The following books are available 
in both print and eBook editions
from all good bookshops and eBook retailers

To find out more with reviews and extracts
click on the links below each cover
or scroll down for full details


The most iconic woman of old Norse legend


The following are available 
in eBook editions only
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Illustrated with woodcuts by Joe McClaren

(Batsford 2021)

"The narrative voice is vivid and flexible, drawing in the reader from the beginning... There is good supplementary and background material too, in the endnotes... Kerven's praiseworthy ai is to "preserve the integrity of the plots and characters in the oldest written versions" [and] every tale rings true as traditional folklore... The text is a pleasure to read"
Folklore (journal of the Folklore Society)

"This book of fairy tales is lovely...all perfect in the way they are told. This is the kind of book you would want to read to others around a campfire/ bonfire... They are from different regions of the world, but still represent the various ways strong women stand up for themselves and others... A must-read for lovers of fairy tales and strong female protagonists!"
– Reader review on Goodreads 




An independent bookshop (1)

An independent bookshop (2)

The Curtains are drawn and the candles are lit; the fire's banked up to a warmth of glowing embers. Come inside, come inside to dream. Everyone is welcome!  Take a seat, put aside your work, shrug off your love pangs and family worries.  For grandmothers and wise women, old wives and young wanderers, have all gathered here from around the globe to share their wonderful stories.

Are you comfortable?  Do you yearn for a world in which magic exists, hope wins and every woman's heart is alive with courage?  Then let us begin!



Riddles (Central Asia)

Fire Woman (Hawaii)

The Stolen Baby (Scotland)

The Flying Head (Native American)

Bandits! (India)

Destiny (Lesotho)

The Mountain of Enchantments (Iran)

The Troll (Iceland)

Revenge (Alaska)

The Dragon (China)

The Power of Stories (Arabia)

The Stone Giant (Argentina and Chile)

The Birds (Poland)

The Ghost (Nigeria)

Shining Bamboo (Japan)

Notes and Sources

'Want a bet?' said the young woman.  'All right then, you answer my riddle.  Do you know what an invincible monster like you should fear most from a weak woman like me?

'Nothing,' said the ghoul disparagingly.

'Are you sure?' said the young woman. 'Well, my answer is my cunning. You obviously haven't seen enough of it yet.' 

– From Riddles, Central Asia

The old woman hitched up her skirts, dodged the chief’s sled and ran straight past it, through the fumes to the mountain peak. Something unearthly was happening: she had become as hazy as the smoke itself, shifting, fading, reshaping ...

Thunder crackled. The top of the mountain tore right open. A stream of blood-coloured molten lava gushed out. ‘Aieee!’ An ear-splitting, eerie screech rent the air. The feeble crone was gone ... yet she was still there. For she had transformed into her true self, become what she really was: Pele, sacred goddess of volcanic fire – and she was pursuing Kahawali!

Flames darted from her eyes. Black, choking smoke swirled in her hair. 

– From Fire Woman, Hawaii

After that, the ghost no longer tried to get rid of her. All through the horrible, hazardous places that he had warned of, she kept staunchly on his trail, until at last they reached his own country – which was the Land of the Dead. There at last the ghost stopped.

‘Well, well, well,’ he said, ‘I’ve never met any living being as obstinate as you. No doubt our long journey has made you hungry, eh? Well, I’ll take pity on you. We’ve been travelling for so long that this palm oil you sold me has gone stale. So make me a nice fresh batch of it, girl; and when you’ve finished, I’ll let you eat the stringy bits left over from the nuts.’

‘I’m not eating the nasty, stringy bits,’ protested the girl. ‘You eat them.’

– From The Ghost, Nigeria

On the third day, cowering in the midst of yet another freak storm, the fisherman promised his youngest daughter, Helga, to the troll. That night, after supper, he sent her out into the rain to fetch his oiled sea clothes, which he had deliberately left outside.

Now, Helga was shrewder and more valiant than her older sisters. She had already guessed that some terrible danger was afoot and had steeled herself to deal with it. She was not surprised to find the troll lurking out there. When he demanded a kiss, she stood on tiptoe and gave him a chaste peck on his repulsive cheek, to butter him up. As a result, he didn’t carry her away screaming and kicking, but took her hand in his own enormous paw, and led her, quite gently, over the hills to his cave in Gloom Valley where he ordered her to work as his servant. 

– From The Troll, Iceland


"Rosalind Kerven, connoisseur of myths and folktales...has translated and condensed sprawling, beautiful but inaccessible original texts from the 12th to 15th centuries into concise, elegant tales. Capturing Christian, Muslim and folk influences at play in Western Europe during this period, they celebrate romantic love at the same time as offering some salient points of  comparison. Whether it's simple escapism or century-spanning wisdom, this is a book to savour."
– The Independent

"Kerven's latest book is a lush retreat from the world and its troubles. In this respect, one might say it is the perfect book for these parlous times.... stands as striking testimony to the medieval claim that serves as its epigraph: 'No one is invulnerable against love' "
– TLS (The Times Literary Supplement)

"A fine collection of medieval stories, 
some well known, others deserving to be better known 
than they are. It forms a great introduction to the whole area" 
– Professor Helen Cooper, University of Cambridge

"As soon as all was quiet, Guenever summoned Launcelot to come urgently to her chamber... A spicy collection of almost 30 stories that originated from the 12th – 15th centuries, authentically and accessibly retold, and featuring courtly love, mystical passion, bawdy and jocular tales, scandal and feminist longing" 
The Bookseller

"A well selected collection of accessible 
translations...I enjoyed looking at them!"
– Dr Andrew Dunning, curator of medieval manuscripts,
 Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford


To find out more visit

collected 1636–1919

(Talking Stone – published July 2018

on amazon and Goodreads

"fascinating collection...presents some outstanding examples of historical Native American stories...sensitively retold to convey the flavour and colour of the oral storytellers...allowing us as readers, an enthralling insight into Native American storytellers and their diverse cultural backgrounds. Each of the ten sections of the collection has an introductory section describing the life, history and storytelling traditionsof the people behind these stories, complete with historical pictures... Each story is accompanied by short notes giving details of the original narrator where known, and summarising related stories...  Overall, it was a pleasure to review this book.  I recommend it without reservation; the scholarship is excellent."
Grammarye, the journal of the 
Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy
at Chichester University

"Billed as the most comprehensive book of its kind ever produced by a UK author, this fascinating sounding collection of Native American myths – including such extraordinary characters as Bear Woman, the Thunderbirds and the Keeper of the Brains of the Dead – is the result of three years' research in hundreds of archives.  Also covers ten different American cultures and their histories."
The Bookseller

"Sensitive, well collected and written from the perspective of a trained anthropological interpretivist" 

– 5-star review on

Over 100 ancient stories, verse narratives, songs, anecdotes and fragments of wisdom, all collected before 1920, sources from 55 different Native American peoples.

Presents much material never before available to the UK general reader.

Promotes harmony between people
and respect for the natural world.

Dramatic, humorous, haunting and inspiring –
using fantastical allegory 
to explore universal human behaviour and concerns.

Includes fascinating information about
the original Native American storytellers
and their diverse cultural backgrounds and histories.

Enhanced by ancient songs, wisdom and historical pictures.

Combines meticulous scholarship
with vivid storytelling true to the original narratives


UK print edition published by Talking Stone 2015
US / Canadian edition published by Chartwell (Quarto Books)  2017
eBook edition published worldwide by Talking Stone

‘I met a wild woman walking down the road.  
Her grey hair was grimy and unkempt, 
coiling round her shoulders like winter snakes, 
her eyes unnaturally bright.  
She hailed me and began to speak 
in a clear, compelling voice.  
This is what she told me.’

The stories of the Viking Age rank amongst the world’s great narrative traditions. Preserved orally through countless generations and eventually transcribed in the 13th Century, their vividly imagined characters and high dramas are richly embroidered with dark humour and wisdom.

This definitive and unique collection presents thirty-four of the most important Viking myths, heroic legends and historical sagas, many previously known only within the academic world. Gods, giantesses, dwarfs, valkyries, ghosts and dragons mingle with real life queens, kings, slaves, lovers and outlaws. Visions of the mythical creation and end of the world contrast with a graphic account of the Vikings’ discovery of North America. It includes tales of the cursed ring that inspired Tolkien, and the story behind Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Written  in consultation with leading scholars, the book also contains proverbs, spells, poems, riddles, detailed notes and a comprehensive glossary, offering a unique insight into Viking Age culture and beliefs.

"Myths and legends expert with a collection of 34 of the most important Viking myths, heroic legends and historical sagas... bring Viking people, culture and beliefs vividly to life...along with the odd dragon, ghost and valkyries" – The Bookseller

"Weaves together different versions of Norse sagas into highly readable and tellable renderings, that have also been carefully researched as the unobtrusive but informative notes show." - Gramarye, The Journal of the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy at Chichester University

"In presenting her versions of stories from Scandinavian myth and legend, as well as extracts from Icelandic sagas, Rosalind Kerven... writes in a distinguished tradition.  While many modern retellings of these stories are sanitized versions for children, Kerven's are aimed at adults and are better described as 'reimaginings', with copious endnotes explaining how her versions differ from their sources.  The stories are short and lively, a few even successfully presented in vers. There is a strong focus on character and dialogue... Those who already know Kerven's sources will enjoy spotting her many re-interpretations. Other readers should first enjoy these stories and then seek out the originals, precisely for their differences of tone and emphasis." – Times Literary Supplement

“An excellent and informative book surrounding all the Viking myths and legends.  The author’s writing style is so excellent and at a perfect pace so that it truly feels like you are sitting round a fire at camp being told a story… The range covered in this book is also exceptional, from all the places the Vikings travelled to, to the number of mythical creatures; gods, dragons, trees, trolls, all sorts.  All in all, an excellent, insightful and informative book that I am very pleased to have discovered.” – 5-star reader review on both and amazon.


(Talking Stone eBook September 2016)
Originally published by Cambridge University Press as
'In the Court of the Jade Emperor – Stories from Old China' 
two editions 1993, 1999

The first C.U.P edition
was selected by the 
Federation of Children’s Book Groups 
for National Tell a Story Week 1994

Great for reading aloud!


'What riches there are to read here! A wonderful variety of stories... and in a variety of tellers' voices, so that every story is different and a delightful surprise.   The language itself is immediate... The words have a truth and depth... a book both to instruct us on Chinese culture and to delight our narrative thirst. A real find!" – School Librarian 

Rosalind Kerven is the author of a number of excellent retellings of traditional stories from around the world and this collection is as good as the others. The language is lively and direct and she avoids both the archaic and the over-colloquial so that the stories have a timeless feel, but are easy to read." – English and Media Magazine

Rosalind Kerven has a fine record of retellings of traditional stories...luminously clear prose... Her style is free of the stilted formality which can still occur in such retellings." – TES

"My ten year old son doesn't like reading but he really enjoyed this book. He said it was different to other stories he had read and it was full of surprises!" – 5-star reader review on

  • King Monkey, the outrageously loveable, mischievous, anarchic anti-hero who ruled the whole world – and tried to take over Heaven too
  • Sea Girl, who climbed a lonely mountain and dived into a lake for the Golden Key, saving her people from dying of thirst
  • Bald Head, whose ocean-warming pig led him into the arms of a dragon princess
  • The talking ox who helped his kindly but impoverished owner to marry a goddess


  • On a cloud-trapeze – head over heels 108,000 leagues in a single leap
  • Forward in time with chess-playing fairies
  • Up to the sky and the Palace of Boundless Cold 
  • Down to the Underworld, where King Yama weighs up rewards and punishments for all the souls of the dead.

  • The secrets of Everlasting Life
  • The origins of yin and yang
  • The realms of the dragon kings
  • The magic horse that makes it rain
And lots more!

My research for this book led deeply into the world of traditional Chinese beliefs – Daoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, the deities of Heaven, the importance of family ancestors and the supernatural world – a fascinating counterpoint to the Western perspective. 

The first section tells of the extraordinary Monkey who tries to take over the whole world and Heaven too, only to be vanquished by the Buddha himself.  It's based on China's much loved 16th Century novel of the same name by Wu Ch’eng-en. My retelling  picks up the whimsical style of the original.  I often used to read this story aloud to older children in primary schools; they were always totally gripped and enthralled by the non-stop action and rich array of enchantment.

It's followed by a selection of China's favourite traditional stories – each one full of surprises, astonishing magic and unforgettable characters.

The stories are complemented by brief notes on traditional Chinese beliefs, updated for the new eBook edition.


  • In Which Monkey Proves That Nothing Is Impossible
  • In Which Monkey Gets Too Big For His Boots
  • In Which Monkey Tastes The Peaches Of Immortality
  • In Which Monkey Takes A Giant Leap To Nowhere

  'Ask me, ask me, ask me!' chanted another voice. 
  She spun round, and saw a green parrot looking down at her from the branches of a cinnamon tree.   
  'Sea Girl,' said the parrot, 'it is no good looking for the Golden Key until you have found the Dragon King's third and youngest daughter.' 
  'Oh where?' cried Sea Girl; but the parrot had already flown away.
  She turned and walked back into the bamboo forest. Very soon, a peacock alighted before her and began to strut about, displaying his beautiful tail. 
  'It is not “where?”, Sea Girl but “how”,' he said. 'And “how” is easy: you must sing! Go back to the shore and sweeten your throat with more water. Then do not stop singing until the Dragon King's third and youngest daughter comes to you.' 
   So Sea Girl did as the peacock told her. She sat down and sang until her voice was hoarse. By then the sun was turning red and sinking behind the distant slopes. 
   The waters of the lake began to stir and ripple. Slowly, the Dragon King's third daughter came rising out. Her body shimmered like a rainbow: one moment a dragon, the next transformed into a young woman, her necklace of water droplets sparkling with golden sunset fire. 
– from The Golden Key