Like Yolen’s many other original fantasies and fairy tales, these stories strike the reader as being both familiar and strange, both old and new. With their simplicity of plot and characterization, their wondrous images from the realms of nature and magic, they are as accessible and appealing to children as traditional fairy tales. Yolen’s evocative poetic style and subtle but not simplistic morals attract older readers as well. Typical of many modern stories by feminists and children’s writers is the focus on young women and children who strive to find their place in the world and form meaningful relationships; they are often braver and wiser than their more powerful adversaries and relatives.
Beginning with settings remote in time and place, Yolen has interwoven familiar patterns from myth and folklore. Only “The Girl Who Cried Flowers” has a somewhat specific setting in ancient Greece, when people believed in tree spirits. “Dawn-Strider,” like a traditional pourquoi tale explaining the nature of the universe, tells how the sun established its daily course across the sky. “The Weaver of Tomorrow” dramatizes the old metaphor of time’s tapestries woven on a loom until death breaks the thread of each individual life. “The Lad Who Stared Everyone Down” is a cautionary tale about the dangers of pride; the growth and repetition of the boy’s boastful list of people whom he has stared down creates a cumulative pattern found in many folktales and children’s stories. As Yolen explained in “The Brothers Grimm and Sister Jane,” a 1993 essay about her lifelong reading of fairy tales, she was profoundly influenced by the Grimms’ story “The Three Little Men in the Woods” and “used the idea of something unnatural coming...
(The entire section is 719 words.)