Elder Tales: Stories of Wisdom and Courage from Around the World
by Dan Keding
Libraries Unlimited, 2007
Traditional folktales from around the world celebrate the wisdom, courage, and even the follies of elders, presenting them as crones, wise men, sages, magic helpers, and fools. Arranged by story type, these are tales that can be used in the classroom and library, as a springboard for cultural comparisons and discussion of how wisdom is shared between generations, and how elders contribute to and are perceived by various societies. It is also a fine resource for storytellers performing in senior centers, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes.
Think folk and fairy tales are all about mischievous animals, beautiful princesses, and handsome princes? Think again. One of the most prominent themes in folklore is that of the strength and role of the elders, a theme that deserves revisiting today. This collection gathers traditional folktales from around the world to celebrate the wisdom, courage, and even the follies of elders.
Arranged by story type, these are tales that can be used in the classroom and library, as a springboard for cultural comparisons and discussion of how wisdom is shared between generations, and how elders contribute to and are perceived by various societies.
This was a required textbook for my Storytelling course in Grad school. Calling it a “textbook” isn’t really correct, though, because what this book really is is a great collection of tales about elders and the process of growing older and the wisdom aging brings you. It would be suitable for you to use as adaptations for live storytelling (several people in my class used tales from the book for their required tellings) or to simply read the stories to your students or even your children at home.
I don’t really have a ton to say about this book except that I enjoyed pretty much every single story he included. I also appreciated how he cited them, letting the reader know what cultures/countries the tales came from and even giving credit to the original tellers who he took the adaptations from. This has become common practice of late, but it’s still nice to see people giving credit where credit is due.
I had several stories that I really enjoyed from this collection, but here are a few highlights, in case you want to look them up in more detail:
- The Mountain Where Old People Were Abandoned (from Japan)
- The Deluded Dragon (from the Romany culture)
- The Story Bag (from Korea)
- The Father Who Went to School (from Ukraine)
- The Three Brothers and the Pot of Gold (from Moldavia)
- The Nasrudin Tales (from the Middle East) – these are just funny :)
- The Old Woman Who Lived in a Vinegar Bottle (from England)
- The Husband Who Stayed at Home (from Norway)