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Friday, July 19, 2024

Lang - The Voice of Death - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Storytellers don't get sick days. Last week, while I knew my voice sounded "rusty" thanks to a viral infection, it worked out because it was a room with good acoustics. That evening's Dinner Detective and maybe this week, too, works out as part of the fun of improvisation.  We'll see.  Have a ton of prescriptions and at least it's not Covid.

In the meantime I went story hunting and found Andrew Lang in his The Red Fairy Book had something to say about voices in this Romanian story of "The Voice of Death." Project Gutenberg gives the story,  but misses a fine illustration.  My book's copy only says "With numerous illustrations by H.J. Ford and Lancelot Speed."  Don't know which artist did this.


Once upon a time there lived a man whose one wish and prayer was to get rich. Day and night he thought of nothing else, and at last his prayers were granted, and he became very wealthy. Now being so rich, and having so much to lose, he felt that it would be a terrible thing to die and leave all his possessions behind; so he made up his mind to set out in search of a land where there was no death. He got ready for his journey, took leave of his wife, and started. Whenever he came to a new country the first question that he asked was whether people died in that land, and when he heard that they did, he set out again on his quest. At last he reached a country where he was told that the people did not even know the meaning of the word death. Our traveller was delighted when he heard this, and said:

‘But surely there are great numbers of people in your land, if no one ever dies?’

‘No,’ they replied, ‘there are not great numbers, for you see from time to time a voice is heard calling first one and then another, and whoever hears that voice gets up and goes away, and never comes back.’

‘And do they see the person who calls them,’ he asked, ‘or do they only hear his voice?’

‘They both see and hear him,’ was the answer.

Well, the man was amazed when he heard that the people were stupid enough to follow the voice, though they knew that if they went when it called them they would never return. And he went back to his own home and got all his possessions together, and, taking his wife and family, he set out resolved to go and live in that country where the people did not die, but where instead they heard a voice calling them, which they followed into a land from which they never returned. For he had made up his own mind that when he or any of his family heard that voice they would pay no heed to it, however loudly it called.

After he had settled down in his new home, and had got everything in order about him, he warned his wife and family that, unless they wanted to die, they must on no account listen to a voice which they might some day hear calling them.

For some years everything went well with them, and they lived happily in their new home. But one day, while they were all sitting together round the table, his wife suddenly started up, exclaiming in a loud voice:

‘I am coming! I am coming!’

And she began to look round the room for her fur coat, but her husband jumped up, and taking firm hold of her by the hand, held her fast, and reproached her, saying:

‘Don’t you remember what I told you? Stay where you are unless you wish to die.’

‘But don’t you hear that voice calling me?’ she answered. ‘I am merely going to see why I am wanted. I shall come back directly.’

So she fought and struggled to get away from her husband, and to go where the voice summoned. But he would not let her go, and had all the doors of the house shut and bolted. When she saw that he had done this, she said:

‘Very well, dear husband, I shall do what you wish, and remain where I am.’

So her husband believed that it was all right, and that she had thought better of it, and had got over her mad impulse to obey the voice. But a few minutes later she made a sudden dash for one of the doors, opened it and darted out, followed by her husband. He caught her by the fur coat, and begged and implored her not to go, for if she did she would certainly never return. She said nothing, but let her arms fall backwards, and suddenly bending herself forward, she slipped out of the coat, leaving it in her husband’s hands. He, poor man, seemed turned to stone as he gazed after her hurrying away from him, and calling at the top of her voice, as she ran:

‘I am coming! I am coming!’

When she was quite out of sight her husband recovered his wits and went back into his house, murmuring:

‘If she is so foolish as to wish to die, I can’t help it. I warned and implored her to pay no heed to that voice, however loudly it might call.’

Well, days and weeks and months and years passed, and nothing happened to disturb the peace of the household. But one day the man was at the barber’s as usual, being shaved. The shop was full of people, and his chin had just been covered with a lather of soap, when, suddenly starting up from the chair, he called out in a loud voice:

‘I won’t come, do you hear? I won’t come!’

The barber and the other people in the shop listened to him with amazement. But again looking towards the door, he exclaimed:

‘I tell you, once and for all, I do not mean to come, so go away.’

And a few minutes later he called out again:

‘Go away, I tell you, or it will be the worse for you. You may call as much as you like but you will never get me to come.’

And he got so angry that you might have thought that some one was actually standing at the door, tormenting him. At last he jumped up, and caught the razor out of the barber’s hand, exclaiming:

‘Give me that razor, and I’ll teach him to let people alone for the future.’

And he rushed out of the house as if he were running after some one, whom no one else saw. The barber, determined not to lose his razor, pursued the man, and they both continued running at full speed till they had got well out of the town, when all of a sudden the man fell head foremost down a precipice, and never was seen again. So he too, like the others, had been forced against his will to follow the voice that called him.

The barber, who went home whistling and congratulating himself on the escape he had made, described what had happened, and it was noised abroad in the country that the people who had gone away, and had never returned, had all fallen into that pit; for till then they had never known what had happened to those who had heard the voice and obeyed its call.

But when crowds of people went out from the town to examine the ill-fated pit that had swallowed up such numbers, and yet never seemed to be full, they could discover nothing. All that they could see was a vast plain, that looked as if it had been there since the beginning of the world. And from that time the people of the country began to die like ordinary mortals all the world over.[13]

[13] Roumanian Tales from the German of Mite Thremnitz. 


I always tell people if you go to The Dinner Detective and it's a night when you can see me, keep it to yourself as a clue to who is maybe the murderer or the victim.  This week I will be thinking about "The Voice of Death."


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

Friday, July 12, 2024

"Hello Girls" are overdue to receive the Congressional Gold Medal

Once again this weekend I will portray Oleda Joure Christides, who was a member of the U.S.Army Signal Corps, commonly known as the "Hello Girls."  I believe strongly their long overdue recognition with a Congressional Gold Medal is needed.  It took them 60 years finally to receive their Veterans Status recognition by the Army.  (Oleda was among the few still alive to receive it.)

That is not the only overdue recognition to these telephone operators of World War I.  In 2009, the WASPs received the Congressional Gold Medal. This is the highest medal bestowed by civilians in the United States.  This past year the women working within the United States for World War II, the"Rosies", received the Congressional Gold Medal. Today, the United States World War I Commission is working to honor the Hello Girls with the same award, and we need YOUR help to bring them the recognition they deserve!  

I have reproduced here a flier I will have at my program.  Please read it.  At the bottom I add the information for you to contact your Representative  at

Hello Girls Congressional Medal Legislation Gaining Big Momentum in Senate and House

Great news from the campaign of the World War I Centennial Commission and other organizations, as well as many individuals like you, to encourage the 118th Congress to pass legislation honoring the World War I "Hello Girls" U.S. Army Signal Corps telephone operators, America's First Women Soldiers, with a Congressional Gold Medal. As of the publication of the WWI newsletter, the Senate measure, has gathered 65 of the 67 cosponsors it needs to be brought to a vote and passed in the Senate. H.R.1572, the House measure, has 152 cosponsors, some 70% of the votes needed to pass in the House.This outstanding progress has happened due to all the many organizations and people who have reached out to Senators and Representatives and asked them to cosponsor this important legislation. If you are one of those people, thank you! If you haven't joined the campaign yet, now is a great time to answer the call, and help get this legislation across the finish line.

The Hello Girls made a huge difference in the outcome of WWI. The ability of the bilingual female operators to pass critical tactical information calmly and seamlessly between two allied armies that spoke different languages was a fundamental breakthrough in tactical communications on the Western Front. The service of the Hello Girls helped bring the fighting to an end in the Allies’ favor as much as a year earlier than it might have taken without them, according to General John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces. When their nation called in 1918, the Hello Girls answered – will YOU answer their call for recognition in 2024?

Hello Girls Sidebar Ad v2

That's where my flier ends.  The link also lets you find your representative.  The website also gives the following advice:

You can read the legislation submitted in the House (H.R.1572 - To award a Congressional Gold Medal to the female telephone operators of the Army Signal Corps, known as the "Hello Girls".)

  • On your Representative's web site, navigate to the "Contact form.
  • Fill out the Representative's contact form, then copy and paste the state-specific message in the tab into the "Message" field of the form.
  • We encourage you to customize your note before sending!  Make it a personal message from you.
  • Check "yes, I'd like a response" from your Representative.
  • Click "Send"!
  • If you receive a reply from your Representative, or would otherwise like to contact our team with information, please forward any and all correspondence to


Friday, July 5, 2024

Mooney - The Origin of the Groundhog Dance - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

This whole long holiday began on Thursday with the Fourth of July (although fireworks started up even earlier).  With Thursday being so close to the weekend, many have st-r-e-t-ched the holiday all the way to Sunday.  

I'll work Saturday since one of the things I do besides storytelling is substitute at two local libraries.  (I also am in the troupe performing The Dinner Detective -- so if you see me, don't tell as it might put you ahead solving the mystery!) 

At one of the libraries where I'm a sub I saw a sign celebrating Independance Day.  I like that idea since I love to dance.  It made me think back to the Degas exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts back in 2002 when I told "Stories That Dance."  Of course that made me want to put a story that danced here.  December the 31st of 2023 numerically was 123123, making it Waltz Day!  At that time I posted the Rabbit version of today's story, but the Cherokee version, collected by James Mooney in Myths of the Cherokee tells it as "the Groundhog Dance."  It's also a good choice for audience participation (more about the song Groundhog sings after the very brief story).


Seven wolves once caught a Groundhog and said, “Now we’ll kill you and have something good to eat.” But the Groundhog said, “When we find good food we must rejoice over it, as people do in the Green-corn dance. I know you mean to kill me and I can’t help myself, but if you want to dance I’ll sing for you. This is a new dance entirely. I’ll lean up against seven trees in turn and you will dance out and then turn and come back, as I give the signal, and at the last turn you may kill me.”

The wolves were very hungry, but they wanted to learn the new dance, so they told him to go ahead. The Groundhog leaned up against a tree and began the song, Ha′wiye′ĕhĭ′, and all the wolves danced out in front, until he gave the signal, Yu! and began with Hi′yagu′wĕ, when they turned and danced back in line. “That’s fine,” said the Groundhog, and went over to the next tree and started the second song. The wolves danced out and then turned at the signal and danced back again. “That’s very fine,” said the Groundhog, and went over to another tree and started the third song. The wolves danced their best and the Groundhog encouraged them, but at each song he took another tree, and each tree was a little nearer to his hole under a stump. At the seventh song he said, “Now, this is the last dance, and when I say Yu! you will all turn and come after me, and the one who gets me may have me.” So he began the seventh song and kept it up until the wolves were away out in front. Then he gave the signal, Yu! and made a jump for his hole. The wolves turned and were after him, but he reached the hole first and dived in. Just as he got inside, the foremost wolf caught him by the tail and gave it such a pull that it broke off, and the Groundhog’s tail has been short ever since.


Mooney in his notes at the end of the book says: 

the song, which is without meaning, is Ha′wiye′ĕhi′ Yaha′wiye′ĕhi [twice]


Hi′yagu′wĕ Hahi′yagu′wĕ [twice]


If, like me, your Cherokee language is less than fluent, you may wonder how to chant that.  Mooney gives a glossary at the book's end, saying the "g medial (semisonant), approximating k" and this is how to pronounce these vowels:

a as in far

          i as in pique

          u as in rule

          the letter "e" has two different sounds:

         eas in they.
         ĕas in net. 

Since Mooney also says the song has no meaning, it would be fair to tell your audience you are teaching a slightly simplified version. I like the similarity in Ha′wiye′ĕhi′ and Hahi′yagu′wĕ so this is how I would shorten it, breaking it down into syllables.

Ha′ wi ye′ ĕ hi′ Ha′ wi ye′ ĕ hi′ Yu u for the first song and then for the second song Ha hi′ ya gu′ wĕ Ha hi′ ya gu′ wĕ Yu yu.

If even that seems too tough, you could use just one song (I'd use the first to avoid the troublesome "g ...  approximating k"  and let it be the same song for all seven of the trees.  If you do that be sure to say you are simplifying the songs as Groundhog sang a slightly different song at each tree, but those songs are made of meaningless sounds, just like in many lullabies.

Perhaps the Thompson Motif K606 "Escape by singing song" and K606.2 "Escape by persuading captors to dance" is a bit of folklore indexing that interests you further.  Thompson also lists variants in Africa, India, Indonesia, plus similar ones in Iceland and Ireland where the watchmen are sung to sleep.  

Enjoy your own Independance and don't let any wolves catch you!