March 11, 2020

Guest Post | Why we still need strong girls in stories?

I am delighted by being joined by author, Lari Don, as she celebrates publishing her latest title, Fierce, Fearless and Free. Not only does Lari's latest book put women and girls in the forefront of traditional myths and legends, but advocates a diverse range of cultures from around the world.
I don't want to keep you for long, so let me introduce Lari Don talking about...
Why we still need strong girls in stories

We all recognise the importance of young readers seeing themselves in stories, but I believe we should also make sure it’s not just contemporary stories that are inclusive and inspiring. We need to pay attention to the old stories too.

Because the old stories -  myths, legends, fairy tales and folktales – are the building blocks of many new stories. and they have a strong hold on our culture and imagination. So, what are girls (and boys) seeing when they look at many of our best-known traditional tales?

Stories with no girls in them at all
Stories about girls waiting to be saved by boys
Stories about girls who are given away as prizes (kill the dragon, marry the princess!)
Stories starring girls who are rewarded for being patient, enduring, polite, kind, silent, passive or, of course, pretty.

Is that what we want to be showing girls and boys? I hope not! But we don’t have to rewrite the old stories, we just have to search for the stories that have always existed, in all cultures, about strong active girls who solve their own problems and defeat their own monsters…

Stories like:

The myth of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love and war, who fought a mountain because he didn’t respect her and threatened the people who worshipped her. This is a female character who flies her own chariot, wields her own weapons, stands up for her own rights, and wrestles a mountain to the ground. (And songs were sung to this goddess, praising her strength and power, more than four thousand years ago. Strong women and their stories have always existed!)

The Siberian legend about Altyn Aryg, whose father refused to accept that she could lead a tribe, because she was a girl. So she set off to prove him wrong, searching for a giant serpent that had devoured hundreds of male warriors, running into its belly and defeating it with her strong sword-arm. This is a traditional story that directly addresses sexism, and shows the father eventually recognising his daughter’s courage and ability, and naming her as his heir.

There are also stories showing girls can be active and strong without wielding a weapon, like the story of Kandek, an Armenian farmgirl who met a werewolf on the edge of the forest, and used clever words and agility to escape the werewolf’s claws and cooking pot …

But the most important thing about the stories I tell in Fierce Fearless and Free, is that they are not aimed solely at a female audience. I tell these stories in school canteens, classrooms, tents, and sometimes even caves and castles, to girls and to boys. And I never get any complaints that I’ve told a story ‘for girls’. 

Because I don’t just share these heroine tales to make a point, I share them because they are really exciting stories! 

Thank you, Lari! I couldn't agree more on the vitality of girls being able to read traditional stories and recognise themselves in those narratives. It's incredibly important in our development, and you're totally right - they are exciting stories that keep you enticed and engrossed.

Fierce, Fearless and Free
Lari Don
Release Date | 5th March 2020
Genre | MG
Page Count | 160

UK Publisher | Bloomsbury
A brilliant, inclusive collection of traditional tales from around the world featuring amazing women and girls. Once upon a time, there was a handsome prince who - no, that's not right! Once upon a time, there were strong, fierce women who plotted, schemed, took action, showed kindness, used magic and trickery, and made their own destiny. From the long-haired Petrosinella who escaped the tower and broke the spell that the ogress had cast over her and Nana Miriam who beat a hippo using politeness and magic, to Kate Crackernuts who tried to save her stepsister from her mother's curse, these are stories of girls doing it for themselves! With stories drawn from all over the world, including China, Scotland, Armenia, Italy and Nigeria, Lari Don presents heroine stories that don't leave girls sitting around waiting to be saved by the handsome prince.

About the Author

Lari Don is an award-winning writer for young people of all ages. She loved Scottish traditional tales as a child, and now loves gathering myths, legends and folktales from all over the world to inspire her novels. Since becoming a full-time author, she has written more than 30 children’s books, from picture books and early readers to middle-grade adventure novels and a teen thriller. Lari is passionate about visiting schools and libraries to share the traditional tales she loves, to show how those old stories can be used to inspire new stories, and to encourage young people to create their own adventures. Fierce, Fearless and Free is her fifth collection of traditional tales for Bloomsbury, returning to the theme of her first, the bestselling Girls, Goddesses and Giants. She lives in Edinburgh with her husband and two fierce, fearless and free daughters.

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