The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America/La matadragones: cuentos de latinoamérica, by Jaime Hernandez, (April 2018, TOON Graphics), $16.95, ISBN: 9781943145287 (English)/9781943145300 (Spanish)
Recommended for readers 6+
TOON Graphics has a great collection of folktales from Latin America, simultaneously published in English and Spanish. Three tales starring intelligent female characters make up this volume; as with most folk and fairy tales, each one imparts its own wisdom using the story as a vehicle. The title tale, The Dragon Slayer, sees a young woman betrayed by her two horrible sisters; an act of kindness brings a boon in the form of a magic wand, which leads her to employment at a king’s palace, where she falls in love with a prince, who she must save. Twice. It’s got the best parts of a fairy tale: dragons, magic wands and rings, ogres, and a happily ever after; it’s got a strong, smart young woman who can stand toe to toe with mythical monsters and real-life intolerance, and she saves the day AND gets the boy.
Martina Martinez and Pérez the Mouse stars Ratoncito Pérez, a popular character in Latinx folktales. This version, told by Alma Flor Ada, comes from another book, Tales Our Abuelitas Told”, and is the story of a pretty but shallow young woman, Martina, who marries Pérez after turning down other animal suitors (Martina often shows up as a cockroach in other versions of the tale). When she runs to the store to get salt for a soup, Pérez tries to sneak a taste of onion and falls into the pot! Martina discovers him in the pot and runs sobbing around the village, where birds, a fountain, and a young girl all grieve for her in various ways. It takes a wise old woman to discover that no one has actually tried to save Pérez , and rushes over to put things right again. Always respect your elders, kids! And seriously, use some common sense and try to keep your head in a situation.
Tup and the Ants is a fun little story about the power of being smart and lazy. Tup is the youngest and laziest of three brothers, who marry three sisters. Tup’s in-laws are not thrilled with their lazy son-in-law, so when they send the three brothers out to clear the land for cornfields, they send Tup with less food to show their displeasure. Doesn’t matter: Tup finds a place to snooze, ends up meeeting a group of ants, and trades his food for their labor. This is a sweet little partnership, and pays off as the two not-so-bright brothers are hopelessly out of their league in clearing and planting a cornfield, and Tup builds his own little empire by continuing to trade food for labor. The moral of the story may be a bit ambiguous, since the lazy guy gets the accolades, but there is something to be said for knowing how to get the job done. And, as a later explanation points out, it’s a story that teaches listeners and readers about planning and undertaking a planting season.
A foreword from F. Isabel Campoy explains the power of folktales and the Latin American tradition, and features beautiful Aztec and Mayan pictograms and popular animals, like jaguars, monkeys, and dogs. An afterword goes into more detail about the origins of these three folktales, with photos and illustrations. A section on the oral tradition invites readers to personalize and create their own tales, with prompts to help them along. A strong bibliograpy includes books and online resources that will strengthen diverse folk and fairy tale collections and provide nice online resources for further research.
I absolutely love this introduction to Latin American folktales, and can only hope there’s a volume 2 somewhere down the line. This is such a great addition to folk and fairy tale collections and diverse, culturally rich collections. This would be great for a storytime for school-age kids – it’s such a fun read! – and a storytelling program.