Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women…
AUTHOR: Kate Forsyth
ILLUSTRATOR: Lorena Carrington
For many young women, the only fairy-tales they know are the ones that have been retold by Walt Disney studios.
Once upon a time, these stories of magical transformation were meant for young women as they grew away from childhood and towards adulthood. They were told by their mothers and grandmothers and the wise women of the clan as they spun and wove and stirred their pots and made their potions. The heroines of these old tales set out on a difficult road of trials to discover their true destiny. And, contrary to popular opinion, marrying a prince was not the only goal.
These ancient tales of wonder and adventure are about learning to be strong, brave, kind and true-hearted, and trusting in yourself to change the world for the better. These are not your usual passive princesses waiting forlornly for their prince to come…
The brave young women from tales of yore in Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women will transform the way you think about fairy-tales.
It’s no great secret that I am a big fan of Kate Forsyth, her fairy-tale inspired novels for adults being among my favourite and most treasured reads. Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women is a retelling of seven fairy-tales that are either little known or have been to a certain extent lost to the modern world. They feature strong and brave young women who save princes instead of the other way around, demonstrate admirable traits, and show that self-belief is a superpower to be reckoned with. Each tale is condensed in a way that can be enjoyed in a single sitting – or as a bedtime story.
I particularly love stories that present faeries as dark and otherworldly, rather than as sweetness and light. They seem more credible, to me, and more in tune with ancient legends. My favourite from this volume is The Stolen Child, a tale that celebrates the love of a mother and her child, and demonstrates the lengths a mother will go to in order to protect that bond. While this was my favourite, I enjoyed each and every story. They were all so wonderful, a true celebration of girl power that I appreciate wholeheartedly. Kate’s talent with fairy-tale retellings truly knows no bounds.
In her illustrator notes, Lorena Carrington points out that the illustrations are made from many separate photographs – some contain over 70, one in particular more than 100 – montaged together to create each final image. Everything is photographed against a backlight to create a silhouette, then digitally reassembled and placed within multilayered photographic backgrounds. The human figures are made from themselves, while the wild creatures are built up from tiny fragments of the landscape – twigs, bones and leaves all gathered from her backyard and bushland. She explains that throughout the book, the young women represented are her daughters Mari and Rosa, but in ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’, Kate’s daughter Ella was the model for the images. The overall effect is quite stunning, you can just gaze at the pictures for so long, there’s so much to see and marvel at. The end result is a beautiful book with the most unique and striking illustrations.
Congratulations to Kate Forsyth, Lorena Carrington, and Serenity Press for the creation of such a treasured book.
Thanks is extended to Serenity Press for providing me with a copy of Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women for review.
Read more about the collaboration between Kate and Lorena and the creation of Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women in my Australian Women Writers Sunday Spotlight with Kate Forsyth.