Y’know, I’m just realizing now that I don’t have a column that’s really about reviewing new collections of traditional folk and fairy tales. I suppose Fairy Tale Fandom Book Report will have to pull double duty on this and retellings.
Anyway, not too long ago (coinicidentally, right around the time of the Women’s March) I found out about a new audiobook being released titled Fairy Tales of the Fiercer Sex narrated by Alison Larkin and published by Alison Larkin Presents. And not long after I was actually gifted a copy by the publisher for review purposes.
Fairy Tales of the Fiercer Sex is the latest in what seems to be a growing subset of fairy tale collections: collections centered around strong female protagonists. Other such collections include Tatterhood and Other Tales edited by Ethel Johnston Phelps, Fearless Girls, Wise Women and Beloved Sisters edited by Kathleen Ragan and Not One Damsel in Distress by Jane Yolen. The reason books like these probably have been published a lot more lately is to counter one of the more persistent stereotypes about fairy tales: that they’re full of submissive, damsels-in-distress.
Of course, we all know the problem with stereotypes. Just because something is sometimes or often true doesn’t mean it’s always true.
Now the thing that makes Fairy Tales of the Fiercer Sex stand out is that it’s an audiobook. A lot of books get turned into audiobooks, but this one was an audiobook from day one. I don’t listen to many audiobooks, but I thought it would be fun to give this one a try.
The collection itself is made up of European tales. Most are folk tales, but there are some literary ones present too. In fact, the whole collection starts off with a real doozy. The first story in the whole audiobook is “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen. I kind of question whether it was a good idea to start off with such a long story. On one hand, it’s a story that maybe has a little extra clout since Disney used it as the inspiration for Frozen, and thus has some credibility as headlining story. At the same time, it could be a little daunting for someone who’s just trying this audiobook out. The other stories are not quite as long and are a little bit easier to listen to in bite-sized chunks. There are some decent story choices here. There’s “Molly Whuppie”, “Cap O’Rushes” and “The Iron Stove” as well as more well-known choices like “Hansel and Gretel”, “Little Red Cap” and “Beauty and the Beast”. The thing that gives me pause is that there are also some stories that feature foolish women like “The Three Sillies” and “Frederick and Catherine” that I don’t think really fit the theme of the collection. Also, I should note a personal preference. When it comes to themed collections like this, I usually prefer a more cosmopolitan approach. While European stories are fine, it would have been nice to have some from Asia, Africa and the Americas too.
Alison Larkin does a good job as narrator. She’s got a good cadence and she’s easy to understand. She does have a tendency to use the same voices and accents for characters, though never in the same story. One noticeable bit is a Scottish accent she uses frequently. It stands out, but she does it well. Especially when compared to the Russian accent she attempts when narrating “Baba Yaga”.
It’s really a solid collection in audiobook form. Maybe not anything surprising or mind-blowing, but solid. A handy collection if you want to do something like listen to fairy tales while using the treadmill at the gym (which is how I listened to a good chunk of it).
Another nice thing is that you can actually get this audiobook for free! You can actually download it for free if you sign up to try audible.com. So, not a bad deal.