The Golden Axe and Other Folk Tales of Compassion and Greed retold by Ruth Stotter. Tiburon, CA: Stotter Press, 1998. ISBN 0-943565-16-2 PB $22.95 184p
In 1953, Warren E. Roberts received the first PhD in folklore in the U.S. His thesis was based on his research with Tale Type 480. Tale Type 480, he discovered, had more than 900 variants around the world! Perhaps you will recognize this tale as Toads and Diamonds, Little Sister and the Month Brothers, or the Old Man and his Wen, but it is commonly identified as The Kind and Unkind Girl.
Ruth Stotter has gathered in this one volume, 33 retellings of variants of Tale Type 480. In addition she includes 17 summaries of additional variants, two puppet scripts, a felt board
Charts and appendices list countries from which the variants come, foods and animals mentioned in the stories, and the protagonists, for, of course, the protagonists are not always girls, or even female. Story notes are provided in order to refer readers to still other variants and add cultural information to increase the understanding and telling of the tale. Motifs found in each variant are also listed in the notes.
Though it varies slightly, the basic message in all of these stories is the same: be good, help others and you'll be rewarded; be wicked or greedy and you'll be punished. Justice. This type of story appeals to children who feel strongly the need for justice. How many times do we hear youngsters say "It isn.'t fair!" and hear the adult response, "Life isn't fair." In these stories, at least, the good are rewarded and the bad punished.
Not only that, the stories present lessons in common courtesy and compassion, teaching that one should do the right thing because it is right, and not because there is any hope of reward.
Stotter Press, 2244 Vistazo East, Tiburon, CA 94920