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The Lion's Whiskers and Other Ethiopian Tales, rev. ed. by Brent Ashabranner and Russell Davis. North Haven, CT: Linnet, 1997. ISBN 0-208-02429-8, hardcover, 96pp. $19.95.
I'm always curious, when I see that a book has a new and revised edition, about the changes that have been made. The physical differences between the old and new editions of this book are obvious.
The new edition has 16 stories, half as many as the original. The typeface is somewhat larger, there is more white space on each page, and the stories are illustrated in woodcuts by Helen Siegl. The result is an attractive book which is more inviting to the reader.
The stories are no longer divided according to ethnic group but each of the nine groups in the older version is still represented. Much of the introductory material about the tribes has been omitted. What has been retained is the intimacy of the collection. Brief introductions to each tale set the context for the story, or relate some anecdote about its collection, and make the reader feel as if the editor is right there, describing how things were. That connection between the collectors and the reader is one of the things I like best about the collection. The stories themselves are great. You'll meet the most patient stepmother in The Lion's Whiskers, a bold and clever miniature hero in Digit the Midget, and saints, wise judges, and the talkative turtle. Some of the stories have become familiar parts of storytellers' repertoires, others are less well-known. Ashabranner has revised the stories somewhat, tightening them, making the language flow a bit more smoothly.
A delightful collection full of wit and wisdom. I would name this a classic which should be in every public and school library, and with which every storyteller should be familiar.
The Second Story Review, Vol 3, No. 2, June 1998