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4.0 out of 5 stars Not entirely for children, 11 Nov. 2012
The themes of these traditional stories from round the world are surprisingly adult. As one of the stories admits, the old faithful is boy meets girl but the young people's families get in the way.

There are other themes too - the theme of someone who is different, who experiences life differently, is isolated or rejected, or is a stranger.

In this pre Marxist world, the poor overcome the rich to become rich themselves. There are complex stories of trickery and honesty succeeding, and of orphans and unlikely beggars making good. Someone gains the gift of understanding and talking to animals - and loses it again - experiencing unbearable grief. A king triumphs, only to be vanquished when his secret vulnerability is found out.

Or the natural world exerts an even more powerful force than money over humans and animals - these are stories of flood, mist, storm, hurricane. The man loses his friend in the jungle, lured away by a she-devil.
Or there are the more ordinary stories of human emotions:
- The clever worldly woman and the useless husband, who nevertheless wins out with the unwitting help of the robbers;
- The smelly old cat in the convent that in unlikely answer to prayer is catapulted over the wall of the convent and replaced with a kitten in what turns out to be a fair swap (in case you are worried about animal welfare).

Some of these stories are rich in images - you can imagine them as magic realist films in deep mist or bright sunlight. In one, a Native American story called Water, there is a girl constantly drawn to the sea, and her sea lover tells her it is because he pulled her from the waves as a baby when her parents drowned. The sea lover is wounded by her brothers' arrows and flees. She gives birth to a seal child, and she has to return him to the sea too because she fears for his safety, but when the Raven god pulls the mist down, she can return to the water's edge to see her child again.
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The Oxford Treasury of World Stories
The Oxford Treasury of World Stories by Michael Harrison (Hardcover - 1 Nov. 1998)
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