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

34 customer reviews

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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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 450 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; New edition edition (May 17, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393320464
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393320466
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 43 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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24 of 24 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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27 of 28 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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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 18, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This collection of fairy tales is great--it's not dominated by stories from Europe as is every other collection of "Fairy Tales from Around the World". It truly is a worldwide collection. Her heroines do all kinds of things in all kinds of ways. Ragan hasn't toed the line of political correctness--she lets the world's cultures and their women speak for themselves. The heroines in this wonderful collection aren't anemic passive beauties --they have character and blood. Ragan has enriched the word "heroine" and has given my daughters hopes in all kinds of new directions. As we read these stories together it was like taking a trip around the world and in each new country we were invited to sit down by the fire and listen to what makes the local hearts beat and to feel the resonance of our common humanity. I like Ragan's short commentaries at the end of each story because they gave me background information that helped me tell my daughters a little about the cultures from which the stories came. They also clearly revealed an emotional center of each story. I can't wait for Ragan's next book.
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