Readers of all cultures will immediately recognize the classic elements of folktales in these stories: the courageous and pure-hearted protagonists; the impossible tasks, undertaken with the help of seemingly defenseless creatures; and magic spells that both assist and impede the hero. These are stories of great opposites, where characters are unfailingly good or unredeemably evil. The heroic men and women are unfailing brave, strong-hearted, fleet of foot, excellent marksmen, persistent at impossible tasks, and skilled in communicating with creatures in nature. The villains are cruel, ugly, tattered, flawed, cowardly, or possessed of terrible tempers. The characters’ behavior reflects the values of the culture in which they were created, and the rewards given to the heroes are those considered to be the just rewards of the righteous: long life, peace, and happiness.

In addition to these standard elements of folktales, each of these stories is infused with descriptions of nature, similar to those found in the folk literature of North American Indian tribes. Wild creatures, water, flowers, and birds are richly described and spoken of with awe and respect. The language of the stories is rich in metaphor and simile; the descriptions of settings and persons are vivid and compelling. Readers are drawn immediately into such stories as “The Magic Ball” with the first sentence: “A cold-eyed witch lived in the Cordilleras and when the first snow commenced to fall she was always full of glee, standing on a rock,...

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