Posts Tagged ‘myths’

MY BOOK HOUSE 4: Through The Gate

bk 4 spine0001Book 4 is a treasure of some of our most revered imaginative stories.  Cinderella, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed: iconic fictional characters whose names define magic and adventure. 

Most of the stories were new to me when I was first introduced to this book when I was a yung’un.  “Doll I’the grass” – I used to read it as “Dolly in the the grass”, but now I know the contraction “I’the” for what it really is.  “Brer rabbit” and “brer tar baby” – still don’t know what “brer” means.

The stories are simplistic in philosophy. It’s a bit unsettling at this age, but it made perfect sense when I was 9.  The beautiful girl gets the prince and her sister gets his brother.  A win-win stituation.  Stepparents and stepsiblings are evil.  Real men do hard labor with giant cattle.  The youngest daughter is the most beautiful and desirable.  Sounds a bit retarded now, but when you’re 9, if your head hasn’t been filled with internet and television filth, you just kind of go with it.

Reading this book, I think it was the first time I had seen Cinderella as something other than a blonde.  She’s wearing a powdered wig and a dress circa 1770-ish.  It looks like it weighs a ton.   My fav look was “Elsa” from “Elsa and the Ten Elves”.  Now there’s a story I could relate to! Elsa was very lazy.  She hated to get up early, and she especially loathed housework. Hellooo! {pointing at myself}. And, she had an absolutely to-die-for hairdo! I can only dream of having hair like that – that long, Teutonic wheat-blond hair. (The pic is in black-and-white, but you could tell it was blonde hair.)

elsa hair0001                cinder dress0001

In the Paul Bunyan stories, there’s a bit about the mess hall that I just loved and read over and over:

so Paul hired Hot Biscuit Slim, and there was a man who could cook!  Hot Biscuit Slim fed the loggers griddlecakes with maple syrup, bacon, ham and eggs, mashed potatoes and gravy, green corn and roasted duck; and he had working under him a man named Cream Puff Fatty who made delicious cream puffs, jelly rolls, gingerbread, jam tarts, and sugared doughnuts as big as platters.

Are you drooling? I’m drooling!

This volume introduced me to the twelve dancing princesses. I’ve seen versions other books, but I think this one may be the definitive.  That whole thing about the youngest daughter being the most appealing was a bit confusing to me back then. She was very young and very beautiful.  Then, as now, that’s all it takes, apparently.  Still, it was a great story about sneaking out to party all night! If literature is dress rehearsal for real life, this story is dress rehearsal for high school.

There’s also a couple of Halloween stories, a folk tale from Russia, one from China, a lovely assortment of European and American poems, and some adaptations.  “The Blacksmith” is the story of the song by Brahms.  “The Battle of The Frogs and The Mice” is a parody of the “Iliad”, and “Hansel and Gretel” is adapted from the opera by Engelbert Humperdinck. And, of course, a story from the Bible. A universe of creativity and a whole lot of psychology.

These are not books you can teach, but the vocabulary for this edition is teachable: fairy tale, folk tale, fable, tall tale, legend, yarn, retelling, adaptation.  There is also burgeoning representation of folk literature from the Americas – Canada, the US, and Mexico, specifically.  Most of the illustrations that are not black/white/grey are black, white, blue and orange.  The exception being “Cinderella” and the poem by John Greenleaf Whittier which is in yellow and black.  I really like how the editors always make it a point to include poems and songs.  When you’re a child, they are integral for learning how to manipulate language.


Der Schmeid (The Smith) by Ludwig Uhland

Paul Bunyan stories at

Motoko – Award-winning Japanese storytelling

My recommendation for “Hansel & Gretel” – the opera

Br’er Rabbit stories at

John Greenleaf Whittier at

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