Saturday, July 02, 2011

Short Story Saturday - Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales From Around the World edited by Kathleen Ragan Part 3

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.
This is the third edition of our reading of Fearless Girls, Wise Women, & Beloved Sisters by Kathleen Ragan. I got a bit behind on the reading, but I am working to catch-up now. Amy is ahead of me, she posted her review of these stories on the correct day, but my computer was broken. And, now I am just slow!

Stories Read This Week:

Tales from North and South America:
Native Americans:
'The Vampire Skeleton'
'The Flying Head'
'Where the Girl Saved Her Brother'
'Chief Joseph's Story of Wallowa Lake'
'The Origin of the Potlatch'
'The Princess and the Mountain Dweller'
'The Princess and the Magical Hat'
'The Lytton Girls Who Were Stolen by Giants'
'The Legend of the Coppermine River'
'The Huntress'
New World Newcomers:
'"I'm Tipingee, She's Tipingee, We're Tipingee, Too"'
'The Innkeeper's Wise Daughter'
'Molly Cotton-Tail Steals Mr. Fox's Butter'

1. We've moved on from Europe to the Americas. The stories we read this week were further sub-categorized as 'Native American' tales and 'New World Newcomer Tales'. How did you find they compared overall to the stories from Europe in terms of familiarity?
Some of the stories seemed a bit fresh, but then others used elements from common stories. A common theme was the "Bluebeard" theme. Women married, sometimes not by their will, men that were serial killers of some nature. Others were a bit different, but still had some similar ideas represented. One even reminded me of "Beatrix Potter". A few others were a bit different and I enjoyed that.

2. I was a little surprised the stories seemed to be almost all from North America with very few contributions from Central or South America - did this surprise you at all? Why do you think that is?
I think it probably is a simple fact of what remains. I am sure there are a lot more stories that could be from Central or South America, but it might not have been as easy to obtain. It is also possible the stories have not been recorded. In the beginning tales were told orally.

3. Did you have a favorite story this week? Why?
I thought that the story 'Vampire Skelton' was an interesting start to the section. Vampires are a bit popular at the moment and this was a bit original of a telling. This collection is like an collection, some stories I found dragged a bit and others were pretty good. I am not sure if I really had an overall favourite, though.

4. What was your least favorite and why?
'The Princess and the Mountain Dweller'. In the end I liked the story, but for some reason I had a very hard time getting into it. I was reading along happily and then when I arrived at this story I was a bit disinterested.

5. One of the stories, 'Where the Girl Saved Her Brother' is actually a legend based on the Battle of the Rosebud. What do you think the link is between fairy tales and legends - do you think some of the other tales are also likely based on true events?
Of course! I think they would have to get their start in the first place from oral tales. I am sure that somewhere along the lines there was a real person or event that inspired the story. I am sure there was some exaggeration in the tales as they went along, but I am sure at the root there was truth.

6. In 'The Princess and the Mountain Dweller' I loved the comparison that Ragan made in her end note to Bluebeard and how "'Bluebeard' focuses so strongly on Bluebeard's wife's 'sins', one is apt to forget that her husband is a serial murderer who is concealing the bodies of his former wives." In fact I thought this was possibly my favorite line in the collection (so far anyway!). Do you think this is a larger issue at play that is turning the table in historic tales to point the blame on the woman?
I really liked that sentence myself. It is actually something that I have not thought of before, actually, and that makes me feel bad. I never really thought of her as sinning either, though. Women are often to blame in historical records, but that is mainly because history is recorded by men.

7. Did you find any major thematic differences between the Native American tales and the New World Newcomer tales?
I didn't actually think of it at the time. The stories were not all that different. There were a couple changes, of course, but ultimately it is a similar theme.

8. In 'I'm Tipingee, She's Tipingee, We're Tipingee, Too' the seemingly powerless girls work together to present a solid front and beat those trying to harm Tipingee. Do you think this was a subversive message as Ragan states?
It's possible. It really depends on the author and what they were thinking when they wrote this story. It could have been innocent, it could have been intentional, or we may be reading too much into what the author was ultimately attempting to do. I always worry about that when reading stories or novels.

9. In 'The Inkeeper's Wise Daughter' the daughter manages to answer all the riddles put to her, and outwits her husband at every turn, ending up happy. What do you think the take away was from this tale?
I was wrong, now that I rethink this story is probably my favourite. I thought it was rather witty. I took away from this story that women are actually a lot smarter than men give them credit for. It was refreshing how she outwitted him even until the end.

10. The last tale we read this week, 'Molly Cotton-Tail Steals Mr. Fox's Butter' starts off rather clever with two children asking for a tale from their Aunt Nancy and discusses some gender stereotypes which was really great. These included that women could be smarter than men and that men could stay home sometimes and watch kids. Like 'The Fortune-Teller' that we read last week, however, Molly Cotton is shown as a bit of a scoundrel. Do you think this is a heroine role?
I am not sure what to think of this story. I originally thought of it as 'Beatrix Potter' in nature. There was obviously a bit more going on than originally thought, though. I felt that on the one hand it was a witty story, but on the other hand it was playing into stereotypes and not being very fresh about it.

Previous Week:


  1. Yay glad to see your answers :) I really like what you say on the Tipingee story about never really knowing. Good point!

  2. **Amy: I am sorry I am slow!

  3. Lol no need to be sorry at all!!!


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