A.M.'s Myth and Folklore Blog

Myth and Folklore ML-3043-996

Tech Tip: Google Data

I tend to be pretty privacy conscious, but this was new to me. Going into the dashboard let me delete some old history, and I did set up automatic deletion even though I have tracking disabled.

When I need information about digital privacy, my first stop is usually the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). They have a lot of good basic information, as well as news on their ongoing efforts to deal with new and emerging privacy threats.

It’s worth noting that as good as auto-deleting your activity and location history is, the best protection is to disable location, search, and activity history altogether. (Which is possible and not that difficult — just go to the same portal that’s linked in the Tech Tip.)

Week 14 StoryLab: Storybook Research

For this set of Storybook Research, I’m making an effort to find some materials to make my third and final story in my storybook a little more realistic.

In the story, I currently mention instances in the literature of exoplanets “disappearing.” In fact, this has happened before, in a sense, with exoplanets identified by extrapolating from sparse data not being predicted when more comprehensive observations are available.

In 2015, for example, it was established that the exoplanet thought to be closest to Earth was actually a mirage caused by “patchy data” and overzealous interpretation.

Similarly, two potentially “life-

Artist’s impression of an exoplanet. (Image from Slate.)

friendly alien worlds” orbiting Gliese 581 (or GJ 581 to its friends) were recently found to be artifacts of the star’s strong magnetic behavior.

In interesting but unrelated astrophysics, scientists have also found an exoplanet that is “disappearing” (at cosmic timescales of billions of years), giving off enormous quantities of mass.

In the story I also refer to a completely made up name for a star, so I thought I’d look into star naming. Most stars have many names, each from a different naming scheme. Most stars, outside of those like Sirius that have their own names, can be named based on their position in some star catalogue. There are many such catalogues, and they are often updated; Gliese 581 gets its name from being the 581st entry in the Gliese catalogue, which was first compiled by astronomer Wilhelm Gliese in 1957.

Week 14 Reading: Czech Folktales, Part B

Source: The Key of Gold by Josef Baudis via the course UnTextbook.

  • For these reading notes, I chose to focus on the story “A Clever Lass.”
  • There is a clever shepherd’s daughter whose father comes across a beautiful golden mortar, and decides to take it to the king as a token of loyalty.
  • His daughter warns him that the king will certainly ask for the pestle too, but the shepherd does not heed her warning and goes to the king, who threatens him with his life if the pestle is not brought.
  • The shepherd comments that his clever daughter warned him that this would happen, and the king, intrigued, poses a riddle of contradictory conditions under which he will marry the clever lass.
  • She determines a way to satisfy all of the self-contradicting conditions, and so they marry, but the king insists on a condition of their matrimony: she must never give advice again. If she does, the wedding will be nullified.
  • Eventually she does, however, help a farmer (by supplying him with a reducio ad absurdum argument), giving him a technique for arguing his case before the king.
  • The king, unconvincied that these clever words are the farmer’s own, hounds the man till he admits to having received advice from the queen. So, the king prepares to end their marriage, but first throws a lavish banquet.
  • The king tells his wife that, as a token of affection, she may take with her what she likes most from their castle.
  • At the feast, the queen sedates the king by slipping opium into his drink, takes him to a carriage, and goes with him in tow back to her father the shepherd’s cottage.
  • The king, awaking, asks where he is, and the clever lass responds that she took what she liked best from the castle.
  • The king takes her back, and they live “happily ever after,” etc.
A mortar and pestle, but not made from gold.
(Image from Wikipedia.)

Week 14 Reading: Czech Folktales, Part A

Source: The Key of Gold by Josef Baudis.

  • For these reading notes, I’ve chosen to focus on the story “Kojata.”
  • There is a king who goes riding in his kingdom and eventually stops for water, trying to drink from a well in the woods.
  • A strange crab-like creature grasped the king’s beard from the bottom of the well and refuses to let him go until he promises to give up “the thing he had at home unknown to himself.”
  • The king, thinking he knows everything at home, agrees, and is struck with grief when he realizes that this commits his unborn son.
  • His son is born and grows up and the king despairs, but the young prince tries to comfort him, saying he will fend for himself.
  • The young prince goes out to the wood and meets a girl of his age who reveals that she is the youngest daughter of the sorcerer who originally accosted the king.
  • She warns him that her father will force the young prince to complete three terrible challenges through which she will covertly assist him: first, he must identify her among twelve identical copies; second, to build a palace of gold and silver.
  • The third task the young woman cannot help with, and so she recommends that they flee together.
  • She uses her magic to allow them to escape, and they run through the forest and barely avoid the sorcerer, eventually returning to the king’s residence, where they marry and live happily ever after, etc.
Gravity Falls Soundtrack - Diggity Dungeons and all That ...
I’m assuming the sorcerer looked something like this.
(Image from Gravity Falls.)

Week 13 Story: “Finally”

The young man was sweating profusely in the searing heat, thanks in no small part to the heavy woolen suit he was wearing. Despite this, the skin of the man beside him in the bright, well-tailored red suit was completely dry, and he showed no signs of discomfort.

Ringing the doorbell of the modest single-story house, he felt little remorse — only a mild irritation and the continued sense of unease that had accompanied his every move since the man in the red suit had joined their little criminal outfit.

A small, fierce-eyed old woman answered the door, whose body’s slow speed was clearly an impediment to the pace and energy of her character.


“Good afternoon, ma’am.” He handed her a card.

Barnes, Cullum, and Smith, Attorneys at Law.

She looked unamused.


“Ma’am, my colleague and I are here today to serve a court summons related to your property here. Due to improper filings, ownership is being disputed; you are needed in court to advocate your case.”

“That’s impossible! Why… I don’t see how… And in my condition!”

“We would, of course, be happy to appear in court to represent you.”

“I see.”

“We would require only a small fee and a number of the necessary documents.”

Ah. I see.”

Her eyes gleamed with an unconstrained and righteous malice.

“You impudent, predatory shit! Devil take you, devil take your ‘colleague,’ and devil take your little card of lies!”

For the first time, the man in the red suit spoke:

“You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for someone to say that.”

And with a snap of his fingers he, the scammer, and the business card disappeared, never to be seen again.

Plyesxale Red Suit Men 2018 Slim Fit Three Piece Wedding ...
The sort of terrible red suit I’m imagining. (Really, it’s painful to look at.)
(Image source: Plyesxale Clothes.)

Author’s Note: This story fairly closely follows the source; my only real change was making the old woman realize that she was being duped and pulling it into a modern setting. (Since our legal system and that of old England share a great deal of structure and terminology, it wasn’t very far to go anyway.)

Source: “The Friar’s Tale: The Story of the Summoner” in The Chaucer Story Book by Eva March Tappan, via the course UnTextbook.

Week 13 Reading: Canterbury Tales Part B

Source: The Chaucer Story Book by Eva March Tappan, via the course UnTextbook.

  • For this week’s second set of reading notes, I’m focusing on the Yeoman’s tale about the “Priest who learned to be a philosopher.”
  • A goodly priest makes a small loan to a man in need, who, out of gratitude, decides to show the priest his “philosophy” — the alchemy of turning base metals to silver.
  • In secret they begin to work, the philosopher allowing the priest to complete the steps under his direction; as the priest began to set the coals over the crucible, the devious philosopher took from his robes a specially prepared coal that contained some silver shavings.
  • The philosopher then tells the priest that he is doing quite well, but that the coals are set slightly wrong. Noting that the priest is sweating profusely, he also offers the priest a rag with which to wipe his face. When the priests eyes were covered by the rag as he used it to wipe his brow, the philosopher placed the special coal deep within the pile right over the crucible.
  • They then drank and were merry as the coals burned, depositing the silver shavings in the crucible.
  • Eventually the ruse is completed and, by trick and covert deception, the priest finds himself with a “transmuted” silver piece and swears to learn the craft from the philosopher.
  • They go through the process again, this time the philosopher fooling the priest by stirring the coals with a sick that had silver shavings hidden in wax on its tip, so that the wax would melt and deposit the silver in the crucible.
  • They go together to a goldsmith to verify that the plates (which the philosopher had really taken from within his robes) are true silver, and indeed, the goldsmith says, they are.
  • The priest, overjoyed, asks what he can possibly pay to gain the recipe for the process. The deceitful philosopher, after creating a false sense of scarcity, settles on the “low” price of 40 pounds, which the priest quickly pays for fear of loosing the opportunity.
  • The philosopher leaves town, and when the poor priest next tries the recipe, it fails.
An ornate silver plate.
(Image from the collection “Enticz”.)

Week 13 Reading: Canterbury Tales Part A

Source: The Chaucer Story Book by Eva March Tappan, via the course UnTextbook.

  • For these reading notes, I’ve chosen to focus on the Friar’s Tale, “The Story of the Summoner.”
  • A summoner (a legal official with the duty of bringing people to court, often known for corruption and extortion) meets with a young bailiff on the road.
  • They converse and are friendly, and eventually the summoner asks how it is that the bailiff makes money from his profession. The bailiff answers that he takes everything he can from every man he meets, and the summoner, emboldened by this statement, agrees that he does the same. They swear an oath to go into this together.
  • Finally, the summoner asks the young yeoman what his name is, and the yeoman responds that he is a devil. The summoner decides that he is bound by his word, even if the fiend be “Satan himself.”
  • They go to harass an old woman, who the summoner falsely summons. He offers to her that, for a “modest” fee of 12 pence, he will appear in her stead, as she is too sick to move or appear before the court. When she responds that she has no such money in the world, he says instead he will take her new pan for the debt.
  • The woman curses him, wishing that the fiend (Devil) take the summoner, the pan, and all, and the Devil, who indeed is right there, obliges, taking the corrupt summoner and the pan to hell.
Gives a new meaning to “Hell’s Kitchen,” doesn’t it…
(Image from manufacturer product listing on Ebay.)

Week 12 Story: So Much for That (Revised)

One time in a corner of the world, a goose and a mongoose walked along the bank of a raging river.

“Only a goose can swim in such turbulent waters,” said the goose.

The mongoose responded, puffing its chest and standing tall: “I am a mongoose, and so, being ‘mon’ more than a goose, I too can swim in such waters.”

And so the mongoose dove in, and, being more or less a sort of carnivorous rodent, drowned.

So much for the sin of delusion.

One time in a corner of the world, there was a foolish but kind king who delegated much of the work of ruling to his ministers. His counselors, however, were cruel, and passed many villainous acts on his behalf. Each day the ministers would bring their decrees to the absentminded king, who would stamp each in turn with his signet ring.

One day the cruelest of the ministers decided to simplify the process and steal the signet ring for himself. He planned with great care and eventually found himself standing before the signet ring, ripe for the taking, in the king’s private chambers. Upon taking it into his hand, a hole opened in the ceiling and deposited a quite enormous cucumber onto him, crushing him.

The karmic cucumber (not to scale). Pairs well with cheese.
(Image from Wikipedia.)

So much for the sin of theft.

One time in a corner of the world, two old men, one kindhearted and one covetous, lived as neighbors. One day in the corner of his garden, the kindhearted man found an injured bird, which he nursed back to health. Later, the bird brought him a special seed that in time grew into an enormous squash, which the kind old man found to be made of solid gold.

The covetous neighbor, jealous of this fortune, asked where one gets such enormous golden squash. Receiving a truthful answer, he schemed to replicate the process: he shot down a bird into his garden, nursed it back to health, and did, eventually, receive a seed.

In time, the seed grew into an enormous squash. But when the greedy old man went to cut open the squash its hull parted, and, a fierce old man sprang from its insides.

The fierce old man produced a large measuring scale and preceded to aggressively measure the greedy man, finally proclaiming that he was of no use at all. He then cut off the greedy old man’s head.

So much for the sin of covetousness.

Story Source: “The Golden Squash,” from Albert Shelton’s book of Tibetan folk tales, via the course UnTextbook.

Author’s Note: This is a revision StoryLab of my Week 7 story of the same name. In short, I was inspired by the random and bizarre nature of the punishment meted out to the covetous old man. In particular, I was struck by the casual sound of the final sentence — “so much for the sin of covetousness” — and decided to make something of it.

My revisions mostly consisted of improvements in flow and diction.

The bookend phrases: “One time in a corner of the world” and “So much for the sin of ____” are both taken directly from the source story. And the “fierce old man” is straight from the source as well.

Week 12 Reading: Celtic Fairy Tales Part B

Source: Celtic Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs via the course UnTextbook.

  • For this set of reading notes, I chose to focus on the story of “King O’Toole and his Goose.”
  • The story is told with an actual character as a narrator, which is a stylistic trick I like a lot, have used before, and will use again.
  • There is a good-hearted king by the name of O’Toole, who was a real sportsman.
  • Eventually, though, the king grew old and could no longer sport, and so was very bored. To entertain himself, he got a goose to swim around his lake and engage in physical activity where he could not. But eventually even the goose grew old and feeble, leaving both king and goose in a morose state.
  • One day, a young man comes to the king; the king introduces himself but the man says he already knows who the king is.
  • The young man promises that he can bring the king’s beloved goose back to health and youth if the king promises him every acre of land the goose flies over.
  • The king accepts this bargain, the deed is done, and King O’Toole keeps up his end of the bargain.
  • Seeing that the King has done right, the young man reveals himself as Saint Kavin, the “greatest of all the saints” (it seems humility was not the virtue that got him sainted in the first place…)
  • And here the story ends.
Peter O’Toole playing King Henry II, so the combination more or less gives us King O’Toole. (Image from Wikipedia.)

Week 12 Reading: Celtic Fairy Tales Part A

Source: Celtic Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs via the course UnTextbook.

A trout. This fellow causes a lot of trouble. (Image from Wikipedia.)
  • For these reading notes, I chose to focus on the story of “Gold-Tree and Silver-Tree,” which we recognize as a version of the story of Snow White.
  • Silver-Tree is a queen, and Gold-Tree is her daughter. One day they go to the woods and come across a glade with a small pond in which a trout lives.
  • Silver-Tree asks the trout who the most beautiful queen in the world is, and the trout answers that is not her but her daughter Gold-Tree.
  • Silver-Tree, furious, resolves to kill Gold-Tree and eat her heart and liver (which is so deeply alarming at so many levels). But it happens that Gold-Tree leaves at this time to be married to a foreign prince, and so the king brings his wife instead the heart and liver of a deer.
  • Eventually, Silver-Tree returns to the trouts pond, but finds its answer unchanged. So, she resolves to travel to Gold-Tree’s new castle and try to kill her.
  • Gold-Tree is weary of her mother, sure of her intentions, but makes the mistake of offering it hand to kiss, into which Silver-Tree plunges a poisoned needle.
  • The prince is struck with grief, but eventually remarries. He does discover, though, that Gold-Tree’s body has been preserved, and so keeps her in a locked room. Some long time later, his new wife comes across Gold-Tree, removes the poison needle from her finger, and so awakens her from her comatose state.
  • Silver-Tree, returning again to the trout, is once again confronted with the fact that Gold-Tree still lives and is still the most beautiful queen. So, Silver-Tree travels once again to see her daughter, and upon arriving, offers her a poisoned drink.
  • The prince’s other wife, knowing of Silver-Tree’s murderous intentions, tells her that it is the local custom that she must first drink of what she offers. The other wife forces Silver-Tree to drink some of the poison, she dies, and the remaining characters (supposedly) live on with no concern for this history of traumatic attempted murders.
« Older posts