World Folklore for Storytellers: Tales of Wonder, Wisdom, Fools, and Heroes (Sharpe Reference) by Josepha Sherman was actually released a year ago, but I recently received a review copy and wanted to share it with you. While it is marketed at storytellers through its title, it makes a great reference book for the rest of us, too. I consider it another strong addition to my library of world folklore collections along the lines of Favorite Folktales from Around the World (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library) edited by Jane Yolen and Best-Loved Folktales of the World (The Anchor folktale library) edited by Joanna Cole.
First here's the description from the publisher because I don't do that part of the work:
Unlike mythology's grand themes of creation, gods, and birth and death, folklore and fairytales celebrate the more fanciful adventures and experiences of magical creatures and larger-than-life figures. This companion volume to the popular Mythology for Storytellers is a treasury of favorite and little-known tales from around the globe--from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas, Australia, and Oceania. It is an engaging, informative, and captivating one-stop source for the world's folklore and tales.You can view a full table of contents on the publisher's website. I won't copy it here because it is long, especially considering the page count of the book. There are a lot of tales here, plenty to rival any other collection with even similar aspirations.
The introduction provides an informative overview of folklore, its purpose in world cultures and in contemporary society and popular culture. The book is then divided into four main sections, including tales of wonder, heroes, kindness repaid and hope and redemption, and fools and wise people.
The first section includes some of our most popular fairytales; here the reader finds versions of Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, Cinderella, and Rumpelstiltskin (to name just a few) from America to New Zealand. The second section recounts stories of the larger-than-life heroes who have stood up to evil and fought for what was right, as well as some notable but controversial characters. Included here are stories of Davy Crocket, George Washington, Robin Hood, Jesse James, and many more. The third section teaches lessons about different cultural morals and values through tales of supernatural creatures, common beggars, and sinners reformed. Finally, the last section tells entertaining tales of foolish common people, politicians and kings, and even entire foolish cities, followed by stories of those who used their wisdom to outwit and outlast.
Each tale type and the stories that follow are introduced with historical and cultural information as well as examples of yet other versions of the story. A bibliography follows each retelling so readers can find more information on the cultures and stories from each. A select master bibliography facilitates research and a general index rounds out this volume.
My final evaluation is that this is an excellent book. It was intended to be a reference book and behaves as such. It contains introductory notes and resources for each tale, including a short list of alternate sources for the tales. After all, this book is most likely going to end up in the reference section of any library and will either have tales copied for fair use purposes or it will be used to find the tales in other books since I doubt many copies will circulate. That said, this book should be in the reference section of many libraries. If I was still doing collection development in a library, it would a must add. It might be marketed to storytellers, but teachers will also find it is a great resource for many types of tales, not confined to tale typing, but offering tales with similar themes from different cultures, many tales I have not seen collected together before. (And considering I run SurLaLune, that is a big compliment.) So recommend this to your favorite librarian, teacher or storyteller. Or indulge in it for yourself...
And while we are here, here are some other titles by Josepha Sherman that may be of interest: