The Dragon Daughter and Other Lin Lan Fairy Tales

Princeton Univ. Mar. 2022. 240p. ed. by Juwen Zhang. tr. from Chinese by Juwen Zhang. ISBN 9780691214412. pap. $19.95. FOLKLORE
In this volume, folklorist Zhang (Chinese studies, Willamette Univ.; Oral Tradition in Contemporary China; Epidemics in Folk Memory) collects 42 fairy tales from rural areas across China, most of which are now translated to English for the first time. Sibling rivalry, predestined love, and other familiar fairy-tale themes course through this book, but in a way that will feel new to readers who haven’t heard these stories before; Zhang’s translations have a colloquial feel, making them enjoyable and natural to read. The book also provides excellent cultural context for “Lin Lan,” the alias of a group of Chinese folklorists and writers who gathered fairy tales (tonghua) from all over the country and published more than a thousand of them starting in the 1920s. Zhang makes the case for establishing Lin Lan as “the Brothers Grimm of China” and is careful to preserve the original intent of the tales’ tellers and compilers. Fans of folklore will enjoy exploring this compilation and rediscovering these stories of love, ghosts, and the Dragon King; Zhang’s passion for these stories and their history is evident throughout his analysis and translations.
VERDICT An exciting look at oral traditions of rural China. Lovers of folktales and fairytales will enjoy this book and Zhang’s conversational prose.
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