermatitis, or skin irritation."  It discusses the various types of buttercups and talks about their tendency to become invasive.  Whether buttercups or dandelions I know they spread easily...just like the old man's gold, the very thing causing my mother's exuberant rejoicing!
Field's entire book is similarly accessed at Lit2Go by searching the author's name.  No credit is given to the illustrator of each poem and story activity, but they are much more visually friendly as well as offering activities and an audio file.  As Lit2Go explains: 
Lit2Go is a free online collection of stories and poems in Mp3 (audiobook) format. An abstract, citation, playing time, and word count are given for each of the passages. Many of the passages also have a related reading strategy identified. Each reading passage can also be downloaded as a PDF and printed for use as a read-along or as supplemental reading material for your classroom.
The Florida Center for Instructional Technology produces more than just Lit2Go, offering among other digital resources,  "over 100,000 pieces of free digital content for non-commercial classroom use by students and teachers."  That includes a huge collection of royalty-free photos, maps, and illustrations.  Take a look at that home page link.  Right now it looks at resources (mainly historical or literary) for the months of June and July.  I am so impressed with their work that I subscribed to their newsletter.  I'm certain it will be worthwhile both in storytelling and here on this blog!

For those wanting the actual book it has been reprinted if you want to buy it.  The reprint book gives this offiffiffic'al information:

The book "Buttercup Gold, and Other Stories " has been considered important throughout the human history, and so that this work is never forgotten we have made efforts in its preservation by republishing this book in a modern format for present and future generations. This whole book has been reformatted, retyped and designed. These books are not made of scanned copies and hence the text is clear and readable.

Product Details
ISBN: 9789356153639
ISBN-10: 9356153639
Publisher: Alpha Edition
Publication Date: May 17th, 2022
Pages: 32

Such a slender work has influenced readers from before the Twentieth Century.

Now for yet another mystery, besides dandelions the gold spreading as rapidly on my lawn is not a buttercup, it has a large number of tiny petals.  Just in case it, too, can cause skin irritation, I will use gloves harvesting one to show a naturalist for identification.

After the years pondering the mystery mom left me, why not another?


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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