Smart Girls

Emma Tennant

  • ‘Clever Gretchen’ and Other Forgotten Folktales by Alison Luire
    Heinemann, 128 pp, £3.50, May 1980, ISBN 0 434 94899 3

‘Clever Gretchen’ and Other Forgotten Tales sets out to right a balance heavily weighted during the age of the great Victorian collectors of fairy-tales, ballads and lore. In that age, of the vapours and Mrs Beeton’s steam puddings, it was considered unlikely that a young woman, hearing of an attractive young man in some distant part of the world, would go off immediately in search of him – or that a judge’s wife would turn from the suet to the lawsuit and make a better job of it than her husband. Each tale shows a simple truth. This is that girls are as clever and energetic as anyone else, and that this has been the case in places like Russia and Germany and Norway and Aberdeen for as long as can be remembered. It is a truth which has been absent in later times from the stories we have chosen to tell to children.

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