Saturday, June 04, 2011

Short Story Saturday - Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales From Around the World edited by Kathleen Ragan Part 2

One hundred great folk tales and fairy tales from all over the world about strong, smart, brave heroines. A definitive sourcebook of folktales and fairytales and the first of its kind to feature a variety of multicultural heroines. Dismayed by the predominance of male protagonists in her daughters' books, Kathleen Ragan set out to collect the stories of our forgotten heroines: courageous mothers, clever young girls, and warrior women who save villages from monsters, rule wisely over kingdoms, and outwit judges, kings, and tigers. Gathered from around the world, from regions as diverse as sub-Saharan Africa and Western Europe, from North and South American Indian cultures and New World settlers, from Asia and the Middle East, these 100 folktales celebrate strong female heroines. In "The Mirror of Matsuyama," we see the power of a mother's love overcome even the silence imposed by death. In "Moremi and the Egunguns," a fearless girl faces messengers from the land of the dead. Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters is for all women who are searching to define who they are, to redefine the world and shape their collective sensibility. It is for men who want to know more about what it means to be a woman. It is for our daughters and our sons, so that they can learn to value all kinds of courage, courage in battle and the courage of love. It is for all of us to help build a more just vision of woman. Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters breaks new ground by reexamining our notions about heroism. This book will appeal to parents who want to foster positive role models for their children. An invaluable resource of multicultural heroines for any school library.
Today is the second part of my buddy read with Amy from Amy Reads of this short story collection. It was my turn to come up with the questions for the 12 stories that we read. You can read Amy's answers at her blog.

Stories Read This Week:
'"My Jon's Soul"'
'The Ghost at Fjelkinge'
'Little Red Cap'
'The Wood Maiden'
'The Child Who Was Poor and Good'
'The Pigeon's Bride'
'How the King Chose a Daughter-in Law'
'The Fortune-Teller'
'The Tsaritsa Harpist'

1. What do you think the author of the story ' "My Jon's Soul" ' was trying to accomplish with this story?
This was an interesting story. It started off a bit strange. The main character was worried about the soul of her husband and whether or not he was going to be able to get into heaven. So, she takes it upon herself to go to heaven and make sure he will be able to get in. The idea behind it didn't really go with the whole 'empowering' image that these stories were trying for, but the conclusion did. She doesn't back down and she accomplishes her goal, so it all worked out in the end.

2. What did you think of 'The Ghost at Fjelkinge' in comparison with other ghost stories you have read?
This story actually reminded me of other stories that I have read. There were a couple aspects that were parts of other stories, at least in my mind. The being buried under the floor boards, for example, reminded me of 'The Tell-Tale Heart'. Most people were too worried about the ghost to understand what was going on, but this one woman stayed until the end and accomplished what the ghost had been trying for all along.

3. How does the story 'Little Red Cap' compare to other versions of the popular story?
When I read the first part of the story, I was surprised this book was in the collection. It was the typical story and it really about a little girl not listening, getting eaten by a wolf, and then saved by a passing woodsmen. It was not until she included the last paragraph that I understood why it was in there. It changes the story.

4. What did you think of the comparison between 'Little Red Cap' and 'The Wood Maiden' in the note section? Which idea do you think stories should portray?
In the note section, the editor compares these two stories by saying that by not following the rules, Little Red Cap is punished. In The Wood Maiden, though, the daughter is rewarded for not doing what her mother tells her to do. I think both stories have merit. I always found Little Red to be about not talking to strangers and not straying off the path because it can be dangerous when you are a child. The other story, the daughter just dances and has fun. I am not sure the severity of the situation is really the same. I think you can read both of them and get two different ideas without leading children to do the wrong things.

5. Do you think the dependable happy ending of 'The Child Who Was Poor and Good' gives a positive message to those who read stories such as that?
Sometimes I prefer stories that don't have happy endings. I will be reading and hoping that the author will do something different. I read a lot and I need some variety, but rarely do we see that in books as much as I would want to. This story had that perfect ending, but I think it would give an unrealistic view of what is like in the 'real' world.

6. What did you take away from the story 'The Pigeon's Bride'?
This story didn't really seem all that different than other popular stories. It was basically a retelling of another story. The title is alluding me at the moment. The guy appears to the princess as a pigeon, but if she tells anyone the truth then he will no longer be able to visit her. So, she tells her parents and he stops visiting, so then she goes on a trek to find him and win him back. I was not crazy about this story, really...

7. How does the story 'How the King Chose a Daughter-in Law' compare to other popular stories you have read?
This story sort of reminded me of 'The Princess and the Pea'. I am not entirely sure why, but the whole time I read it I was thinking about this... Instead of a pea under a mattress, though, this young woman has to find her way out of a very elaborate maze. It was also not a princess that succeeds at this.

8. The editor compares the story 'Marichka' to 'Hamlet'. What did you think about this?
This was a story about revenge. A woman bides her time and kills someone. It started out similar to Hamlet, but it is different in the end.

9. What did you think of the male filter idea that the editor mentions about the story 'Davit'?
That's my biggest problem with the popular stories. Even when stories are written to make women seem empowering, it still falls back on the popular aspects of other stories and makes it less about the woman and more about the man.

10. Judging by the first part of the story 'Anait', did you think it was going to be an empowering story?
I think that Anait was an empowering character, but I am not sure if the story itself seemed that way. Once it was played out, though, it made a lot more sense.

11. What message does the story 'The Fortune-Teller' carry with it?
I don't think this story was the best example. It made this woman out as a con artist, which doesn't seem like a strong character to me. Yes, male characters are played out this way often in books, but I don't think women need to be showed the same way.

12. What was your impression of the overall story 'The Tsaritsa Harpist'?
I really liked this story. It was a story of a woman using her brain to come to the aid of her husband. She was not compromising herself by dressing up as a man. She was just doing what needed to be done. It is refreshing to read stories where women rescue men instead of the popular story of women being rescued by men.

And, a general question, this concludes the section of stories from Europe. What do you think these stories tell about the culture of this country and the stories that come from it?
I might seem very picky with my answers above, but I did enjoy this collection so far. I just wanted very different from the norm stories. A lot of these so far, though, read more like retellings. It makes sense because a lot of the original stories came from these areas, but I still was hopeful that this collection would blow my mind a bit.


  1. Strange things are afoot at blogger. I was paging down to read older posts and the text mysteriously disappeared from your page! Weird!!! So . . . this comment is totally out of place, but I was reading your post about reading and feeling like you need to expand your horizons. That's exactly what I've been going through, this past year, and the reason my blog posts are becoming less frequent (well . . . sometimes they are). I was beginning to feel like a one-trick pony.

    Anyway, I'm trying to branch out a bit. Sometimes my location seems to do me in. It's hard to find classes in the things I want to learn to do or explore deeper, but I'll keep trying. Reading is definitely not everything, wondrous as it may be.

  2. Unsurprisingly we again thought a lot of the same things! Interesting to read your answers and see all the similarities :) Great questions this week!

  3. I've only dipped my toe in this collection, just randomly choosing "The Pigeon's Bride", but I loved it. It's reminded me that I've left too long a gap between fairy tale collections.

    I won't be able to keep pace with you and Amy, because I like to just read one short story a day. That's especially true for me with fairy tales because they all start to blur together when I read them more quickly.

    I'm also reading two other story collections as well, but they're not fairy tales, and are very distinct, so I'm hoping to manage at least a handful from this collection weekly, along with you two.


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