Jane Yolen

Books: Fantasy | Folktales

Favorite Folktales from around the World (1986)


Snow White, Blood Red (1993), Black Thorn, White Rose: A Modern Book of Adult Fairytales (1994), The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Seventh Annual Collection (1994), Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears (1995), The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror: Eighth Annual Collection (1995), A Wolf at the Door (2000), The Green Man : Tales from the Mythic Forest (2002), Swan Sister (2003), Emerald Magic (2004), The Book of Ballads (2004), Grails: Quests of the Dawn (2004), The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales (2007), By Blood We Live (2009), Firebirds Soaring (2009), Troll's Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales (2009), The Beastly Bride: Tales of the Animal People (2010), People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction & Fantasy (2010), Happily Ever After (2011), Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron (2012), Queen Victoria's Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy (2013), Beyond the Pale: A Fantasy Anthology (2014)

Favorite Folktales from around the World (1986)

Favorite Folktales from around the World

I picked this up in Cincinnati, but since I'm only reading a story or two a night before I fall asleep, it's not going very quickly. This is a very good collection, with a lovely collection of tales, some of which I had read before, but some that I have not. Although some are acceptable for children, some because they mention of sex, might not be, so I wouldn't get this book for a very young child, unless you were planning on reading it to them, and skipping the stories they might not understand. It would, I believe, be perfectly acceptable for a pre-teen or teenager who understands the concept of sex however. I mean, they're not sexy stories, they just might not make any sense to young kids.

I really liked the fact that although I have read collections of Russian and Chinese folktales, there were still stories with which I was unfamiliar. And of course it's always a pleasure to read a good story again, so it is not a bad thing when there are tales I already know, it is just that it is always a joy to come across a new tale.

I love the African Tale Talk which this collection contains. It may be one of my favorites, just because it always strikes me as really funny. I also enjoyed this tale, which I've read other versions of before, but this short version is one of my favorites.

The Old Man and His Grandson

There was once a very old man, whose eyes had become dim, his ears dull of hearing, his knees trembled, and when he sat at the table he could hardly hold the spoon, and spilled the broth upon the tablecloth or let it run out of his mouth. His son and his son's wife were disgusted at this, so the old grandfather at last had to sit in the corner behind the stove, and they gave him his food in an earthenware bowl, and not enough of it. And he used to look towards the table with his eyes full of tears. Once, too, his trembling hands could not hold the bowl, and it fell to the ground and broke. The young wife scolded him, but he said nothing and only sighed. Then they bought him a wooden bowl for a few halfpence, out of which he had to eat.

They were once sitting thus when the little grandson of four began to gather together some bits of wood upon the ground. "What are you doing?" asked the father. "I am making a little trough," answered the child, "for Father and Mother to eat out of when I am big."

The man and his wife looked at each other for a while, and presently began to cry. Then they took the grandfather to the table, and henceforth always let him eat with them, and likewise said nothing if he did spill a little of anything.

I sometimes think about this story when I hear people complaining about their elderly parents or grandparents, and wonder what they will be like when they reach that age. If they will remember.


Snow White, Blood Red (1993) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

I often have a hard time putting down interesting books. Which means that if I'm reading a book I real like before bed, I end up staying up past my bed time instead of falling asleep. One solution is to read non-fiction before bed. The other solution is to read short story anthologies. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of high quality anthologies out there. At least, not enough to keep up with the rate at which I can read.

So I decided to go back and reread Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's fantasy anthology Snow White, Blood Red. This book has a whole bunch of things going for it at once: it's edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling; it's got stories by Neil Gaiman and Charles de Lint; and the stories are retellings or reinventions of folk and fairy tales. Mostly fairy tales in this book.

Plus, a gorgeous cover by Thomas Canty.

For those who are unfamiliar with folk tales and fairy tales, many of the original tales--before they got cleaned up and given to kids--were filled with sex, (in addition to the casual violence of people getting eyes poked out or chopping off bits of feet or being shoved into ovens.)

In other words, these are not stories for children.

Also, the stories I liked less tended towards horror. This book is a collection of fantasy and horror (as are many Ellen Datlow-Terri Windling anthologies) so I expected that there were going to be at least one or two stories that I don't care for. So it didn't really bother me.

As best I can tell, this anthology is still available, so if you like short stories, this is an anthology you won't want to miss. However, if you like anthologies, this is probably one you already have sitting on your shelves.

Published by Harper Collins

Rating: 7/10

Black Thorn, White Rose: A Modern Book of Adult Fairytales (1994) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

There were several of these collections in the 90s–and I had the first two if I remember correctly.

These are fairy tales retold–some with a change in the point of view, some retold in a modern setting, and some hewing only rather loosely the tales upon which they were based.

I think my favorite story in the collection may be Roger Zelazny's “Godson" which retells a tale that's not particularly common, but one of my favorites. A boy has Death for his Godfather, and his godfather gives him gifts to use–with some stipulations. I very much like the twists that were put upon this story–especially the bicycle.

Another story I particularly liked was Jane Yolen's “Granny Rumple", though I'm not sure that like or enjoy are the proper terms for a story that's a retelling of Rumplestilskin–told from the point-of-view of the widow of the man who helped the foolish girl.

“The Sawing Boys" by Howard Waldrop was another I particularly liked, primarily for the use of Prohibition Era slang. Well, that and the fact it just plain made me laugh.

So here we are walking down this (pardon the expression) road and we are looking for a phone and a mechanically inclined individual, and we are not having such a hot time of it.

Please note that these are adult fairy tales. They are in the most part true to the original tales, but most adults would find those inappropriate for children.

Published by Wildside Press

Rating: 7/10

The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror: Seventh Annual Collection (1994) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Published by St Martins Press

Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears (1995) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Published by Harper Collins

The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror: Eighth Annual Collection (1995) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Published by St Martins Press

Black Swan, White Raven (1997) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Published by Avon

A Wolf at the Door (2000) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

I love folk tales and fairy tales, and I love the idea of stories that have been told and retold, and then finally captured on paper. The problem of course, is finding an author who is good at translating stories from an oral tradition into something that works well written.

There's something wonderful about a well-told short story, and I think that the best short stories in the world are folk and fairy tales.

Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling are very good at finding authors who can take these stories and retell them, and they always put together wonderful anthologies. They brought together thirteen writers for this collection of retold fairy tales.

Although one or two of the stories I found to be just okay, others were nothing short of excellent. It also seems as if the stories were I liked the best were towards the end of the book. For me the collection started out okay, and then got better and better the more I read.

Not that I think the purpose of these stories is necessarily to scare us, as much as it is to make us pay attention to what is happening around us.

Rating: 7/10

Black Heart, Ivory Bones (2000) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Publisher: Eos

The Green Man : Tales from the Mythic Forest (2002) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Published by Viking

Swan Sister (2003) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

I don't think I've come across a short story collection put together by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling that I didn't like, and Swan Sister is no exception to the rule.

The stories are fairy tales retold, by a variety of authors--many some of my favorites.

The collection opens with Jane Yolen's story "Greenkid." I cannot at all think of a specific story from which this tale strung, yet it contains multiple elements of folk and fairy tales, especially the idea of never sharing your name with a faerie, for names give such creatures power over you.

All in all, there wasn't a weak story in this collection.

Like A Wolf at the Door, this is a collection for children and young adults. However, the stories are so well written that adults should find them just as appealing. If you like folk and fairy tales, I highly recommend this collection.

Rating: 9/10

The Book of Ballads (2004) by Charles Vess

 Publisher: Tor Books

Grails: Quests of the Dawn (2004) edited by Richard Gilliam and Martin H. Greenberg

Emerald Magic (2004) edited by Andrew M. Greely

This book first caught my eye because I didn't expect to see Andrew Greeley's name in the fantasy section. Then I looked at the list of authors who wrote in this anthology: Charles de Lint, Diane Duane, Elizabeth Haydon, Morgan Llywelyn, Judith Tarr, Peter Tremayne, Jane Yolen. Even one of those names would have been enough inducement for me to pick up the book--but all those? And more!

Irish mythology, folktales, and fantasy. What more could I want?

Every story I read was excellent, although I did skip L.E. Modesitt Jr's science fiction story (I am rarely in the mood for science fiction.)

This is an anthology that I will come back and read again, so if you're wondering whether you should make the purchase, my recommendation if definitely YES!

Rating: 8/10

The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales (2007) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

I love short stories. Aside from collections by Charles de Lint, I best love anthologies by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling best. Their books are like comfort food, and I save them up for when I'm sick or feeling low.

In the same vein as The Green Man and The Faerie Reel, Datlow and Windling have this time collected stories about tricksters, and they've got some of my favorite authors in this collection: Charles de Lint, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Ellen Kushner. As usual, they manage to collect stories by some of my favorite story tellers.

If like short story collections, or trickster tales, then you will want to read The Coyote Road. It has stories from many of my favorite writers, and as with all their collections, I was delighted to discover new authors for whom I'll be on the lookout.

Published by Viking

Rating: 9/10

Firebirds Soaring (2009) edited by Sharyn November

Published by Firebird

Troll's Eye View: A Book of Villainous Tales (2009) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Published by Viking Books for Young Readers

By Blood We Live (2009) edited by John Joseph Adams

The Beastly Bride: Tales of the Animal People (2010) edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Viking Books for Young Readers

People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction & Fantasy (2010) edited by Peter S. Beagle and Shawn Wallace

People of the Book

Publisher: Prime Books

Happily Ever After (2011) edited by John Klima

Happily Ever AfterNot sure how I missed this when I first came out, but this anthology is full of things I love: authors whose books I love, stories based on folk and fairy tales–lovely!

The only thing I didn't like, is I wish the anthology hadn't ended on such a dark and depressing story.

Mind you, the dark and depressing stories were good–very good–but these tales ran very true to the original stories, with a not insignificant amount of rape and incest and general horribleness. Just like the original tales.

But there's also a good amount of humor as well, and I just wished the collection had ended with one of the funnier stories.

I particularly liked Jane Yolen‘s “Snow in Summer." Summer (or Snow) is self-aware and does her own rescuing, which I always like.

Please note, as previously mentioned, the stories have rape and incest and lots and lots of sex in addition to evil stepmothers and other such killers.

There were also a fair number of very dark and very depressing tales that were very good, but that I didn't enjoy at all.

Published by Night Shade Books

Rating: 8/10

Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron (2012) edited by Jonathan Strahan

This is a lovely YA anthology, with some amazing stories by some of my favorite authors. I didn't love all the stories, but none of them were bad. The theme is young witches coming of age, but the stories are far greater than that.

Elle Kushner is another who seems incapable of writing a story I don't love. “The Threefold World" is the story of Elias Lönnrot becoming a great Finnish scholar. It is very similar in some ways to Jane Yolen's story, “Anderson's Witch" in that both take historical figures and imagine how they came to study and write about the other realms. Both stories are very very good.

Published by Random House

Rating: 9/10

Queen Victoria's Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy (2013) edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling


I love anthologies and I love historical fiction. So this should have been an automatic win for me.

Instead it was a two-plus year slog that I finally forced myself to finish.

The Jewel in the Toad Queen's Crown by Jane Yolen.

“She wanted to be God," the queen mused.

“Why would anyone want to be God? It's a terrible occupation."

Published by Tor

Beyond the Pale: A Fantasy Anthology (2014) edited by Henry Herz

Beyond the PaleI probably started reading this right after it came out, and got hung up on a single story. Two years later I decided to skip through the stories that didn't interest me and finish the anthology.

The noun “pale" refers to a stake (as in impaling vampires) or pointed piece of wood (as in a paling fence). “Pale" came to refer to an area enclosed by a paling fence. Later, it acquired the figurative meaning of an enclosed and therefore safe domain. Conversely, “beyond the pale" means foreign, strange, or threatening.

“A Knot of Toads" by Jane Yolen I quite liked. A young woman returns home for her father's death–although it ends up being his funeral. There is something strange about his death, but no one will say anything straight out, perhaps because she's been gone for so long she is no longer one of them, or perhaps because they don't want to call bad things by speaking of them.

Even at five and six and seven I'd been an unbeliever. Not having a mother had made me so. How could I worship a God whom both Mrs. Marr and my father assured me had so wanted mother, He'd called her away. A selfish God, that, who had listened to his own desires and not mine. Such a God was not for me. Not then. Not now.

Published by Birch Tree Publishing

Rating: 7/10