Like any retired librarian worth her weight in overdue notices, Simplia never left the library without an overflowing book bag. You know, one of those canvas ones from Scholastic or Follett or Baker and Taylor? Sagacia too, though her modest bag collection from National Public Radio could not compare to her friend’s.
“These things ought to come with wheels,” Simplia said struggling with the weight of the volumes. “Though I guess that’s a lot to ask of a free gift.”
“And you’d still have to maneuver the steps,” Sagacia said as they reached the stairs to the parking garage. “Glad we parked close, though. We probably outdid ourselves today.”
Simplia lifted the trunk and the Simpletons hoisted their bags inside.
“I’ll get one out to read while you drive,” Sagacia said, digging through her bag. “Post Wheeler! My favorite translator of Russian tales, and this one has the Ivan Bilibin illustrations.”
“Which I can’t look at while I’m driving,” Simplia complained, “But, never mind.”
The satisfied pair of readers slipped into their seats and Simplia started the engine. As her friend steered onto Mulberry Street, Sagacia began flipping through the book back to front for a peek at the marvelous artwork. One image—the one where Vasilisa in her embroidered sarafan sees the white horseman—was covered by a sheet from a yellow legal pad, which she pulled out of the way, and, flipping it over, saw . . .
. . . the letter. Of course. It was the magical third day of the month, after all! Or close. It had probably arrived last night, after hours, when the library was closed.
“Of course!” she chuckled, then read aloud.
Dear Vasilisa the Wise,
I am so excited that this year’s Summer Reading Club theme is “Every Hero Has a Story.” What a treat for us lovers of Fairy Tales; an open invitation to tell our most favorite stories!
As I began to list out mine, I started thinking about the qualities of heroes and heroines that makes me love and admire them, the qualities that they inspire me to work harder to develop within myself. I started wondering what others thought about that, too. I mean, it’s not the dragon-slaying that makes a hero, it’s the heart to take on the dragon in the first place. It’s not defying the king/father that makes a princess a heroine, it’s the belief in something beyond her present life or the faith in her prince and the power of their love.
It occurred to me that some of your readers (or “magical friends,” as the Simpletons call them—and I won’t deny that they are magical!) have thoughts about what makes a hero a hero, and I wonder if they’d be willing to share them? I know it would help me and maybe others make make our summer story sessions magical and meaningful. Oh, and who are their favorite heroes? I’d like to know that, too.
Thanks, Dearest Heroine! Oh, and don’t say anything to Baba Yaga about the hands!
—Devoted in Dallas
At just that moment, Simplia noticed they were approaching the intersection with Lobby Lane. She flipped her turn signal.
“We may as well drop Devoted in Dallas’s letter by the Fairy Tale Lobby right now, just in case some of our magical friends are there,” she said. ”I’m sure many of them are getting ready for Summer Reading Clubs right this very minute!”
Oh and! Vasilisa the Brave is my absolutely favorite folk tale of all time. And. I’m a children’s librarian. You have a lovely blog here. I’m glad I found it.
I’ve had to become a Hero, as I have journey through two cancer diagnoses. Yes, I’ve faced The Monster with cleverness, persistence and valor. Some of my True Stories are posted on my blog: http://sweetspottruthteller.com/
Fiona Birchall said:
For me, a real hero is one who first overcomes his own fears before he overcomes physical danger….if he isn’t scared of the two headed ogre he isn’t as brave as the one who wants to run away but doesn’t. And therefore one of my favourite heroes is the little prince in the story of The Giant named Fear (Possibly because I’m a complete wuss myself…..)
Barra the Bard said:
I agree with earlier comments, but want to add these:
1. The hero must often also be persistent, not giving up easily.
2. The hero also often needs to be patient.
3. S/he needs to be courteous. How often does the youngest son speak politely to a helper at the crossroads and be rewarded with good advice?
4. Kindness and generosity are good qualities too–sharing food, untying a captive animal, etc.,
5. Doing what they *say* they will do. For example, in “Rose-White and Rose-Red,” both girls agree to do tasks for Mother Holle, but only one does, and is rewarded accordingly.
Sue Kuentz said:
I’ve learned more about heroes while researching tales, familiar and unfamiliar, to post on my A-Z Blog Challenge. I believe likely and unlikely heroes hold one or more of these virtues: perseverance in the face of adversity, personal courage, resourcefulness when needed, optimism, confidence in themselves and others, empathy, and the knowledge that failure is an important step towards succeeding. Some of my favorite heroes and heroines are: Col. Gail Halvorsen (Berlin Candy Bomber), dog heroes such as the sled dogs, Balto and Togo, Fa Mulan, the Rainbow Crow, Abbie Burgess who kept the light house lights buring during some horrendous storms, Jack in many of his tales, Issun-Bishi, smallest samurai ever, and of course, Vasalisa the Brave.
Zalka Csenge said:
I have three answers! I just had coffee! With sugar!!!
1. I think the basic thing for a hero to be a hero is to be able to think in larger thing than their own person. Heroes are often the people willing to sacrifice their personal safety, goals or gains for the greater good.
2. Empathy. I like heroes that succeed because they have a kind heart and they take the time to talk to others and understand people. To even notice the problem. Especially when it leads to solving a problem with something other than repeatedly bashing it with is a sword. (Don’t mistake me, I am all for some well-placed sword-bashing, but that’s not all there is)
3. This is not strictly an answer, but I am a sucker for reformed villains turning into heroes. This doesn’t happen in folktales and fairy tales very often, which is too bad, because it is one of my favorite tropes… Everyone deserves a second chance. I think that’s an important message nowadays.
I thoroughly enjoy reading the Fairy Tale newsletter. It makes me think and wonder about Fairy Tales. I hope “The Simpletons” have the energy to keep going. The “Simpletons” are very clever and well informed. Thanks for doing this.
mary grace ketner said:
Thanks so much, Norris! Your words mean a lot to us–and thanks for sticking with us!