Tag Archives: Mary Grace Ketner

J is for Jack

Ray Hicks told Jack Tales passed down for generations in the Harmon and Hicks families. Ray died in 2003.

Ray Hicks told Jack Tales as passed down for generations in Tennessee’s Harmon and Hicks families. Ray died in 2003.

Jack is probably the best known Fairy Tale protagonist in the western world, largely due to his blockbuster hit, Jack and the Beanstalk. However, that’s not his only tale. It’s not even his only name! Grouped as “Jack Tales” are many, many stories from all around the world. Wherever a lazy, hapless young man with a nagging mother sets out on a task, get’s lucky and wins the treasure, the kingdom, or the princess, you have a “Jack” whether he is called Hans, Aladdin, Ivan, Petit Jean (the Cajun “ ‘Ti-Zhon”), Juan Bobo or simply “the fool” or “the noodle.”

Do you have Jack Tales in your 398.2?

Bernier-Grand, Carmen T., Juan Bobo and the Pig, pictures by Ernesto Ramos Nieves. HarperCollins, 1994.

Davis, Donald, Southern Jack Tales. August House Publishers, 2005.

Ransome, Arthur, The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, pictures by Uri Shulevitz. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1968.

I is for Ivan (Bilibin. We’re on a first name basis.)

Illustration by Ivan Bilibin for The White Duck.

Illustration by Ivan Bilibin for The White Duck.

When I’m telling Russian folktales, Vasilisa steps into the theatre of my mind wearing a richly embroidered sarafan. Ivan Tsarevich, in caftan and pointy-toed boots, proudly rides the grey wolf through a fir forest to an onion-domed palace. Baba Yaga’s log hut on chicken legs boasts a steep thatched roof with colorfully stenciled eaves and window frames. Even barefoot Ivanushka wears his Kosovorotka, his side-buttoned shirt. For me, that rich imagery came from the brush of Ivan Bilibin. A costume and set designer as well as an artist, he created the theater my skazki protagonists play on.

I hope you have an edition of Russian Wonder Tales illustrated by my friend Ivan (!) in your library. His  art has been used in such collections for over a century!

Afansyev, Alexander, Russian Fairy Tales, translated by Post Wheeler and illustrated by Ivan Bilibin. The Planet, 2012 (paperback).

Avery, Gillian, Russian Fairy Tales, illustrated by Ivan Bilibin. Everyman’s Library Children’s Classics, 1995.

Bilibin, Ivan IAkovlevich Bilibin, Ivan Bilibin. Aurora Art Publishers, 1982. (Note: This is an expensive art book!)

In the 1970s, the Russian Ministry of Finance commissioned Goznak Press in Moscow to print a series of Russian fairy tales with Afans’ev’s text and Bilibin’s illustrations in beautiful, large format booklets on heavy paper. You can almost always find the books in Russian or English on ebay for $10-$20. Look for the Frog Princess, Sister Alyonushka and Brother Ivanushka and The White Duck (together in one book), Marya Morevna, Fenist the Falcon, and The Tale of Tsarevich Ivan, the Fire-Bird and Grey Wolf.

G is for Godfather/Godmother Death


Godfather Death, unsigned illustration from the Grimm’s Children’s and Household Tales.

How might a tale evolve over time and travels? In Grimm’s 1812 collection, Godfather Death trains his ward to be a healer and gives him an herb that will save lives. But, he warns, the young man must follow Death’s guidance on when not to save a life, namely, when Death himself is standing at the foot of the bed. When those he loves become ill, the healer turns the bed around and saves them–though not without consequences! This tale migrated to America, and by the time Dobie recorded it for a 1935 collection, Death had become “Godmother Death.”

Do you have these collections in your 398.2 section?

Grimm, a complete collection, any edition.

Dobie, J. Frank, Tongues of the Monte. Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1935. (Or the 1980 UT Press reprint. If you have the original, it’s worth a lot!)

Dobie, J. Frank, I’ll Tell You a Tale. UTPress, 1981. (Created from his other collections, this anthology includes “Godfather Death.”)


Look me up at the Texas Library Association Conference this week. I’m in booth 2511.

F is for Fairy Tale

Another Kay Nielsen: Hansel and Gretel

Another Kay Nielsen: Hansel and Gretel

A fairy tale is a tale of grace: an unexpected blessing. In fairy tales, something magical intervenes to transform an individual’s social/emotional state as when a broken home is healed (Hansel and Gretel), a marriage created (Marya Morevna), a lost relationship recovered (Rapunzel and her prince), or a vocation empowered (The Shoemaker and the Elves). By hearing of others overcoming obstacles to reach a state of joy, our own spirits are lifted vicariously. “Once upon a time” opens the door for the tale to be our own, and when “happily ever after” befalls the protagonists, it also falls upon us.

Find meaningful fairy tales for each stage of life in these volumes:

Andersen, Hans Christian and Maria Tatar, The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen. W. W. Norton & Company, 2007.

Chinen, Allen B., In the Ever After Fairy Tales and the Second Half of Life. Chiron Publications, 1989.

Pearson, Carol S., The Hero Within. HarperOne, 2013.


Drop by my booth 2511 at the Texas Library Conference this week!

H is for Hodja

Turkish folktale collector Warren Walker gave me a copy of this Hodja drawing made by a student of his.

Turkish folktale collector Warren Walker gave me this line drawing of Hodja sitting backwards on his little donkey. It was drawn by a Turkish student of his at Texas Tech.

If you go to a grand mosque in Istanbul, your clergyman is an imam; if you go to a tiny mosque in a village, he is a hodja, and if that hodja is Nasruddin–Ah! I see you smiling already!

His wife picks on him, his students play tricks on him, his neighbors badger him, his little donkey won’t cooperate, his congregation doesn’t let him get away with anything, even the great Tamerlane tries to sneer him down! Yet somehow the hodja maintains his charming toehold on wisdom. Like Aggie jokes, Hodja stories let people laugh at life and themselves.

Be sure to have a hodja tale or seven on your 398.2 shelves:

Clark, Raymond C., Nasreddin Hodja, illustrated by Robert MacLean. Pro Lingua Associates, 2004.

Demi, The Hungry Coat. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2004.

Shah, Idries, The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin. Penguin Books, 1993. (Shah has two other volumes, too.)


Texas Library Association Conference is in full swing! Drop by and say “hello” at booth 2511!

D is for Dancing Princesses


Henry J. Ford is best known for his illustrations of Andrew Lang’s color Fairy Tale books.

Another misleading fairy tale title! It’s not about princesses; it’s about the king, a father of teens. The tale begins and ends with him; it is he who transforms from being outraged by disobedience to accepting that–hey!–teenagers sneak out of the house. Throw a fit, but get over it. You did it yourself as a prince! And the old soldier? Couldn’t he be more appealing? Should he pick the youngest? the eldest? In the end, it doesn’t matter. The princesses sneak out, the soldier spies, but the king?–he is transformed, and that’s what fairy tales are about.

Do you have this tale in your library? If not, try these:

Grimm, Brothers, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, illustrated by Dorothee Duntze. NorthSouth, 2013.

Lang, Andrew, The Red Fairy Book. Any edition.

Pullman, Philip, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm. Viking Adult, 2012. (He uses the alternate title, “The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces.”


Shall I see you at the Texas Library Association Conference in San Antonio next week? I’m in booth 2511.

C is for Cinderellas


As long as there are abused children, or even children who believe their siblings have an easier time of it than they, there will be Cinderella stories to heal their wounds.


Cinderella Paper Doll by John B. Gruelle (Yes, that’s Johnny Gruelle who created Raggedy Ann). From McCalls Magazine in 1911.

The Blue Bull
The Brocaded Slipper
Cendrillon, The Cinder Maid
The Glass Slipper
Fair, Brown, and Trembling
Gold Star
Katie Woodencloak
Little Burnt Face
The Little Red Fish and the Clog of Gold
The Magic Orange Tree
Sodewa Bai
Vasilisa the Beautiful
. . . and more, of course.

To get through the known variants, you would have to read one a day for a year!

Do you have several Cinderella variants in your library? If not, try these:

Climo, Shirley, The Egyptian Cinderella illustrated by Ruth Heller. HarperCollins, 1989.

Louie, Ai-Ling, Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China illustrated by Ed Young. Perfection Learning, 1996.

Martin, Rafe, The Rough-Face Girl, illustrated by David Shannon. Putnam Juvenile, 1992.

Also, check out the Cinderella pages on Heidi Ann Heimer’s Sur La Lune fairy tale site. (http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/cinderella/other.html)

A is for Ali Baba

Aubrey Beardsley's Ali Baba.

by Aubrey Beardsley

Ali Baba may be the most beloved character from The 1001 Arabian Nights, yet he was not part of the original 11th-century manuscript Alf Leyla Wa Leyla. His tale was added in the 18th century by French translator Antoine Galland who probably heard it told orally in Syria.
Though Ali Baba is the protagonist in the most familiar part of the story, the “Open, Sesame” episode, the true hero of the narrative is his slave Morgiana who saves her master’s life and reputation and is rewarded by marriage to his son. Neither slave nor son objected to the union!

Do you have a copy of this classic tale in your library? Try these:

Burton, Richard and Anonymous, 1001 Arabian Nights. Bibliolife 2009.

Kimmel, Eric, The Tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand. Holiday House 1996.

Mahdi, Muhsin and Husain Haddawy (translator), The Arabian Nights. Norton and Company 1990.

You can hear the complete “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” on my CD, 1001 Years of 1001 Nights. If your Texas library does not have a copy, email me the address and I will send them one.