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From: Barra the Bard
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2018 13:14:55 -0400


As others have said, sources from other storytellers (whether via Storytell, conferences, guilds, circles or correspondence); motif indexes (and while Stith Thompson and MRM’s Storytelling Sourcebook are the best known in the US, they aren’t the only ones), and books yield stories. When I taught telling at the community college years ago, I told my students that children’s and reference librarians are their friends, and so are second-hand booksellers, and in some cases, yard sales offerers. I once found a lovely book of Welsh walks linking various legends and the places where they supposedly happened at an odds and ends shop with a barbeque outside while on a leaf-trip. I can’t go into a thrift store without checking to see if they have a few books tucked away on a shelf or inside a china cupboard, because you never know.

To get back to the library, let me point out that your local library is not the only one that has an online presence! Check the Library of Congress website, and the American Folklife Center and then check out whether or not your local library can help you get books and other materials from it and other libraries across the country. If there is a college or university near you, check out their store and libraries. Many of the latter have temporary cards you can buy to have access to their collections, and just about all of them have copy rooms. When I worked at Carnegie Mellon University’s Hunt Library years ago, its ILL agreements connected to many other schools and institutions across *continents*, not just in this country. What riches! Hunt not only housed the liberal arts library (plus two other, more specialized, ones on campus, but also the Hunt Botanical Institute upstairs, and some of their special events gave me ideas for programs. Don’t overlook museum stores, either. There are a plethora of specialized museums, including many house museums that might offer insights into particular historical events. (There are a total of 38 museums in Pittsburgh, for example, and that’s not listing a few area ones I know of).
I learned a story about the origin of the fairy dogs from an audience member… During my days as a non-medical caregiver for the elderly, on escort duty one day, trying to help a dementia patient stay calm while we waited in a drafty lobby for the Access van, she told me a Chelm story I’d never heard. I’ve learned stories riding the bus.

Granny Sue is an authority on Appalachian ballads; I’m sure she and other musicians on the list would agree with me that we can find stories in tune collections. When the British did their best to end Scottish Highland and Island clan culture after the ’45, and Scots weren’t allowed to play Celtic harps or pipes, many of the old tunes were saved by fiddlers. On the Isle of Man, the Manx slowed their traditional tunes and changed the words, hiding their traditional tunes as hymns. There are many other examples.

Good luck!

–Barra, who’s collected many more tales than she will ever tell–and keeps finding more!

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