Latin American Folktales: Stories from Hispanic and Indian Traditions

Latin American Folktales: Stories from Hispanic and Indian Traditions

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by John Bierhorst
     
 

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The wisdom and artistry of Latin America's storytellers preserve one of the world's richest folktale traditions—combining the lore of medieval Europe, the ancient Near East, and pre-Columbian America. Among the essential characters are the quiet man's wife who knew the Devil's secrets, the three daughters who robbed their father's grave, and the wife in disguise… See more details below

Overview

The wisdom and artistry of Latin America's storytellers preserve one of the world's richest folktale traditions—combining the lore of medieval Europe, the ancient Near East, and pre-Columbian America. Among the essential characters are the quiet man's wife who knew the Devil's secrets, the three daughters who robbed their father's grave, and the wife in disguise who married her own husband—not to mention the Bear's son, the tricksters Fox and Monkey, the two compadres, and the classic rogue Pedro de Urdemalas.

Gathered from twenty countries, including the United States, the stories are brought together here in a core collection of one hundred tales arranged in the form of a velorio, or wake, the most frequent occasion for public storytelling. The tales are preceded by a selection of early Colonial legends foreshadowing the themes of Latino folklore and are followed by a carefully chosen group of modern Indian myths that replay the basic stories in a contrasting key. Riddles, chain riddles, and folk prayers, part and parcel of the velorio along with folktales, are introduced at appropriate junctures.

The collection is unprecedented in size and scope, and most of the tales have not been translated into English before. The result is the first panoramic anthology of Hispano-American folk narratives in any language.

Part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A cornucopia of magic and myth . . . Beware, for the pages of this volume—filled with tricksters, witches, and ghosts—are enchanted!"
—Ilan Stavans
KLIATT
Part of the Pantheon fairy tale and folklore library, this rich collection is creatively edited and carefully annotated with an additional glossary and listing by motif. An excellent introduction will help the teacher or advanced reader, but the tales are accessible to all. Bierhorst has carefully arranged first the Inca and Aztec tales from the colonial era, then the tales gathered in the 20th century, set out in the format of a velorio, or wake, nine nights of stories told to keep those mourning the dead awake throughout the night. While many of the stories are clearly forms adapted from European folk and fairy tales brought to the New World by colonizers, even the most familiar, the Cinderella-like stories, have their own flavor and twists. The stories are short, many less than a page, often humorous, and just as often teaching a moral lesson. People turn into animals and then back again, die and rise, trick and are tricked, entrancing the reader. More than 100 stories from 20 Hispanic countries are jam-packed into this volume, many appearing for the first time in English. This valuable compilation is highly recommended. KLIATT Codes: JSA*-Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Random House, Pantheon, 386p. notes. bibliog., Ages 12 to adult.
— Patricia Moore
Library Journal
These two works are similar in origin but different in genre. Bierhorst's features over 100 stories in a more traditional style from Mexico, Central America, the American Southwest, and South America. Many read like traditional European fairy tales, which should not be surprising since they reflect a strong Spanish Colonial influence, even though they have sprouted from the seedbed of indigenous folklore. The first part of this book contains Aztec and Inca legends but not very ancient ones; most date from the time just prior to or during the Conquest. The second part of the book features dynamic tales reflecting all short story or folktale genres: comic, anecdotal, moral, heroic, and religious. The tales are short and pithy and often pack a surprise punch line, making for extremely interesting reading. Fantasmas is a collection of stories by 19 well-known or emerging Mexican American writers whose inspirations seep from the cuento de fantasmas literally "ghost stories" but more a unique blend of folklore and faith, superstition and the supernatural. These tales and urban legends are modern, with a nod make that a bow to current pop culture's fascination with horror and the paranormal. They run the gamut from the grotesque ("Cantinflas," "Lilith's Dance") to those displaying gracia, that elusive, heart-lightening quality that divides art from craft ("Beyond Eternity," "Michelle's Miracle"). Still others, such as "The Gift," would make excellent X-Files material, although a strong moral is attached. Fascinating but disturbing, these tales may reflect the authors' need to purge themselves of personal or cultural fears. Public library patrons will enjoy the richness of the folktales and the sheer thrills transmitted by the fantasmas. And academic library patrons will have materials for cultural and ethnic studies now compiled into two convenient anthologies. Recommended for both types of libraries. Nedra C. Evers, Sacramento P.L. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Latin American culture has had myriad influences, many of which are reflected in this sizable collection of more than 100 folktales. Here Christianity sits comfortably next to animism, God has a sister, and royalty is both European and indigenous. A section of early Colonial tales opens the book, with the remainder being stories gathered during the 20th century. Containing selections collected from 20 different countries, the book travels all over the Western Hemisphere. Indigenous cultures tapped include the Zuni, Maya, and Quechua as well as the lesser-known Kogi and Tacana. Tales are short, typically no more than a couple of pages long. Moods run from silly to serious, from delightful to scary and disturbing. A couple of short sections containing riddles are thrown in as an extra treat. As though at a tasty buffet, casual readers will gain maximum enjoyment by picking out whatever strikes their fancy. More serious readers will find the "Register of Tale Types and Selected Motifs" useful in guiding their selections. Most of the stories in this entertaining volume have never before been translated into English, making it worthy of any collection.-Sheila Shoup, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375714399
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/09/2003
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
512,443
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.22(h) x 1.03(d)

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