Saglana Salchak, a soon-to-be-five-year-old girl, lived with her grandparents in the taiga forest of Siberia, near the Mongolian border. When she awoke one morning last month, she wasn’t able to rouse her grandmother. Her grandfather, who is blind, told her to go to the nearest neighbor, five miles away, and get help. Saglana took a box of matches in case she needed to light a fire.
“It was very cold and I was so hungry,' said the girl. "But I wasn't scared. I was just walking, walking, walking. And I finally got there."
Semen Rubtsov, head of search and rescue in Tuva, praised the girl:
“Herders’ children are more prepared to such extreme situations than kids who live in the cities. . . .There was a great danger—wild animals. Bears are hibernating now, but Tuva is crowded with wolves . . . . In the dark she could easily have stumbled on a pack. This girl was lucky that she did not meet them. Her only hope would have been to climb a tree.”
This real-life adventure contains elements of "Little Red Riding Hood,” but in a different configuration. Did Saglana’s family tell her a tale about a child, a solo journey, and a wolf, I wonder. Many folktales for young children offer practical advice for dangerous situations. European "Red Riding Hood" tales warn children to stay on the path. Chinese “Red Riding Hood” tales describe escaping a tiger by climbing a tree.
The covered basketball court behind the Multnomah Art Center continues to serve as my research lab for contemporary hopscotch. After a year of observing and interviewing the kids, it appears that although traditional hopscotch is an inspiration for their drawings, none of the artists ever try to play. They are usually drawing solo This past week it's been raining heavily. Basketball players have stayed away, and chalk artists have covered the asphalt. Keiko suspects that squirrels may be responsible for this particular fantasy hopscotch, which originates about twenty feet outside the frame of the photo.
Born February 24, 1786
This is a portrait of Wilhelm Grimm in 1815, at the age of twenty-nine, just after the publication of Kinder- und Hausmärchen, known in English as Grimms' Fairy Tales. Nearly every portrait of the Brothers Grimm shows them as older men, but they collected and published their tales when they were in their twenties. Wilhelm went on to revise new editions of the collection for the next 45 years.
The first volume of the first edition of Grimms' Fairy Tales, published in 1812, was a very small book, 6 inches high by 3 1/2 inches wide—about the size of the display on my Kindle.
The book's publisher, Georg Reimer, advertised it as a family read-aloud, and also as a book that would help children learn to read. The book would fit nicely into small hands. The letters are clear, and the space between words and between lines is generous.
This page is from a copy owned by the Brothers Grimm. It shows the beginning of "Hänsel und Gretel." The handwritten note above the title belongs with the preceding tale, "Nasty Flax Spinning," and indicates that Jacob and Wilhelm heard that tale from Jeannette Hassenpflug in 1812. Other handwriting marks changes the brothers want to make in the next printing.
I've almost finished the manuscript of my book about the Brothers Grimm and their tales.
I love this self-portrait by Ludwig Grimm. It's so lifelike, I imagine I might run into him today in Portland.
Ludwig's more famous older brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, also loved to draw. But Ludwig had special talent. He studied with the painter Philipp Otto Runge, and became a well-known artist and teacher.
Ludwig Grimm drew portraits of his brothers and their friends, and also illustrated the 1825 children's edition of Kinder- und Hausmärchen—Grimms' Fairy Tales.
I can't claim credit for the heart of this story, just for discovering it in an old book of folklore and retelling it for children. This a folktale from Cameroon, Africa, about a bully of an elephant who wins wrestling matching with other large mammals, then falls victim to one of the smallest. It deserves to be reread and reheard for the wisdom it contains.
Read by Bob Kaminski.
It's never too early to start thinking about Krampus, the dark side of Santa (or Saint Nicholas, as in this photo from Austria).
Santa brings goodies in a sack, Krampus puts you in the sack.
For parents, Krampus was a useful bogey: "Be good, or else Krampus will carry you off!" Krampus was especially useful during long, cold winters in remote villages where children were cooped up in the house for weeks at a time and adults struggled to get them to behave. Was it cruel to warn them that Krampus would come and punish them? To reinforce the fiction of Krampus, masked figures would appear in winter parades. They visited homes to ask parents which children had been naughty and which had been nice. That way, parents could defend their children from Krampus and play the good guy.
Do unto ogres . . . . This is a very nasty ogre from Charles Perrault's "Petit Poucet" (Histoires ou contes du temps passé, 1697). Seven brothers arrive at this ogre's door after their parents lose them—on purpose—in the woods. Seven boys? What a coincidence! This ogre has seven daughters. But dinner, not marriage, is in the offing. The ogre feeds the boys and tucks them into a bed next to his daughters' bed. The youngest boy, Petit Poucet ("Little Thumbling") notices that the girls wear golden crowns. When the ogre leaves the room, Petit Poucet puts the boys caps on the girls, the girls' crowns on boys. After dark, when the ogre comes to slit the throats of Petit Poucet and his brothers, he feels their heads, and slits his daughters' throats instead. Eager to destroy the children of strangers, the ogre destroys his own family.
A miller dies, and all he leaves his youngest son is a cat—but a very smart cat. Puss has a plan to transfer the property of an odious ogre to his master. He lays the trap carefully, then tricks the ogre into showing off his power to change size and shape. Can the ogre turn into a fierce lion? Yes, and he does. But can the ogre turn himself into something small—a tiny mouse? More vain than cautious, the ogre takes the bait, and down into Puss's stomach he goes.
Perrault's "moralité" at the end of the tale (I did not make this up): "There is a great advantage in receiving a large inheritance, but hard work and ingenuity are worth more than wealth acquired from others."
Ogres in folk and fairy tales go by many names: troll, giant, zim, raksasa—on and on. Every culture has stories about big bullying brutes who threaten ordinary people. Through folktales, storytellers have passed along accumulated wisdom about this character type.
Take "Jack and the Beanstalk," for example. The giant lives in the clouds, high above everyone else. He hoards gold. He shouts nonsense ("Fee, fi, fo, fum!). He threatens ("I'll grind your bones to make my bread"). He might seem invincible. But wait! Storytellers encourage listeners (especially children) to think like Jack, to use their skills and their wits. Jack is nimble and quick. The giant is slow and bumbling. Jack's ace-in-the-hole is that the giant's wife is on Jack's side, right from the beginning. She sympathizes with her husband's victims—she is one of them. Perhaps some day storytellers will tell tales of the donald.
I am a children's author and folklorist based in Portland, Oregon. Before I became a full-time writer and speaker, I was a children's librarian, then a puppeteer and storyteller. I received my Ph.D. in Folklore and Mythology Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles.