Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls


These thirteen folktales have one thing in common: brainy, brawny, brave heroines—and not one damsel in distress! From Bradamante, the fierce female medieval knight, to Li Chi, the Chinese girl who slays a dreaded serpent and saves her town, these heroines use their cunning, wisdom, and strength to succeed.
Drawing from diverse cultures around the world, renowned author Jane Yolen celebrates the smart, strong,...

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These thirteen folktales have one thing in common: brainy, brawny, brave heroines—and not one damsel in distress! From Bradamante, the fierce female medieval knight, to Li Chi, the Chinese girl who slays a dreaded serpent and saves her town, these heroines use their cunning, wisdom, and strength to succeed.
Drawing from diverse cultures around the world, renowned author Jane Yolen celebrates the smart, strong, and sassy heroines of legend and lore in a collection that will encourage bravery in every girl.

A collection of thirteen traditional tales from various parts of the world, with the main character of each being a fearless, strong, heroic, and resourceful woman.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Judy Chernak
Peopled with princesses and paupers, kings and their sons, dragons and strange creatures of all sorts, this book trumpets the theory that girls can (and should) tackle anything that happens along and taunts them to withdraw or be afraid. There are many Esthers and Vashtis within its pages. The collection of thirteen (is this a message to disdain fear?) tales from cultures as disparate as Argentina, Japan and the Ozarks of the U.S. features girls of every description who run off, á la Joan of Arc or Mulan of Disney fame, to persevere, conquer and ultimately win their reward (usually including, sad to say, the prince of their dreams). One story, The Pirate Princess, designated as "Poland/Jewish" and attributed to Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, has a long publishing history, having first appeared in the Rabbi's Hebrew Sippure Maasiyot (1881) and more recently in Howard Schwartz's Elijah's Violin & Other Jewish Fairy Tales. Every bit as magical and clever as its companion stories, it revolves around the very Jewish concept of bashert, the intended one provided by God, whose designs cannot be thwarted regardless of how long or winding is the road to togetherness. Jane Yolen confesses in her endnotes that she has taken liberties with most of the stories, adding here and changing there. But that is how folktales endure--in the turning and twisting and reflecting of the countries where they first emerge and the migrations they sustain, until nearly every story (and they all appear in many versions, in many volumes) survives with exotic flavorings and delightful discoveries. The book will, unfortunately, not be available until May so it misses this Purim season; but grab it as soon as it appears--it's great reading for any time of the year.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-This collection of folktales from around the world presents a range of tales that all feature strong women. While the majority of stories (7 out of 13) are European in origin, most are relatively unfamiliar. Only four of the tales, "Atalanta the Huntress," "Fitcher's Bird" (a Bluebeard/Mr. Fox variant), "Burd Janet" (a Tam Lin variant), and "Molly Whuppie," are likely to be recognized by readers. Yolen's retellings are consistently engaging and well written, whether she is dealing with the history of the White River Sioux in "Brave Woman Counts Coup" or "Nana Miriam," a culture hero of the Songhai of Niger. Ample source notes and explanations of Yolen's additions and changes are included as is a thorough bibliography. Unfortunately, the cover painting of a buxom girl on a ship seems much more suited to a "damsel in distress" collection than to these stories that eschew the helpless female. However, the interior illustrations are better.-Ellen A. Greever, University of New Orleans, LA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
In her introduction, the author states that the 13 stories in this book "have always been around, hidden away in the back storeroom of folklore." No more. Yolen has managed to present these legends and folktales as originally told, with their spunky, canny, and courageous girls and women heroes as feisty and funny as they were to the people of their time. The tales come from all over the world; some of their protagonists are well-known, such as Greece's Atalanta the Huntress, but many others have been either lost over time or distorted in one way or another to make them palatable to readers who refused to recognize that women were fully capable human beings. There's Nana Miriam of Niger, who uses the powerful potions in her juju bag to save her father from a vicious hippopotamus. Or China's Li Chi, who refuses to be sacrificed to the serpent who has terrorized her village and instead uses her wits, a snake-hunting dog, and a sharp sword to slay the creature. Then there's England's Molly Whuppie, who serves her king by outwitting a giant and ends up a queen, in a rollickingly funny story that's only equaled by the Ozark tale of Pretty Penny, who uses her wits to save her father's money and make a lot more from the highway thief who tries to rob her. There are many more, all of them splendidly told by an author who can not only spin a mean folktale, but makes some nice subtle points in doing so. The book is strengthened even more by Yolen's extensive "Notes on the Stories" and an excellent bibliography for those who want more, making it a useful reference tool for classroom or library. (Fiction. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152020477
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 5/28/2000
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 160,983
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen is a highly acclaimed children's author who has written hundreds of books for adults and children and has won numerous awards. She and her husband divide their time between Massachussetts and Scotland.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2007

    Awesome Book

    This is a great inspiration to girlsof all ages. I reccomend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2004

    A book packed with powerful girls!

    Our Mother - Daughter Book Group admired the strong girls from diverse cultures and times featured in this book of short folktales. Lessons learned were; if you follow your heart and dreams you can be whatever you want to be, stay true to your beliefs, and girls can be as able- bodied as boys. Many girls realized that the traits that they liked in the female characters were strengths that they have inside themselves. Some of the selections proved to be scary for young girls, but overall an enjoyable read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2000


    This book is great. All the 'heroes' in this book are girls that use their brains. The illustrations are wonderful. I really enjoyed reading this book.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

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