Active Heroines in Folktales|
Sisters’ Choice Home
and Activities for kids
In most familiar folk tales with female protagonists, the
woman or girl plays a
passive role, waiting to be rescued or, at most, helping
her male rescuer by
her special knowledge of her captor. Women with power
tend to have
secondary roles: wicked stepmother, fairy godmother.
Some folk tales in
which the central female character takes an active,
positive roles are listed
here, In three of the stories, “Umai,”
Fairy” and “The Sweet Porridge,”
there are no male
This index to women taking roles not well-represented in
stories is an update of a list I annotated for my book, Just
Make a Story: A Sourcebook for Storytelling (Sisters’
third edition 1992). The annotations are mostly
or literary analysis is left to you, as is the selection of
find both non-sexist and good for telling. These stories
can be found in
collections published for children or in picture books; the
of folktales for adults I
leave to someone else to search, mentioning only
The Old Wives’ Fairy Tale
Book edited by Angela Carter for the Pantheon
Fairy Tale and Folklore Library
(1990). However, most of the stories listed here can be
told to adults.
Since this list was first compiled, several books of
folktales with active heroines
have appeared, and one, The Skull in the Snow
by Toni McCarty, has
into and gone out of print. The first to appear, Rosemary
and Fairy Tales (Houghton, 1975) is still readily
available in libraries and
stores, and is an indispensable resource for any
storyteller. Ethel Johnston
Phelps has edited two collections, Tatterhood and
Other Tales (Feminist
Press, 1978) and The Maid of the North, Feminist
Folk Tales from Around
the World (Holt, 1981.) She does more cleaning
up of sexist tales than I am
comfortable with--I want the tales I tell to represent a
tradition of uppity
women. I will change sexist language or minor incidents,
but not plots or
characters. Jack Zipes has collected some
non-traditional feminist fairy tales
in Don’t Bet on the Prince: Contemporary Feminist
Fairy Tales in North
America and England (Methuen, 1986). None of
the stories from these five
books are annotated here; all are worth looking at.
Margaret Read MacDonald
has listed some good stories about women and girls in
Sourcebook. Some likely numbers to look under are
through H561.1.2 and H582.1.1, and J1545 through
J1547. The index to Let’s Hear It for the Girls
by Erica Bauermeister
and Holly Smith (Penguin, 1997) lists about twenty more
legends and folktales published as separate picture
If you know of other stories in folk tale collections for
children (or separately
published for children) that seem to belong on this Active
Heroines list, please
descriptions and sources for the stories. Also if
you know in-print
versions of stories that only have out-of-print sources
Ashpet, in Grandfather
Tales by Richard
Chase. Houghton, 1948.
A Cinderella variant in which Ashpet is a hired hand,
grannylady’s magic help, shucks the shoe on purpose,
and generally takes
things into her own hands. Appalachian.
Atalanta in Free to Be...You and
Me by Marlo
Thomas. McGraw, 1974.
A modern retelling of the myth in which Atalanta and
Young John tie in the race
and become friends. There are also traditional versions
in which Atalanta
becomes an athlete because her father wanted a son,
and it is only with the
help of love that any man can win a race against her.
Baba Yaga in Old Peter’s
Russian Tales by
Arthur Ransome. Viking, 1975.
The little girl sent to the witch’s house uses thoughtfully
everything she finds
the way, and thus makes her escape.
The Barber’s Clever Wife in
Fools and Funny Fellows
by Phyllis Fenner. Knopf, 1947, o.p.
She dupes a pack of thieves on four occasions and
finally bites off the tip of
their captain’s tongue. From Tales of the
The Beggar in the Blanket in
The Beggar in the
Blanket and Other Vietnamese Tales by Gail B.
Graham. Dial, 1970.
A woman’s audacious plan convinces her husband that
his poor brother is
worth more to him than his rich friends.
Bimwili and the Zimwi retold by
Verna Aardema. Dial,
Playing at the ocean with her sisters, a girl makes up a
song about a seashell.
On the way home she remembers her shell and returns
for it alone. When
captured by a loathsome ogre, the girl uses a variation
on her song to signal
for help. Tanzania.
The Black Bull of Norroway in
More English Fairy Tales
Three sisters go out to seek their fortunes; the third rides
the black bull and
rescues her true love from an evil spell.
Boadicea...The Warrior Queen, in
The World’s Great
Stories: 55 Legends
That Live Forever by Louis Untermeyer.
Lippincott, 1964, o.p.
The legend of England’s ancient heroine.
Brave Martha and the Dragon, by Susan L. Roth. Dial Books for Young Readers, c1996.
A young girl captures the dragon that has been terrorizing the
villagers of Tarascon. Based on a Provençal legend of Saint Martha.
The Brave Woman and the Flying Head,
Stories: Heros and Heroines, Monsters and Magic
by Joseph Bruchac.
Crossing, 1995. Also in
Children Tell Stories by Martha Hamilton
and Mitch Weiss. Richard C.
A quick-thinking woman saves herself and her small
child from the hungry
Clever Gretchen by John Stewig. Marshall Cavendish, 2000
In order to win Gretchen’s hand in marriage, Hans signs a pact with a
goat-footed dwarf; seven years later, Gretchen gets him out of it.
The Clever Wife, in Sweet and
Sour: Tales from China
Yao-wen Li. Houghton Mifflin, c. 1979.
Fu-Hsing boasts of his wife’s cleverness, the Magistrate
sets her tasks, and
she solves them by turning them back on him.
The Dragon’s Revenge, in
Magic Animals of Japan
A young man breaks his promise to the woman who
loves him; she turns into a
dragon and burns him to a crisp.
Elijah’s Violin, in Elijah’s Violin and Other Jewish Fairy
Howard Schwartz. Oxford University Press, 1994.
The youngest daughter asks her father to bring her Elijah’s violin,
which summons a prince when she plays it. Her jealous sisters drive the
prince away, but with the wise woman’s help, she rescues him.
The Fairy Frog, in Black Fairy
Tales by Terry
Tombi-Ende is buried alive by her jealous sisters, but
she keeps crying out, “I
am Tombe-Ende, I am not dead, I am alive like one of
you,” and an enchanted
frog hears her and saves her.
The Farmer’s Wife and the Tiger, in
The Magic Umbrella
Other Stories for
Telling compiled by Eileen Cowell. David McCay,
The tiger demands the farmer’s bullocks. The farmer
promises his wife’s milk
cow instead. The wife tricks the tiger out of both. As
retold by Ikram Chugtai in
Folktales from Asia, Cultural Center for UNESCO.
The Five Eggs, in Ride with
the Sun: An Anthology of Folk
from the United Nations by Harold Courlander.
McGraw-Hill, 1955, o.p.
Juan begs money for five eggs. Juanica cooks them.
Each stubbornly claims
right to eat them. Juanica says she’ll die, Juan says go
ahead, and the grave
dug before she gives in. But when they get home, she
eats three eggs. From
Stories From the Americas, collected and
translated by Frank Henius.
Ecuador, probably of European origin.
Flossie and the Fox, by Patricia
McKissack. Dial, 1986.
The neighbors’ hen house has been cleaned out by a
fox, so Flossie Finley is
taking them a basket of eggs. When an arrogant old fox
chats her up along the
way, this self-possessed African-American girl uses her
quick wit to drive him
to distraction. Author’s adaptation of a family story.
A Fox Who Was Too Sly, in
Magic Animals of Japan
by Davis Pratt.
The fox tries to trick an old woman but she tricks--and
The Gay Goss-hawk, in
Heather and Broom: Tales of the
Scottish Highlands by Sorche Nic Leodhas. Holt,
An English lady, prevented by her father from marrying
her Scottish laird,
carries out a bold plan to rejoin her true love. Retold from
The Ghost’s Bride, in The
Rainbow People by
Laurence Yep. Harper Collins, 1989.
A brave and clever mother saves her daughter from
being the bride of a ghost.
The Girl and the Moon Man: A Siberian tale, retold and illustrated by
Jeanette Winter. Pantheon Books, c1984.
A lonely moon unsuccessfully tries to carry a young girl off into the
sky. She and her faithful reindeer fend him off, then capture him and
win many timeless gifts in exchange for his release.
The Girl Who Overpowered the Moon,
in The Man in the
from Many Lands by Alta Jablow and Carl
Withers. Holt, 1969, o.p.
A Chuckchee tale in which a reindeer herder is pursued
by the moon. She
keeps tricking the moon until he is exhausted and
promises to give her people
light at night and to measure the year for them.
The Goblin’s Giggle, in The
Goblin’s Giggle and Other
Bang. Peter Smith, 1988.
A bride stolen away by goblins is rescued by her mother
and a nun. When the
goblins drink the river to catch them, they escape by
making the goblins laugh.
The Husband Who Was to Mind the House,
in East of the
Sun, West of the
Moon by P.C. Asbjornsen. Dover, 1970, o.p. Also
in Times for Fairy
Tales, Old and New by May Hill Arbuthnot.
A farmer finds that his wife’s work is not so easy as he
I’m Tipingee, She’s Tipingee, We’re Tipingee
Too, in The
and Other Haitian Folktales by Diane Wolkstein.
Tipingee organizes her friends to dress like her, so
the old man who has
come to take her away won’t be able to pick her out.
The Khan’s Daughter: a Mongolian folktale, by Laurence Yep; illustrated
by Jean and Mou-Sien Tseng. Scholastic, c1997
A simple shepherd must pass three tests in order to marry the Khan’s beautiful daughter. The third test is set by the daughter, who wants
something besides the strength and bravery her parents demand.
The King’s True Children, in
The Beautiful Blue Jay and
Tales of India
John W. Spellman. Little, Brown, 1967, o.p.
Jealous older wives send the youngest queen’s two
children down the river,
where they are rescued and raised by a fisherman and
his wife. When grown,
the brother follows a quest to a sacred spring, but looks
back and is taken by
demons. His sister sees that the milk he left has turned
blood red and goes to
rescue him. She succeeds, and her fame brings her a
reunion with their birth
The Lad in Search of a Fortune, in
Cap o’Rushes and
Winifred Finlay. Harvey, 1974, o.p.
A farm lad sets out to find a rich man’s daughter and
rescue her, but is himself
rescued by a wise country lass instead.
The Legend of Bluebonnet, retold by
Tomie de Paola. Putnam,
The Great Spirits told the Comanche People to sacrifice
their most precious
possession to end a drought that had killed many,
including the parents of one
little girl. When the little girl sacrificed a doll made for her
by her mother, the
Spirits covered the hillsides with bluebonnets and ended
the drought. Comanche
A Legend of Knockmany, in
Celtic Fairy Tales by
Joseph Jacobs. Dover, 1968.
Fin M’Coul is afraid to fight Cuhullin, a bigger giant, so
Fin’s wife, Oonagh,
tricks Cuhullin. Ireland. Also in a picture book version by
Tomie de Paola, Fin M’Coul, the giant of Knockmany
Hill. Holiday, 1981.
The Lion’s Whiskers, in The
Lion’s Whiskers: Tales of High
Africa by Brent
Ashabranner and Russell Davis. Little, Brown,
A woman tames a lion in order to win the love of her little
stepson. An antidote to
all those bad-stepmother stories and a hint about why
they exist. Ethiopia.
The Little Daughter of the Snow, in
Old Peter’s Russian
Tales by Arthur Ransome. Viking, 1975.
For once it is a daughter, not a son, who is longed for.
The girl that the old
couple make out of snow is active and independent.
The Little Porridge Pot, in
Children Tell Stories by
Martha Hamilton and Mitch
Weiss. Richard C. Owen, 1990. In More Tales from
Grimm by Wanda
as “The Sweet Porridge.” Coward-McCann,
A wise woman gives a poor girl a magic pot. Her mother
forgets the words that
make it stop producing porridge, and the town is
inundated before the girl
arrives to stop it. Germany.
Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from
China, retold by Ed
A girl uses her wits to kill a wolf dressed up as Po Po, her
author’s dedication thanks “the wolves of the
world for lending their good
name as a tangible symbol of our darkness.”
The Magic Wings: a Tale from China,
retold by Diane Wolkstein.
The goose girl is determined to grow wings, and after all
the women in the
country become involved, she does. Also in
Joining In, compiled by
Teresa Miller (Yellow Moon, 1988) with instructions
from Diane on doing it as a
Malindy and Little Devil, in Her Stories: African American
Fairy Tales, and True Tales told by Virginia Hamilton. Blue Sky, 1995.
Malindy is too little to get the best of the devil the first time they
meet, but when he comes back for her soul, she is grown up and fools him
with a pun.
Mary Culhane and the Dead Man, in
The Goblin’s Giggle
Other Stories by Molly Garret Bang. Peter Smith
Mary keeps her wits about her even under the power of
a dead man, and wins
three pots of gold. Ireland.
Mirandy and Brother Wind, by
Patricia McKissack. Knopf,
A turn-of-the-century African-American girl is set on
dancing with magical,
high-steppin’ Brother Wind at the junior cake-walk
contest. After confiding her
plan to catch the wind to the clumsiest boy in town, she
sees there’s another
way the wind’s magic can help her. Author’s adaptation
of a family
The Moon Princess, in The
Beautiful Blue Jay and Other
Tales of India by John W. Spellman. Little, Brown,
Princess Radha rejects all her suitors; they are vain or
stingy or talk about
food all the time. She wishes for a husband as beautiful
as the moon. The
Prince Moon’s emissary comes for her, her grandfather
argues with him and
the little man starts to pull him up to the moon. Radha
goes to his rescue and
they all end up on the moon, perfectly happy.
The Moon’s Escape, in Once
in the First Times, Folk Tales
from the Philippines by Elizabeth Hough Sechrist.
MacRae Smith, 1969,
A princess fights a giant crab who wants to eat the
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, by
John Steptoe. Lothrop,
A snake is well treated by a young African woman who
knows he is good for
her garden. He turns out to be a handsome prince.
Mutsmag, in Grandfather
Tales by Richard Chase.
An Appalachian tale similar to “Mollie
Whuppie” in which a girl steals a
treasure, but Mutsmag wins gold, not husbands.
A New Year’s Story, in Tales
from a Taiwan Kitchen
by Cora Cheney. Dodd, Mead, 1976, o.p.
The young widow Teng saves her child from the terrible
dragon ghost; a
legend that explains New Year’s customs.
The Nixie of the Mill Pond, in
Fairy Tales by Jacob
Wilhelm Grimm. Various editions. A brave wife rescues
her captive husband with the
aid of a wisewoman. Germany.
Odilia and Aldaric, in The
Giant at the Ford And Other
Legends of the Saints
by Ursula Synge. Atheneum, 1980, o.p. Also available on
cassette, Saints and Other Sinners (Kind
A warrior rejects his blind daughter and she is raised in a
convent. At baptism
she regains her sight. Then begins a contest of wills
between equally stubborn
father and daughter. Alsace.
The Old Jar, in The Rainbow
People by Laurence
Yep. Harper Collins, 1989.
An old woman hangs onto an old jar despite difficulties
and seemingly better
offers, and the jar supplies her with rice for the rest of
her life. China.
The Origin of the Camlet Flower, in
Ride with the Sun: An
Anthology of Folk
Tales and Stories from the United Nations by
Retold from Poesias y Leyendas para los
Niños, by Fernán Silva
A white girl drowns while trying to save an Indian child.
The Indians bring a
message from their god that the girl will live on as a
water-flower blue as the
girls eyes, and it is so. Uruguay.
The People Who Hugged the Trees: An
Environmental Folk Tale,
adapted by Deborah Lee Rose. Roberts Rinehart,
Amrita loves the trees that protect her desert village from
sandstorms. When a
ruler orders the woods cut, she runs to hug her favorite
tree and the other
villagers do the same. The ruler is adamant until a
sandstorm comes and he
sees that the trees are more useful as trees than as a
Princess Maring, the Huntress, in
Folk Tales from the
Philippines by Dorothy Lewis Robertson. Dodd,
The princess falls in love with her father’s enemy while
The Prisoner, in The
Arbuthnot Anthology of Children’s
Literature by May Hill Arbuthnot. 3rd ed. Scott
A huge fish swallows Rangi when she refuses to marry
him. She cuts her way
out through the thin flesh of his throat, which is why all
fish have gills today.
The Rajah’s Rice: A Mathematical Folktale from India, adapted by David
Barry. Scientific American Books, c.1994.
When Chandra, the official bather of the Rajah’s elephants, saves them
from serious illness, she uses the Rajah’s own chessboard to exact from
him a reward more costly than he realizes.
The Samurai’s Daughter: A Japanese Legend, retold by Robert San Souci.
A samurai is banished for an affront to the Mikado. His daughter,
seeking him, slays a sea-serpent and finds near it a long-lost statue of
the Mikado and restores her father to favor. Also in Animal Folktales
around the World by Kathleen Arnott (Walck, o.p.) as “The Slaying of the
Savitri and the Lord of the Dead, in
The Buried Moon and
Other Stories by Molly Bang. Scribners, 1977,
Savitri, knowing that her husband will die, fasts and
meditates. When the Lord
of the Dead comes, she can see him, and by her wisdom
forces him to give back her husband. Also in
Homespun: Tales from
America’s Favorite Storytellers as retold by
Laura Simms (edited by Jimmy
Neil Smith for Crown, 1988).
The Serpent-Slayer, in Sweet
and Sour; Tales from China
by Carol Kendall and Yao-wen Li. Houghton
Mifflin, c. 1979.
Li Chi lures the maiden-eating serpent with rice-balls; it
scalds itself in the
boiling honey-syrup and she slays it.
The Shell Woman & the King: A Chinese folktale retold, by Laurence Yep;
paintings by Yang Ming-Yi. Dial Books, 1993.
To save herself and her husband from an evil king, Shell agrees to
bring him three wonders. The third lets us know that she is clever as well as
The Skull, in The Book of
Ghosts and Goblins by
Ruth Manning-Sanders. Dutton, 1973, o.p.
An orphan girl de-haunts and wins a castle by defending
a skull from the
skeleton that wants to steal it. I prefer to leave the little
girl with the castle,
playmates and servants she has won from the skeleton.
She doesn’t need--and
the story doesn’t need--the promise of a prince later.
Slue-Foot Sue and Pecos Bill, in
Larger Than Life: John
Henry and Other Tall Tales by Robert San Souci.
Slue-Foot rides a giant catfish, but when she tries
wearing a bustle she gets
Spin, Weave, Wear, in
Heather and Broom: Tales of the
Scottish Highlands by Sorche Nic Leodhas. Holt,
This starts like Rumplestiltskin, but the lass pays in
advance for the magic,
and strikes a better bargain.
The Squire’s Bride, in Children
Tell Stories by
Martha Hamilton and Mitch
Weiss. Richard C. Owen, 1990. Also in Norwegian
Folk Tales by Peter
Asbjornsen. Pantheon, 1982. Also published separately,
The wealthy squire won’t take “no!” for an
answer, so the farmer’s
daughter makes him look ridiculous. The Children
Tell Stories version
leaves out the ageist aspect.
The Story of Oskus-ool and His Wise Wife,
in How the
Moolah Was Taught a
Lesson and Other Tales from Russia by Estelle
Titiev and Lila Pargment. Dial,
Oskus-ool wins wealth and a wife from the old wolf. The
wife’s beauty draws
the envy of the Khan’s son, but her wisdom and
knowledge of magic protect
Strega Nona: An Old Tale, retold by
Tomie de Paola. Simon &
Schuster, c. 1975.
The good witch’s apprentice uses the forbidden pot and
inundates the town
with pasta. The townspeople want to string him up, but
Strega Nona says, “Let
the punishment fit the crime,” and makes him eat
all the pasta. Italy.
The Talking Eggs, retold by Robert
San Souci. Dial, 1989.
The sister who shows neither fear nor amusement at the
old woman’s magic is
Tamlane, in More English
Fairy Tales by Joseph
Jacobs. Dover, 1967.
Burd Janet rescues Tamlane from the fairies by holding
him as they change
him into one frightening thing after another. Retold from
the ballad. British
Isles. Also separately as Tam Lin: an old ballad,
retold by Jane Yolen. Harcourt, 1990.
This Time, Tempe Wick, by Patricia
Lee Gauch. Coward,
During the American Revolutionary War, a girl named
Tempe Wick helped
Washington’s army as best she could. But hungry
soldiers eventually mutinied,
and tried to steal her horse. Tempe responded with
cunning, then with force, to
keep what was hers. Based on a legend from Jockey
Hollow, New Jersey.
The Three Little Eggs, in Black
Fairy Tales by Terry
Berger. Atheneum, 1969, o.p.
In this Swazi tale from South Africa, a woman takes her
two children and
leaves the husband who mistreats her. With the advice
of magical eggs she
finds, she defeats monsters and finds a new home.
The Three Spinners, in More
Tales from Grimm by
Wanda Gág. Coward, McCann, 1947, o.p.
An unskilled girl is forced to spin. Three old women offer
magic help if she
promises to invite them to her wedding. She does, and
they explain their
various deformities as the result of spinning. The groom
forbids her to spin.
Germany. There is also a Scandinavian version.
Three Strong Women: a Tale from Japan, retold by Claus Stamm. Viking,
On his way to wrestle for the Emperor, Forever-Mountain tickles a young
woman he sees on the road. She won’t let his hand free. Her mother and
grandmother are even stronger, and he learns a bit about wrestling. Also
retold by Irene Hedlund as Mighty Mountain and the Three Strong Women,
Volcano Press, 1990.
Two Old Women’s Bet, in
Grandfather Tales by
Richard Chase. Houghton, 1948.
They bet on which one can make a bigger fool out of her
convinces her spouse he is dead, the other makes hers
a suit like the one in “ The
Emperor’s New Clothes. ” Appalachian.
Umai, in The Inland Whale
by Theodora Kroeber. U
of California Press, c. 1959.
A Yurok legend in which the lake girl canoes to the ocean
and meets the
shining girl of the sunset. Native American.
Vasilisa and Prince Vladimir, in
Tales from atop a Russian
Stove by Janet Higonnet-Schnopper. Whitman,
Vasilisa, disguised as a man, wins her husband’s
freedom by beating the
Prince’s troops in wrestling and archery and the Prince in
chess. Version in Andrew Lang’s Violet Fairy
Book (Dover) has queen rescuing husband by playing
Vassilisa the Wise: A tale of medieval Russia, retold by Josepha Sherman; illustrated by Daniel San Souci. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, c1988.
A clever and beautiful woman uses her wits to get her husband out of
Prince Vladimir’s prison.
A Weave of Words retold by Robert San Souci. Orchard Books, 1998.
A prince’s proposal of marriage is refused by a young peasant woman because he doesn’t know a trade and can’t read. He comes to her for weaving lessons, learns to read, and after their marriage teaches her to ride and use a sword. When the prince is kidnapped by a monster it’s his ability to weave that saves him from immediate death and his ability to write that allows him to get word to his wife of his whereabouts. She dons armor and leads the palace soldiers in battle to defeat the monster and save her husband. Armenian.
Thanks to one of our site visitors. I’d heard it before, but didn’t know it was out in a picture book. Good story, and I like the class angle as
well as the feminist message.
Wild Goose Lake in Heaven’s Reward: Fairy tales from China, retold
by Catherine Edwards Sadler; illustrated by Cheng Mung Yun. Atheneum,
A girl sets out to find the key that will unlock the waters of the
mountain lake and end the drought in her valley. She gets it by
Wild Robin, retold by Susan Jeffers.
Willful Robin gets a well-deserved scolding, runs away,
and falls under the
spell of the fairy people. A dream shows his sister Janet
how to save Robin,
and she does so. A “Tamlane” for younger
children. British Isles.
Wiley, His Mama, and the Hairy Man,
in The People Could
Fly: American Black Folktales by Virginia
Hamilton. Knopf, 1985.
A brave boy and his calm and tricky mama fool the Hairy
Man three times.
Winter Rose, in The Milky Way
and Other Chinese Folk
Tales by Adet Lin. Harcourt, 1961, o.p.
Two sisters, searching for rose petals to cure their sick
mother, fall into the
clutches of a wizard, but trick him and escape with the
The Wise Old Woman, in The
Sea of Gold and Other Tales
from Japan by Marianne Yamaguchi. Creative
The lord of a village orders all people over seventy-one
killed but a farmer
hides his old mother and it is she who solves an invader’s
riddles and saves the
village. The lord removes his edict. Also a picture book,
The Wood Fairy, in Favorite
Fairy Tales Told in
Czechoslovakia by Virginia Haviland. Little,
Brown, 1966, o.p.
A wood fairy entices a girl to dance and the girl’s
neglected work is done by
The Young Head of the Family, in
The Fairy Ring by
Kate Douglas Wiggin. Doubleday, o.p.
A Chinese story of a girl who knows how to carry fire in
paper (a lantern) and
wind in paper (a fan). Her widowed father-in-law
designates her head of the
family and she leads it to prosperity. Different versions in
The Milky Way
Adet Lin (Harcourt, o.p.), With A Deep Sea Smile
by Virginia Tashjian
1974) and Tales People Tell in China by
Robert Wyndham (o.p.). Not all
have the head-of-family conclusion.
The Greek, Roman and Norse mythologies include
many well-known stories
about goddesses. Here are a few from other cultures.
The Buried Moon, in More
English Fairy Tales by
Joseph Jacobs. Dover, c. 1904. Also published
separately in a retelling by Margaret
Hodges. Little, Brown, 1990.
The moon rescues a man from the Evil Things in the
Carland Bog, but is
herself captured. With the Wise Woman’s guidance, the
The Fairy of Hawili Falls, in
Folk Tales from the Philippines
by Dorothy Lewis Robertson. Dodd, 1971,
The “fairy goddess” of the woods falls in
love with a man who sees the
The Living Kuan-Yin, in Sweet
and Sour: Tales from China
by Carol Kendall and Yao-wen Li. Houghton,
The goddess answers three questions for each pilgrim,
but the generous Chin
Po-wan promises three answers to those he meets
along the way. How will he
get an answer to his own question?
Song of Sedna, retold by Robert San
The legend of an Inuit woman becoming goddess of the
The Cock, the Mouse and the Little Red Hen,
retold by Lorinda B.
The hen rescues her lazy housemates from the fox.
The Five Little Foxes and the Tiger,
in Animal Folktales
from Around the World by Kathleen Arnott.
Walck, 1971, o.p.
Mrs. Fox saves herself and Mr. Fox from the tiger by
using her wits, and brings
her conceited husband down a peg at the same time.
The Little Red Hen, retold by Margot
Zemach. Farrar, 1983.
retold by Paul Galdone. Houghton 1979. English/Spanish
edition by Letty
Williams. Prentice, 1969.
She will not share the bread with those who refused to
help make it.
Nine-in-One Grr! Grr! A Folktale from the
Hmong People of Laos,
Xiong. Children’s Book Press, 1989.
“That’s terrible!” squawked Bird. “If
Tiger has nine cubs
each year, they will eat all of us!” What can Bird do
to preserve nature’s
Two Donkeys, in The Magic
Orange Tree and Other
Haitian Folktales by Diane Wolkstein. Knopf,
Two donkeys change themselves into people for better
treatment, but the
jenny gets absorbed in housework and forgets to become
The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids,
in Fairy Tales by
Jacob Grimm and
Wilhelm Grimm. Various editions.
The mother goat saves her kids and kills the wolf.
This list was revised and annotated by Nancy Schimmel,
but many others have
contributed information: Camille Pronger, Marion Callery
Morter, Dolly Larvick
Barnes, Kendall Smith, Fran Stallings, Claudia Morrow,
California Association of
Children’s Librarians--Social Concerns Committee,
Group on Sexism in Library Materials for Children,
University of Wisconsin
School of Library and Information Studies Storytelling
Class, Summer 1977
and 1981, University of California Graduate School of
Library and Information
Studies Storytelling Class, Summer 1979, UCLA
Graduate School of Library
and Information Science Storytelling Class, Summer
Active Heroines in Folktales for Children is updated from Just Enough
to Make a Story: A Sourcebook for Storytellers by Nancy Schimmel
(Sisters’ Choice, 1992) and may be reproduced in its entirety only,
including introduction and credits, by any library, school or other
non-profit organization, without permission. (Remember to use recycled
Brave, Active and Resourceful Females in Picture
Sisters’ Choice Home
and Activities for kids