learning to search stories…

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    From: Maria Gomez de la Torre
    Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2018 08:19:18 -0700

    Storytelling Masters,

    I’ve been delving into the thread about “The Internet as an archive”, which was really useful, especially for ppl like me who are trying to expand our repertoire or are asked to give a presentation about this theme or that. I’ve been trying to find stories for young adults onwards- intriguing stories, or how Richard Martin would put it “tales to wonder at” but I haven’t had much luck. The internet is a gold mine but like all mines, you have to know where and how to look.

    You can always ask on the listserv- which many do, including myself – and I think everyone benefits from threads like that, but sometimes – at least in my case – I feel like I should do it on my own.

    So my question is (drum rollllllllllllllllll): how do you search for stories if you want a particular topic or theme? Where do you search, or how do you come by them?

    Looking forward to your thoughts,

    The Padwan

    PS: I might as well say that I’m still looking for intriguing stories as I mentioned before, if you recommend any 😀


    From: Laura Simms
    Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2018 11:55:49 -0400

    My experience is that often I find a story that has an image or an complex idea that fascinates or moves me.
    But the story itself, as written in text (often not that well done on the internet) feels unsatisfactory. It is why I have developed (and coach) people to climb into the story to harvest the images, the incidents, characters,
    and how the story has meaning in performance so that I can in a way uncover the essential valuable story
    for reciprocal performance. It is a task for sure, but so completely satisfying. Far too often people take the
    story literally .. only; and they make it kind of fanciful and explanatory mistaking wonder for a kind of victorian fascination with magic that is not believed. a disney specialty. In this way, I have been able to reconstruct stories (without damaging the essence and finding the heart that is valuable particularly for young adults). Therefore I couldn’t actually recommend a story, but more a process.



    From: Richard Martin
    Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2018 18:03:42 +0200

    On 19. Apr 2018, at 17:19, Maria Gomez de la Torre wrote:
    > I’ve been trying to find stories for young adults onwards- intriguing
    > stories, or how Richard Martin would put it “tales to wonder at” but I
    > haven’t had much luck.

    Well, Richard Martin might put it like that, but it doesn’t mean that he is necessarily much better than you at looking! And over the years I’ve quite often felt exactly the same as you do now, that I need to get more to expand my repertoire.

    This is particularly the case when I see that one of my annual gigs is coming up. Some places I’ve played at for almost 20 years and there have been occasions when I felt that I really needed something new to tell. However, miraculously, by the time of the gig I have always found I have a programme I’m very happy with, usually containing a mixture of tales I haven’t told there for years and new tales.

    But your question is specifically about where to find new tales. Once we’ve been telling a few years, most tales we come across, both in books or from hearing them told, are going to be familiar. Yet many of the tales I bring into my repertoire are ones I have suddenly seen with new eyes. And here the Storytell discussions are particularly helpful.

    It also helps me if I have a clear notion of my audience – as you seem to have when you mention young adults. Remembering that dictum “The amateur tells the words, the professional tells the story – but the artist tells the listeners!” has often helped me see how I can shape a known story in a new way. The story may not be completely “new”, but the repertoire is certainly greater.

    So I try to follow the tales mentioned in Storytell threads to see what I could do with them. And then to archive them as a Word.doc. (I find keeping them all in DevonThink makes searching a lot easier.)

    Btw we did have a thread a year or two back about fairy tales for teenagers. I have put that here: http://tellatale.eu/tales_teenagers.html

    Generally I have come to trust the strength of our tales: they tend to find us perhaps more than when we go looking for them!

    Richard Martin
    “Small Bird’s Wisdom” is the latest upload to the video gallery of 80 folk tales
    Watch here: http://tellatale.eu/tales_small_bird.html

    “The Magic Pisspot: Swedish folk tales” (Per Gustavsson, trans. Richard Martin) published Oct. 2017
    Details: http://www.tellatale.eu/pisspot.html


    From: Judith Shuldiner
    Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2018 06:31:34 -0400

    The genius guru of internet archives and resources is the indomitable Karen Chace.
    She has years of story sources often categorized by theme available for everyone. She is on Storytell and can be emailed directly.

    And there are Storytelling Motif indexes by Stith Thompson and Ante Arne in research sections of libraries and
    Margaret Read McDonald compiled a motif source book.

    If you read many variants of the same story you will craft a new satisfying version.

    All the best.

    As ever,
    Judith Heineman
    Chicago & NY

    Sent from my iPhone


    From: Claire Castell
    Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2018 08:49:10 -0700

    Hi Maria, I just went through a “Quest” to find stories on a particular topic : the Loup-Garou, aka Rougarou.

    Being a computer person, I started with internet searches and Amazon searches. I found a few good stories but it was more limited than I expected.

    What I found was that collections of stories didn’t reveal the entire table of contents on line. And when it did, it might not mention these words specifically in the title of the tale. But when I bought the book and read through it I might find the perfect story. For example, when I saw the title “The Strange Dog” in a collection by Barry Ancelet, I couldn’t tell it was a Loup-Garou story until I read it.

    One of my story instructors gave me leads to authors who wrote about Cajun culture like JJ Reneaux and Alce Fortier. But I had to buy the books to determine that. I bought about 3 books I didn’t need but I have 6 with what I wanted. (Note: 2 of my best collections are from the August House publishers: American Storytelling)

    Probably a lot of you all use the library so I am sure there are librarians who are great helpers. One librarian in my story classes shared about 10 different cultural versions of Cinderella. She could find anything!

    Part of my search was this listserv which was the source which was fabulously rich.

    Anyway, thanks to this group and others I now have 19 Loup-Garou stories.


    From: Vinita
    Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2018 22:23:30 +0530

    I am looking for stories around the theme of summer. Have to conduct a workshop for kids in age group 6-15 and I know its going to be soaring temperatures(42 degrees)

    Sent from my iPhone


    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!


    From: Diane Edgecomb
    Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2018 11:13:25 -0400

    It is a quite new thing to find stories via the cold platform of the internet. I believe that there was something that traveled with books with their worn covers and folded pages- tucked away in hard to discover places. There was often serendipity and synchronicity involved in finding the right story at the right time. The finding itself often carried elements of “story” and not just acquisition! So I still suggest trying to find tales in old fashioned ways (can’t believe I am calling books old fashioned!). Though I agree with Laura that the “HOW” of how you bring a story from the dry words back to life – the APPROACH is the most important thing. I remember one December as New Year’s approached wanting desperately to find a New Year’s tale, wandering to my bookshelf, closing my eyes and opening a volume from Duncan Williamson to “Auld Father Time and the Henwife” the only traditional New Year’s tale I have seen before and since! In it, Father Time grows younger and younger till at last he is a baby. Truly a New Year’s story with companion archetypes. Stories keep traveling farther and father from their sources and unfortunately the internet remains the place where the dirt on the roots can be hard or impossible to find. If you get a story there, I feel it is essential that you trace it back to its sources as much as possible. That is one way to honor a story that has traveled so very far.


    Diane Edgecomb

    “The greatest number of spontaneous synchronistic phenomena I have observed have a direct connection with an archetype.”
    Carl Jung

    “Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work; a future,” poet and philosopher David Whyte

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