Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wise Women

As a feminist mother of a daughter who loves all things princess and fairy tales, I started looking for stories I could tell her that would answer her need for fantasy, make believe, and larger than life scenarios, but would have women not taking the parts of damsels in distress.

I came across a book - Wise Women: Folk and Fairy Tales from around the World. Retold and Edited by Suzanne I. Barchers.

I've been able to glean several stories that fit two criteria: Hannah likes to hear them and I don't mind telling them over and over and over and over....

One is Kumba and Kambili, an African story of a magician who terrorizes villages until a local hunter's wife steps in. Another is Princess Sivatra, an Indian story about love literally conquering death. Princess Maya, another Indian story, is about a princess who is clever enough to save her husband's life. The Learned Servant Girl is a Chinese tale about a servant who stopped a war. The Twelve Months, from Greece, emphasizes generosity and good-naturedness, while The Poppet Caught a Thief (from the Ozarks in the US), The White-Haired Old Woman (Native American), and The Wise Woman (Algerian) emphasize the wisdom available when grandmother figures are appreciated.

The book divides its stories into six sections:
Daughters: Clever and Courageous
Sisters: Resourceful and Steadfast
Maidens: Clever and True
Attendants: Ingenious and Loyal
Wives and Mothers: Devoted and Cunning
Mature Women: Bold and Wise

Although some of the stories I like best have marriage as a key part of the story, the marriage is a partnership, not the "end". It's nice not ending a story with "and then they got married and lived happily ever after." It's also nice that the women are not described as "beautiful" or "lovely" - in fact, I'm trying to remember a story when the heroine's looks came into play at all.

I've added this book to my Amazon wish list. It's worth owning.


Lindsay said...

That sounds like a great book, thank you Sarah. I'm going to see if our library has it and put it on my list for next time I have a gift certificate.

These are probably too young for Hannah, but I like The Paper-Bag Princess (Roald Dahl) about a princess who outwits a dragon and saves the prince who then tells her to go clean herself up and she refuses. And I've heard the series "Princesses Don't Wear Boots" (or something like that) is really good, but I've never actually seen any of the books so I can't say firsthand.

Katey said...

That sounds really good. I'm adding it to my wish list too.