"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Wise Old Woman by Yoshiko Uchida, Illus. by Martin Springett

I'm back with a renewed desire to look at illustrated fairy and folktales from different cultures. This time I have chosen Japan. In the past, I have checked out tales from Russia and Africa.

Today's tale, The Wise Old Woman, satisfies me personally because it values both women and old age. In a town where anyone over 70 years old is deemed useless and condemned to die, live a young farmer and his clever and considerate old mother. Unable to leave his mother to perish, the farmer privately defies their cruel lord and hides her in a secret room under his home.

A couple of years later, when another mighty lord threatens to conquer the village, who is able to meet his challenge and save the people? Naturally, it is the wise woman. Three impossible tasks are set that baffle the wittiest ones in town, as well as an intelligent badger. When the village lord realizes that the old mother has solved the riddles and prevented the overtaking of his land, he gives her three bags of gold and decides that all the elderly must be treated with respect and shown honor.

Yoshiko Uchida was a Japanese American author who wrote more than 30 books, many of them about Japanese folklore. Martin Springett is a British-born illustrator of adult Fantasy, as well as children's books. His paintings for The Wise Old Woman are done with airbrush and ink. His pictures take the reader to a time "long ago," and he dresses and arms his characters in what I would assume is a traditional style. The pretty old mother stands up tall and serene as she meets her challenges and improved fortune.


Librarian D.O.A. said...
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Librarian D.O.A. said...

Good to see you back! There was a young woman in this week looking for fairy tales for a class and I wanted to tell her she should speak with our fairy tale expert, which would be you!