A brilliant, inclusive collection of traditional tales from around the world featuring amazing women and girls. Once upon a time, there was a handsome prince who – no, that’s not right! Once upon a time, there were strong, fierce women who plotted, schemed, took action, showed kindness, used magic and trickery, and made their own destiny. From the long-haired Petrosinella who escaped the tower and broke the spell that the ogress had cast over her and Nana Miriam who beat a hippo using politeness and magic, to Kate Crackernuts who tried to save her stepsister from her mother’s curse, these are stories of girls doing it for themselves! With stories drawn from all over the world, including China, Scotland, Armenia, Italy and Nigeria, Lari Don presents heroine stories that don’t leave girls sitting around waiting to be saved by the handsome prince.
Putting the spoken word on the page
Guest Post by Lari Don
When I write a novel, I’m just making it up. But when I write retellings of traditional tales – myths, legends, folktales and fairy tales – I’m passing on stories that have been told out loud for centuries or millennia. I want to do those stories justice, and I want to make the experience of reading them as compelling as hearing them told out loud.
So, how do I turn an oral story into a written story?
First I research the story, so that I can respect the culture and sources of the story, and if possible find several different versions.
Then I think about how I’m going to tell it, because I never ever tell a story exactly as I find it.
Then, before I type a word of it, I tell the story out loud, many times.
I tell the story out loud to get a sense of the story’s path in my head and its rhythm in my words. I tell it out loud to see the audience’s reaction, to see what moments excite or shock or surprise children.
Then I type it up, but not as I do when I write a novel, where I discover what happens as I go along. Writing up a traditional tale is like taking dictation. I type up what I can hear myself telling, so that what ends up on the page is exactly how I would tell it out loud, with rhythm, with repetition, with alliteration…
Then I tidy it up, taking out any bits where I ask the audience to join in, and ensuring the story makes sense without my voice or gestures conveying parts of the narrative.
Therefore, what’s on the page in Fierce, Fearless & Free – my new collection from Bloomsbury – is essentially what I would tell out loud, with that sense of spoken rather than literary language.
So in the Italian folktale about Petrosinella escaping from an ogre, the chase scene is filled with rhythmic repetition, using the same words again and again and again, as the ogre gets past every different magical obstacle in the same way.
In the Sumerian legend about the goddess Inanna wrestling a mountain, lots of the fighting verbs alliterate: bashing battering bruising…
And in order to keep all the stories moving forward at pace, I don’t slow down and describe settings or clothing. But one advantage a book has over a told tale is the opportunity to illustrate stories, and in Fierce Fearless & Free Eilidh Muldoon’s wonderful illustrations bring the settings and characters to life.
I aim to put the told tale story on the page, so the stories come to life when the book is read out loud. But I hope that some readers – parents, teachers, kids – read a story, then put the book down and tell the story to someone else, in their own words, in their own way. Because that’s how these old stories really want to be shared!
Lari Don is an award-winning writer for young people of all ages. She loved Scottish traditional tales as a child, and now loves gathering myths, legends and folktales from all over the world to inspire her novels. Since becoming a full-time author, she has written more than 30 children’s books, from picture books and early readers to middle-grade adventure novels and a teen thriller. Lari is passionate about visiting schools and libraries to share the traditional tales she loves, to show how those old stories can be used to inspire new stories, and to encourage young people to create their own adventures. Fierce, Fearless and Free is her fifth collection of traditional tales for Bloomsbury, returning to the theme of her first, the bestselling Girls, Goddesses and Giants. She lives in Edinburgh with her husband and two fierce, fearless and free daughters.