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Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales from Around the World Paperback – May 17, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 450 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (May 17, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393320464
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393320466
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Disappointed by a lack of readily available folktales featuring women as heroines to read to her daughters, the well-traveled Ragan set about collecting tales from around the world for this anthology, which can be read and appreciated by youngsters and adults alike. More than 100 stories are included in the collection, which is arranged by broad geographic areas. Asia and the Pacific are widely represented, but there are only 14 stories from North and South America. Brief comments by the editor follow each story, and endnotes describe the sources. This convenient collection, more comprehensive than Maid of the North: Feminist Folk Tales from Around the World (1981), for example, is appropriate for school, public, and academic collections.APatricia A. Beaber, Trenton State Coll. Lib., Lawrenceville, NJ
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Troubled by the scarcity of female protagonists of any kind in children's books, let alone strong, smart, and resourceful heroines, Ragan transformed her search for good stories to read to her young daughter into a full-scale research project, reviewing some 30,000 folk and fairy tales from all around the world. The 100 she selected to create this jewel of an anthology feature "courageous mothers, clever young girls, and warrior women," heroines that save lives and bring peace to their communities not through brute strength, although endurance is a frequent feat, but through creativity, intelligence, eloquence, wisdom, kindness, perseverance, and loyalty. Ragan is to be commended for her diligence and good taste: she has found captivating stories about wonderfully shrewd and fearless heroines from all across Europe, including Iceland, Scotland, Greece, and Yugoslavia, as well as Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas, and the Pacific. Ragan's concise yet discerning commentary follows each tale, making this affirming and long overdue collection as edifying as it is entertaining. Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Both children enjoy the colorful idioms and the tales!
Michelle
The point is, I highly recommend this book, whether you're a a parent looking to entertain your children or a scholar looking to add more folklore to your library.
EAO
I have a large collection of various fairytale anthologies; this is by far the best of the genre.
wfrey@mindspring.com (William Frey)

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover
What a feat--to have ferreted out these wonderfully rich stories from around the world! These tales, left in their own cultural idioms, invited me to transcend ages-old boundaries and to explore life in other lands and eras. The introduction, coming from a mother who was concerned about her daughters' literary role models, didn't fully prepare me for what I had in store, though: don't go looking for a "book of virtues"-type anthology with clear object lessons or easy reading for your kids. Heroism comes in many different guises throughout these tales, in ways that chivalry and good manners might not ordinarily accept. Because these heroines are not readily categorized as the feminine archetype, they may not be obvious role models for women (and girls), but they do create much more interest and discussion than the Cinderella-type stories which women can't even begin to emulate. For some of the protagonists, their heroism lies in their ability to break out of the mold that their societies gave them--or at least, to stretch them so that their feats are unexpected by those surrounding them. That's a refreshing lesson in any culture. I very much hope, in any case, that Ms. Ragan will reach back into those 30,000 surveyed stories and, with her daughters once again in mind, come out with a collection of stories edited for our children. We wait with bated breath....
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 4, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This book is terrific - the stories I read in "Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters" has completely changed the way I view the portrayal of women in folktales. When I was a kid, many of the books I read had male protagonists, and early on I realized that in the stories and plays I was reading the males got all the good parts. They went off and did the courageous things while the female characters tittered, blushed and occassionally fainted in safety. The women in this book do brave things the men can't (or aren't smart enough) to do. They fight monsters, outwit giants and save lives, yet they they have traditional feminine qualities such as patience, devotion and compassion, and a soft spot for babies. The tales in this anthology are as diverse and varied as the women they represent. They come from all around the world and cross all cultural lines. To help readers understand the cultural context, the author has included her notes at the end of each tale expressing her personal reactions and the cultural background. I liked reading her remarks, and enjoyed the way they helped put the tales in context. I highly recommend this book - it is really refreshing to find out that women's empowerment is not something new! [D.A. age 14]
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 26, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This book is a much needed addition to the world of multicultural and feminist stories. Because the author has broadened her definition of heroine to include qualities traditionally attributed to women and subsequently denigrated by the society, the book succeeds in bringing us new definitions of what it means to be a successful human being. Honoring qualities like creating a "hearth" for a family, kindness, perseverance and cleverness rather than physical strength (though delightful tales featuring female strength are included too!),Ragan brings to our attention stories that celebrate feminine qualities. As a storyteller, I have found stories that I can use immediately to build my repertoire of performance pieces. The care with which Ragan has sought out those sources closest to the oral tradition makes the storyteller's job of "translating" written text to oral performance much easier. I highly recommend this book to educators, librarians and storytellers. It also makes a great resource collection for parents who want to expand the kinds of stories they offer to their children, both male and female!
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Sybarite on April 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
I find the stories in this book to be a highly entertaining read and am excited to have it as a resource for any possible future daughters of my own. When I was a girl, I often sought stories that depicted female heroines (Scout from to Kill a Mockingbird, Joan of Arc, Marie Curie, Eleanore of Aquitane, Queen Elizabeth, Athena, Isis) and it is fantastic to have a compendium of world myths and stories that reflect admiration for females.

As an anthropologist, I would like to respond to the comment below that "there is no culture on earth right now that is matriarchal-and there very likely never has been." That is untrue. Many cultures are and were of various matriarchal forms. Currently, the Mosuo, Minangkabau, Hopi, Iroquois, Navajo and Cherokee for instance, are matriarchal. So were the Arkadians (ancient Greek culture), the Nair(India) and many more throughout the world and throughout history than I care to write here.

I highly recommend this book.
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127 of 161 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 24, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Compared to other anthologies of fairy tales depicting women in a more liberated light, this book is extremely disappointing. The stories themselves have little to recommend them and, although they are folktales and so less sophisticated than postmodern fiction, they seem to have been chosen not to entertain but purely to demostrate the worth of women. I have nothing against that (hey, I'm female too) but it could be done with infinitely greater skill. The main problem with this book is the way women are depicted (yes, you read that bit right). Ragan understandably aims to challenge the myth of the representation of women in folk tales but her representation is as much a myth and one-sided as traditional patriarchal propaganda. Ragan's portrayal of women constructs them as extraordinary in strength, intelligence, principles and beauty. To me, the whole point of feminist literature is the issue of equality, not superiority. If Ragan's aims spring from such a source, women should be acknowledged in a more realistic light - some are good, some are bad and most of us are somewhere in between. They have shortcomings and flaws but dignity and worth too. A woman's place in the world does not have to be on a pedestal or in a gutter. I think Ragan also unconsciously reinforces the values regarding women in a patriarchal society. In each story, her summary comment at the end attempts to magnify the significance of the actions of the women in the story (and so reflect on all women) but she disregards any of the failings that they have. In a lot of the stories, an extremely important trait in the woman was her beauty and her skill or intelligence were used to secure herself a place in society designated to her on the grounds of her sex eg.Read more ›
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