Over the last half-year or so, I’ve been on something of a folklore kick. I’m not certain why folk tales appeal to me–perhaps it has been spurred by memories of my British grandmother telling me off-color stories that she remembered from her childhood (none of which I will repeat here).
To continue, some of the appeal would also have to be that they can be quickly read. Believe it or not, us library types are just as often pressed for time and don’t feel like reading a tome. But this is not to say that folk tales lack any depth, despite their being relegated to the realm of children’s stories (at least in our modern culture). But let’s leave any further analysis for the obnoxious literary theorist inside of me that I’ve been trying to suppress since finishing my masters. Folk tales are just entertaining and a great way of understanding people from around the world.
My current read (among others) is: Russian Folk-Tales retold by James Riordan. I’m reading the tale of Vassilisa, who is sent by her evil stepsisters to fetch firewood from Baba Yaga. Sounds like an easy task, right? One major problem– Baba Yaga is an old hag who flies around in a mortar and whose house is fenced by row upon row of the skulls of her victims (Warning: not every folk tale is safe for the children). The good news, though, is that evil is never victorious–well, most of the time.
Here are a few other books that I’ve read:
Latin American Folktales: Stories from the Hispanic and Indian Traditions- Particularly interesting are the Inca legends about their kings.
Russian Gypsy Tales- Amongst other things, explains why you shouldn’t try to summon the Queen of Spades at midnight.
Folk-Tales of the British Isles- Includes the tale of “Tom Tit Tot,” an inspiration for Rumpelstiltskin.
The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales- As opposed to the Disney version of Cinderella, the evil stepsisters get their eyes plucked out by birds as punishment. They don’t call it Grimm for nothin’.