MY CURRENT BOOKS
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"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
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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)
The Mountain of Enchantments (Iran)
The Troll (Iceland)
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
"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 amazon.com
"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 goodreads.com and amazon.
REVIEWS OF THE FIRST EDITION
'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 www.amazon.co.uk
'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