Thursday, February 4, 2010
We've had a bit of an accidental theme going with Hypatia's pictures books recently:
The Magic Nesting Doll is a fairy tale of a land locked in winter and night, and how one young girl must be both brave and loving to rescue the land and its prince. The illustrations, by Laurel Long, are lush and beautiful.
The Black Geese: A Baba Yaga Story from Russia is about a girl who is lax and lets her little brother be carried off so Baba Yaga can eat him! Through cleverness and bravery, she saves him and returns before her parents can discover her mistake.
The Littlest Matryoshka is a more American story, of a set of dolls waiting on the shelf to be bought by some child. It has an improbable ending, and I wasn't too impressed by it.
Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Brave starts off much like Cinderella, but then Vasilisa is sent to Baba Yaga and must work seemingly impossible tasks or be eaten. She is saved by the love of her dead mother, and her evil step-mother is instead punished by Baba Yaga.
The Snow Queen is another story of a boy carried off by a witch, this time the Snow Queen, and and his brave friend - a girl - who went after him and saved him through her love and bravery.
I've been struck by the fact that these stories are dominated by female characters - the heroes and the villains are all women. The stories are also very dark and violent, but they are fairy tales, after all.