Archive for March 14th, 2009

Fairy Tales, What You Can Learn From Them

March 14, 2009

Book Review: Best-Loved Folktales of the World by Joanna Cole

Reviewed by Avil M. Beckford

When was the last time you ventured into the land of make believe? Best-Loved Folktales of the World by Joanna Cole allowed me to do just that. As an active reader, I was really engaged and found myself getting really annoyed at some of the characters. For example, I became so frustrated with Snow White because she kept on making the same mistakes over and over again, because she thought it would be different, she kept on getting fooled by the disguises of the evil step-mother. Why was I frustrated? Is it because her actions are a metaphor for life, my life, your life, where we seem to find ourselves in the same undesirable situations over and over again until we finally get it.

Some people may think it is a waste of time to read folktales, but for me, I thought it was very worthwhile because it reminded me of simple life lessons such as persistence pays, there is no need to be greedy because there is enough for all of us and instead of competing, why aren’t we creating?

Though Best-Loved Folktales of the World by Joanna Cole is nearly 800 pages in length, it is still appropriate for people with short attention spans because 200 folk tales are included. Because the stories are so short, and there are so many of them, the reader can start reading at any point in the book. You’ll find familiar tales you read as a child such as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstiltskin, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves or unfamiliar ones such as East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Crab, Chelm Justice, Baby in the Crib, Salt, The Bunyip, and Faithful Even in Death. As an adult, you’ll approach these stories much different from the way you approached them as a child. You’ll view them with a different set of lens all based on your life experiences. You may find yourself sympathetic toward a character in a tale while you could be frustrated with characters in other tales because they keep on making the same mistake over and over again.

I enjoyed reading this book because I was introduced to stories from all over the world, the majority of which I had never heard about. And, it was amazing to find the same story with a different spin because of cultural differences, such as Rumpelstiltskin and Tom Tit Tot. The folk tales reinforce that we are not as different as we think. The author organizes Best-Loved Folktales of the World by regions and if you are like me, the first section in the table of contents that I rushed to was the Caribbean and was delighted to see an Anansi story from Jamaica among the 200 stories. There were other Anansi stories that originated from the Ashanti Tribe in Africa. For those of you who may not be familiar with the Anansi stories, Brother Anansi is a trickster.

Another good thing about the way the book is organized is the Index of Categories of Tales, which allows the readers to quickly see which tales are appropriate for children, wonderful to read aloud, have a moral, are for women and girls and so on. If you like drama, adventure, romance, mystery, horror or fantasy, there is a tale for you. After reading Best-Loved Folktales of the World, you’ll be reminded of the following:

  • Share what you have with others because there is enough for everyone
  • Persistence pays
  • Operate with honesty and integrity: do not claim the work of others because the truth has a way of coming out and the consequences can be dire
  • Asking for help shows strength
  • Dream big
  • Appreciate what you have instead of pining over what you don’t have

I recommend Best-Loved Folktales of the World by Joanna Cole because it’s not only a page-turner, but it allows you to tap into your inner child and have some fun. When reading Best-Loved Folktales of the World , read it not only in the context of providing entertainment, but also in the context of what lessons you can learn to apply to your life. So, take a step back in time and remember when….

Excerpt from March 2008 Ambeck Edge