Fairy Tales Reviews

The Fiddler of Bayou Teche

by Delia Sherman


The great thing about new original fairy tales is the way they take old motifs, old themes and older tales and remix them in a new way to create a new story. “The Fiddler of Bayou Teche” by Delia Sherman combines several motifs of trickster tales along with myths and legends featuring musical instruments. The story that unfolds is a wonderful down to earth tale surrounding a trickster fiddler set in a deep south bayou.

The main character is a young albino girl named Cadence who lives in the swamp with the woman that adopted her, Tante Eulalie. Her mother serves the local loup-garou community as a medicine woman and plays the fiddle. Her mother cautions her against tricksters by sharing with her tales of warning. When her mother passes one winter Cadence ends up getting into trouble and being confronted by the very trickster her mother warned her against. Are the warnings and tales her mother armed her with enough to help protect her and allow her to survive?

There is a podcast of this fairy tale on the website Podcastle that features a fantastic reader, Elizabeth Green Musselman, and I really recommend hearing this fairy tale orally in this way almost more than reading it. It definitely adds to the experience.

Read More »

The Twelve Brothers

The Grimm brothers felt a deep affinity for the following fairy tale and others like it. The Twelve Brothers is just one of three variations on this theme the Grimms included in their collection. The other two are the The Six Swans and The Seven Ravens. These stories are about sibling solidarity, heroic behavior and self-sacrifice in order to survive the destruction of the family unit. This is not unlike the Grimms’ own life story. The children in these tales band together and through “industry, cleanliness, order” as Zipes puts it they overcome adversity.

Unfortunately, as all Grimm fairy tales are, this literary fairy tale is aimed at a male audience and written from a male perspective so the women in this fairy tale get put through the wringer. To be fair to The Twelve Brothers, though, this fairy tale alone of the three features a heroine who is (relatively) independent and aggressive in her pursuit of what she believes to be right.

Read More »

Forests in Folklore Book List

Probably one of the first things most people envision when they think of fairy tales, myths or even ancient legends is a deep, dark forest. Depending on the culture you might think of other dense pockets of nature too, whether a cave containing treasure, an oasis harboring the fountain of youth, a valley within which lies Shangri-la, or a jungle where intrepid heroes go in but never come out. Sometimes the nature is in a smaller package, it’s a single flower containing the power of the gods, a mythic tree of life or wisdom, an herb capable of granting eternal life, or a single apple promising forbidden knowledge.

Nature is a huge part of the mythic narrative no matter what part of the world you are in. Nature is a strange and mysterious mistress and stories from all over the world show her elements as magical, mythical and even legendary. What follows is a short book list that showcases books talking about the forests of the world in this context in one way or another. These books show nature’s mythical as well as very real abilities and the stories and legends that have sprung up surrounding the natural elements of our world.

Read More »

The Wolf and the Seven Little Goats

What makes this fairy tale stand out from the others is its almost mythic themes of life and death and rebirth. We have two opposing main characters set up against each other in a battle over the lives of seven children. On the one hand a self-centered, devouring dark wolf who wishes to kill and eat the children. On the other is a self-sacrificing, saving light mother who wishes to protect and nurture the children. In between them are the mother goat’s seven kids who have to learn to distinguish between the two.

The fairy tale opens with the mother saying good-bye to her children as she is going into market to buy food for her family. She tells the children not to let anyone in but her and to beware the big bad wolf. He has black fur denoting his evil while the mother has white fur denoting her purity and goodness. She also tells the children that the wolf has a deep gruff voice while hers is soft and melodic. The children promise their mother they will remember all of this and off she goes to market.

Read More »

East of the Sun, West of the Moon Book List

East of the Sun, West of the Moon is a fantastic Norwegian fairy tale. For those unfamiliar with the story, it and Beauty and the Beast are both inspired by the myth of Cupid and Psyche and so share many similar elements. A girl is whisked away to a castle with invisible servants. Her husband is a monster in some way or form and she must save him by making him human again through many trials.

What follows is a book list of stories spun off of stories, much like the fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon is a fairy tale spun off from a myth. The first book is the text of the original fairy tale, beautifully illustrated. The next three are re-tellings of the fairy tale, either to expand on the original or to give it a more modern spin. The last book mentions this fairy tale among others in a book a troubled man’s mother wrote and it becomes pivotal to the plot in a story about the power of fairy tales.

Read More »