Writer: Retold by Anita Ganeri & illustrated by Khoa Le
Publishing House: Arcturus Publishing Ltd
Date of Publication: July 2019
Rating: 3 stars
I believe that we should never stop narrating the so-called ‘’classic’’ fairy tales of our childhood. Yes, for many (including me) Cinderella and the rest of the squad may seem outdated but it’s the way you tell a story and how you explain its message that matters. If parents have neither the time nor the inclination to do that, then even the finest, fiercest tale is wasted. However, times call for discovery and reimagining, icons and roles aren’t firmly established anymore. Thank God for that. Now, there is an abundance of collections aiming to a younger audience, dedicated to lesser-known heroines from all over the world that prove we can’t just wait for the prince that was promised. So, let us take fate into our hands. This is the most important message we need to pass to the younger generations. Fairy Tales for Fearless Girls succeeds in that field. Diverse heroines, from every corner of the world, intelligent, determined and wise.
But we should also repeat the word ‘’respect’’ until our tongue stiffens. Respect is something our world lacks today and respect is absent from the Introduction of the collection. It is written as if a petulant, spoiled child decided to write a school essay full of Internet memes. Being independent, daring and feisty doesn’t equal being rude. Another problem was the writing or retelling itself. I know that middle – grade children are the target group of the collection but I don’t think that simplifying the language is beneficial. Children are intelligent, unlike us adults. When we try to converse with them as if they were babies, they realize it and, trust me, they don’t like it at all.
These are the tales included.
The Tale of Brave Bradamante and Her Amazing Flying Horse: Bradamante is the bravest knight of the kingdom. No one can defeat her and she falls in love with a worthy knight. However, she has to fight against evil forces that threaten her and her beloved. A tale of a fearless girl from France.
Atalanta The Fleet-Footed Huntress: I believe the Greek myth of Atalanta is well known to most of us. The princess, who was abandoned in the woods to die, was raised by a bear and became an unbeatable huntress and runner, defeated a wild boar and became a legend.
Nana Miriam and the Horrible Hippopotamus: A strong girl wants to save her village from a dangerous hippo. A tale from West Africa.
The Amazing Adventures of Tokoyo: A young woman wants to visit her father, an exiled Samurai. What Tokoyo doesn’t know is that she will need to face a monster that enjoys eating young maidens. A tale from Japan.
How Little Molly Whuppie Outwitted the Giant: Molly and her two sisters are left in the woods by their parents. Their hunger leads them in front of a giant’s house and Molly’s adventures begin. A tale from England.
How Mizilca Tricked a Sultan and Saved Her Father from Disgrace: Mizilca shows that intelligence and bravery walk hand-in-hand and neither sultans nor dragons are a match for a girl who is clever and ready to stand her ground. A tale from Romania.
Tatterhood and Dacia: A lovely Norwegian tale of twin girls who were very different but equally brave and loyal to each other. Tatterhood is an icon.
Princess Imani and the Magic Fan: A boring, repetitive, unoriginal tale from India.
Maada and the Mountain Dweller: Maada and her little sister run away from suitors and an oppressive mother. They face challenges and meet an impressive young man. And Maada shows what it means to refuse to change to what is ‘’proper’’ and‘’ acceptable’’. A tale of the Haida people from Canada.
Sumac and the Search for the Magic Lake: A girl’s kindness, intelligence, and perseverance lead her to a lake with the ability to heal. A beautiful tale of the Incas.
Feng Mian, the Head of the Family: This one troubled me. It is a combination of two well known Japanese tales, the creation of the lantern and the fan, and the mind games between a young bride and an elder of the community. Although these are slightly different versions, Ganeri places both in China and to my knowledge, this is not correct. This inaccuracy was jarring to me but otherwise, it is a beautiful story.
Unanana and the Elephant: A widow fights an elephant to save her children and helps an entire village in the process. An unusual, fascinating Zulu tale from South Africa.
The Warrior Queen and the Wizard: Hello there, beloved Maria Morevna! Her wit and kind nature defeat Koschei the Deathless and Baba Yaga and rescue her beloved Ivan. This is only one version of the story. The problem with this one was the inaccuracy of the illustrations. This is a Medieval legend and yet, Maria and Ivan are dressed in early 20th century clothes. Then, Maria is seen in traditional dresses. Are we aiming to educate children or to confuse them with mistakes?
Molly and her sisters
Fallon, the Girl from the Northland: Fallon refuses to get married to a man chosen by her mother. She doesn’t bow to ambitions and uses her strength to forge her own future. This story can be found in certain versions of the epic Kalevala and I cannot stomach the use of the word ‘’okay’’.
The Princess, the Merchants, and the Very Unusual Cupboard: Amina won’t accept any merchant who wishes to wed her and use her as a commodity. A beautiful, funny tale from Sudan.
Tatterhood and Dacia
The illustrations by Khoa Le were beautiful and vivid.
Sadly, I am not fully satisfied with this collection. While I appreciated the presentation of the themes associated with the tales, the theme of the arranged marriage quickly became repetitive and I don’t know why there was such an emphasis on such a detrimental subject that doesn’t concern children anyway. However, I loved the message that kindness and intelligence always pay off, along with respecting Nature and its creatures. In my opinion, this needed a better writer and more thorough research. Would I buy it for my future children? I would but I’d definitely modify its overly simplistic language. Repeat after me: children aren’t idiots.
Many thanks to Arcturus Publishing Ltd and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.