At the "Wise Crone Cottage" blog and podcast, I focus on stories from the oral tradition, both folktales and mythologies. It is my goal to share these stories so they won't be forgotten. In support of this goal, I've started writing book reviews of new works on these topics. You can find them on "Goodreads" and "NetGalley." They will also be posted here.
November 15, 2020
This book is simply charming. It’s as comfortable and enjoyable as a cup of cocoa on a snowy day. The story takes place in a fantasy tsarist Russia. The tsarina is at war with the Republic of Birds, a magical race that once graced the land. At least that is, before the firebird’s egg appeared. The story tells of Olga’s hero’s journey, one filled with bravery and even a rescue. It has many delightful references to Russian folklore and culture including maps and yagas, huts with chicken legs, and Russian ballet. The characters are all well-defined. This is especially true of the older women who instead of witches become wise (sometimes magical), and glorious crones. When the tale was finally over, this reader longed for a sequel to discover just what Olga did next!
Published by Amulet Books, 2020.
Oct. 23, 2020
Blyth crafted her small book around the Grimm folktale of the “Twelve Dancing Princesses” (also known as “The Shoes that Were Danced to Pieces”). It’s the tale of 12 sisters who sneak off at night to dance with the fairies. Each day they return with their shoes worn out. The King imprisons them and proclaims that any man who can uncover the mystery can marry one of his daughters. If the suitor fails, then it’s off with the head! The sisters drug the men so they can’t be followed. But a soldier (with help from an old woman) finally solves the puzzle. The story ends with him marrying the older sister.
This is where Blyth’s prose poems pick up the tale. For each sister she creatively envisions her life after the bliss and intoxication of the otherworld. She weaves stories of rage and guilt, addiction, and mayhem. Ultimately, it is the tale of women who experienced freedom only to be later confined as the property of men. (And yes, there is a feminist cast to her prose.) I’m sure each reader will have a favorite sister with her over the top solution to living a life no longer of her own choosing.
Each story is filled with poetic ideas, and beautiful imagery. Each story answers the question of what happens after “happily ever after.” Best of all, Blyth includes “Author’s Notes” that discuss her thoughts on the folktale and how she came to her retelling.
Oct. 16, 2020
Tales of the Night Sky: Revealing the Mythologies and Folklore behind the Constellations by Robin Kerrod, (London: Quarto Pub., 2020), is a fun mix of science and folklore. Filled with beautiful illustrations, this book also includes an 18” x 24” constellation wall map. Each section discusses a specific element of cosmology – “The Universe,” “Patterns in the Sky,” “Around the Constellations,” and “Wandering Stars” (the ancient Greek term for planets). Written for a young audience, each entry focuses on a specific constellation or planet discussing its history, science, mythology, and folklore (including astrological interpretations). History and science from early thought (in which the sun rotates around the earth) to Copernicus is included; and ancient stories from Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology provided. All topics are addressed in a clear and simple format often on only a single page. For example, the entry on the Constellation of Cancer includes several stories from Greek mythology in which the crab fights with Hercules during his battle with a hydra. It also provides early folklore on the “swarm of stars,” found on the center star, Praesepe, which is called the “beehive cluster.” Some entries also provide a brief astronomy discussion. The associated illustration shows the star chart and the ancient depiction of the Cancer constellation. A glossary is included. For both teachers and storytellers, this book contains the perfect blend of science, history, and folklore to create an entertaining and educational story or introductory lesson plan.