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Book Reviews

March 2000

Tatterhood and other Feisty Folk Tales

Selected by Margrete Lamond.

St. Leonards, Allen and Unwin,

1999. $12.95

It has become popular in recent years to publish collections of feminist folk tales, i.e. original folk tales with strong heroines. It's amazing how many there are, when you look for them. Among all those tales about blonde princesses waiting to be rescued by Prince Charming or to be handed over to the clever miller's son, along with half the kingdom, there are plenty about young women who go out into the world and make lives for themselves.

This particular collection is composed of nine Norwegian folk tales, taken from a nineteenth century collection by Peter Asbjornsen and Jorgen Moe, a sort of Norwegian Brothers Grimm.

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Most of them have counterparts in other countries, which proves you can't keep a good story down. The title story, 'tatterhood', is a Norwegian version of the English 'Kate Crackernuts', with the ugly but bright sister rescuing the pretty, dim one and scoring a husband herself in the process. 'Neither naked Nor Clad' in which the girl appears clad in a fishing net to get around the king's arrogant demand, has many counterparts, even including a Jewish version. 'Bold But Not Too Bold', about a girl who is about to marry a sort of Bluebeard, appears in Grimm as 'the Robber Bridegroom'. In 'the Goosegirl', the smart peasant girl outdoes the princesses to win the prince. 'Whitebear' is a lot like the Greek/Roman tale of Cupid and Psyche.

The stories are very enjoyably told and don't hit you over the head with the message.


Sue Bursztynski

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Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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