The wisdom and artistry of Latin America's storytellers preserve one of the world's richest folktale traditionscombining the lore of medieval Europe, the ancient Near East, and pre-Columbian America. Among the essential characters are the quiet man's wife who knew the Devil's secrets, the tree daughters who robbed their father's grave, and the wife in disguise who married her own husbandnot to mention the Bear's son, the tricksters Fox and Monkey, the two compadres, and the classic rogue Pedro de Urdemalas.
Gathered from twenty countries, including the United States, the stories are here brought together in a core collection of one hundred tales arranged in the form of a velorio, or wake, the most frequent occasion for public storytelling. The tales are preceded by a selection of early Colonial legends foreshadowing the themes of Latino folklore and are followed by a carefully chosen group of modern Indian myths that replay the basic stories in a contrasting key. Riddles, chain riddles, and folk prayers, part and parcel of the velorio along with folktales, are introduced at appropriate junctures.
The collection is unprecedented in size and scope, and most of the tales have not been translated into English before. The result is the first panoramic anthology of Hispano-American folk narratives in any languagemeant to be dipped into at random or read straight through from "Once and twice makes thrice upon a time" to "They were happy as the dickens and ate chickens."
Part of the Pantheon fairy tale and folklore library, this rich collection is creatively edited and carefully annotated with an additional glossary and listing by motif. An excellent introduction will help the teacher or advanced reader, but the tales are accessible to all. Bierhorst has carefully arranged first the Inca and Aztec tales from the colonial era, then the tales gathered in the 20th century, set out in the format of a velorio, or wake, nine nights of stories told to keep those mourning the dead awake throughout the night. While many of the stories are clearly forms adapted from European folk and fairy tales brought to the New World by colonizers, even the most familiar, the Cinderella-like stories, have their own flavor and twists. The stories are short, many less than a page, often humorous, and just as often teaching a moral lesson. People turn into animals and then back again, die and rise, trick and are tricked, entrancing the reader. More than 100 stories from 20 Hispanic countries are jam-packed into this volume, many appearing for the first time in English. This valuable compilation is highly recommended. KLIATT Codes: JSA*-Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Random House, Pantheon, 386p. notes. bibliog., Ages 12 to adult.