Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Short Story Wednesday - Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales From Around the World edited by Kathleen Ragan Part 4

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.
I wasn't thinking and agreed to do the Dune read-a-long posts on Saturdays. I knew this buddy read was expected to be posted on Saturdays, too, but I wasn't putting the two things together in my head. It came down to post twice a day, or change dates. Amy suggested just changing to Wednesday, so here we are!

Stories Read This Week:

Tales From Asia:
A Rani's Revenge
How Parvatibai Outwitted the Dacoits
The Close Alliance: A Tale of Woe
The Barber's Clever Wife
A Wonderful Story
The Importance of Lighting
The Story of Death
The Story of Princess Amaradevi
The Tale of the Oki Islands
The Monkey Bridegroom
The Mirror of Matsuyama: A Story of Old Japan

Questions That I Came Up With This Week:

1. We have now moved to stories set in Asia. What did you think of these stories compared to the other sections we have all ready explored?
I enjoyed these stories set in Asia because I don't read a lot of books with that setting. There were a few differences in the ideals of the people, but generally the stories were similar to others in the collection. I think even if you didn't know where the stories took place, there are clues in the stories themselves that would have easily narrowed it down.

2. What did you think of the stories? Did any of them stand out or bother you?
I think this section started to disappoint me. There were some stories that I did like, but when you think of the idea behind this book it is sad that women are not better represented. Several of these stories were told from a male point-of-view and were just barely criteria that would even fit this collection. This is obviously more a representation of how women are treated in Asia than anything else.

3. Between reading the stories and reading the notes included, do you find so far that these stories are good representations of women in literature or do you still think there is room to improve?
I have to admit that I am almost disappointed in this collection. There have been stories that I really enjoyed, but there have been more stories that have really bothered me. Some of the stories still rely on men to come to a satisfactory conclusion and some stories do not show women in a positive light at all. I feel like the authors felt like they had to come down to a very questionable level in order to showcase their strengths. If this is the best the world has to offer for empowering women stories, we had a long way to go.

4. In the notes for 'A Rani's Revenge', the editor quotes G.K. Chesterton: "Children are innocent and love justice; While most of us are wicked and prefer mercy." What do you think of this idea?
I thought this quote was interesting enough to mark down and then use in this question. I am not entirely sure I agree with it. I suppose it is all in how you look at it. I think it is brave, not wicked, to want mercy for people. It is not something that happens a lot in society, so when it does, it gives hope that people can forgive and move on. While children, I think they just want a story. They don't necessarily think in a way that they want justice, but they want the story to play out in such a way that it is interesting to listen to and read. I don't think it is necessarily a preference.

5. What did you think of the story 'The Barber's Clever Wife'?
This story really stuck out for me because the woman in it was so clever! She found a way to save the day over and over again. Then, we reach the end of the book and the HUSBAND is offered a lucrative position. It was a huge disappointment to read that after enjoying the story so much.

6. What are your thoughts on the resourcefulness of the character in 'The Importance of Lighting'? Was it a believable story?
I was rather surprised by this story. The original telling and thought process behind it was impressive. This is a story of a family that lives in poverty and is given the chance to have anything they want. The young heroine of the story knows that poverty exists in their household, so there is no point in asking for money because they will just lose it again. What she needs to do is drive poverty out of the house and welcome wealth in. The actual way she goes about doing this, by having her house be the only one with lights in the whole area, is a bit unbelievable, but the idea behind it was an interesting one and makes a lot of sense.

7. 'The Child of Death' was one of the stories in this collection that I had to pause after finishing because I wasn't entirely sure what had just happened. What did you think of the story?
I still think this story is strange! (I apologize for the typo in this question, Amy. I need to reread things before sending them along.) Anyway, I enjoyed the idea that if the dead has a purpose it can live on after death to serve that purpose. It is a bit creepy to think about, but interesting at the same time.

8. What did you think of the legend presented in 'The Tale of the Oki Islands'. Do you think this story is how Tokyo got its name?
I loved this story because I would like to think this was the creation story that lead to Tokyo having the name it has. A story about an empowering woman and possibly written by a woman. After some depressing stories, this gave me a bit of a hope about the lasting power of women's writing. I am not sure if it is true, but I'd like to think it was.

9. What do you hope from the rest of the stories in this section?
I am hoping for some fresh stories that are a bit more hopeful and don't rely on men. I'd like to think that is possible!

Be sure to check out Amy's blog for her answers to these questions!

Previous Weeks:


  1. That book looks so familiar. I think I have that. Time to go look through my shelves!

  2. Love your responses, as with other weeks, we have very similar responses :) Like you I am really hoping for some more better representations... Better than the usual I guess but it isn't as great as I thought it was going to be!

  3. Having 4 daughters, I love to find books that are empowering to women. If the stories pick up a bit, perhaps i'll pick it up :D Great review and Q&A :D

  4. **bookmagic: I hope you enjoy it!

    **Amy: It isn't as great as I thought it was going to be, either...

    **animewookie: It's not that this book is bad. Considering the times that these stories were written in, they are amazingly advanced. I think we were just hoping they would surpass even that and it was probably not practical...

  5. This sounds really good to me. I bought my son a Father Goose book when he was young because I didn't like all the stereotypes presented in Mother Goose books. This makes me think of that.

  6. **bermudaonion: Stereotypes depress me, really. I am always happy when books break away from that trend!


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