Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Storytelling Tip #4

If you tell folktales, learn to use The Storyteller's Sourcebook: A Subject, Title, and Motif Index to Folklore Collections for Children, eds. one and two.
This is one of my favorite resources for folktales. You can look up stories by title, subject, folktale motif, ethnic group and geographic area. If you know of a story and are wondering what versions might be available, this work is invaluable.

It's expensive, so unless you're deeply committed to telling and researching folktales, use these at your public library, if possible. I own them both and have been known to look up stories for folks who don't own them. Once a librarian, always a librarian.

There are a couple of confusing things about The Storyteller's Sourcebook. One has to do with the editions. There are two, which would lead one to believe that the second supercedes the first. Nope! The first edition covers books up to 1982, and the second edition covers books from 1983 to 1999. I'm still not sure why the publisher didn't call them Volume I and Volume II. Because of this confusion, I suspect lots of libraries got rid of the first edition and that's why a used one costs so much less than the second edition.

The second confusing thing is actually how to use the works. Once you get the hang of it, it's a snap, but it takes time. I'm not sure I'll succeed in explaining it here, but I'll take a stab.

Let's say you remember a story about pulling up a turnip. You pick up one of the two editions (this one is in both) and flip to the subject index. Under "turnip" you'll find a funny telegraphed entry. Here's the entry from the first edition (what I've put in as boldprint is underlined in SS--I'm just not sure how to do that here):
TURNIP: Bear gets tops of turnips--K171.1; pulling up turnip, chain--Z49.9; farmer takes an extraordinary turnip to the king as a present--J2415.1; man takes figs to king instead of turnips and they are thrown at him, "Thank God they weren't turnips"--J2563; man in moon for stealing turnip--A751.1.4.1; sheep live inside huge turnip all winter--X1401.1.2.
Ah, that second one looks right! You flip to the front part of the book where the motifs live. This is the Stith Thompson classification, and it has great headings such as "Marvels," "The Wise and the Foolish," and "Deceptions."

Find section Z (Miscellaneous groups of motifs), then find 49.9. Here's the entry:
Z49.9. Pulling up the turnip. Final formula: The mouse holds onto the cat, the cat holds onto Mary, Mary holds onto Annie, Annie holds onto grandmother, grandmother holds onto grandfather, grandfather holds onto the turnip--they all pull and pull it out. Tolstoy: Domanska TURNIP pb; Haviland Fairy 44-47; Tolstoy GREAT bp. Russia; Withers I SAW 98-99.
This is the synopsis of the story. At the end of the entry, you see author's last name, one word of the title and page numbers. Flip back in the Sourcebook to the bibliography and find the authors, in alphabetical order of course, and you'll find the title and other bibliographical information. Armed with this, go to your library catalog and see if you can find the story.

I love reading the telegraphed descriptions and the synopses. For Pete's sake, sheep live inside huge turnip all winter! I may have to go find that!

Huge kudos to Margaret Read MacDonald for the first edition and for bringing Brian Sturm in to work with her on the second edition.

Shameless plug: I tell the Bulgarian version of The Turnip on my CD The Ghost With the One Black Eye and Other Stories.


Mary said...

I love that telegraphed stuff too. It's sort of like the loglines you wrote about earlier, but even more abbreviated.

The tag for underlining is just [u] and [/u]. Replace the square brackets here with angle brackets. I tried showing the real tags and Blogger told me I couldn't.

Tim said...

I found a copy of the Sourcebook on eBay, bid, won, and paid. The seller mailed it to the wrong address, it was returned. This was over a month ago. I'll be lucky to ever see it.

PriscillaHowe said...

So unfair! If you ever want me to look something specific up, let me know.