First edition (US)
|Publisher||Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (US)|
Octagon Press (UK)
|December 25, 1979|
World Tales, subtitled "The Extraordinary Coincidence of Stories Told in All Times, in All Places" is a book of 65 folk tales collected by Idries Shah from around the world, mostly from literary sources. Some of the tales are very current, others are less well known.
Each story is preceded by a short introduction by the author, giving a brief history of the tale's literary mutations, or remarking on the strange similarities that versions exhibit across great geographical or historical distances. The collection has had a broad appeal. For instance Canadian poet P. K. Page cited it as the book she would give to a child, and author and storyteller Norah Dooley: "This is the book that turned my interest as an adult to folklore and inspired me to take up storytelling." and has become a widely used sourcebook of tales.
Whilst Shah mentions many of the ancient and modern interpretations that have been placed on the tales, along with some of the theories of cross-cultural transmission, he himself interprets them little, writing in the introduction:
Working for thirty-five years among the written and oral sources of our world heritage in tales, one feels a truly living element in them which is startlingly evident when one isolates the 'basic' stories: the ones which tend to have travelled furthest, to have featured in the largest number of classical collections, to have inspired great writers of the past and present.
The value that Shah put on folklore of this kind is clear, not only from the many volumes of tales that he published but also from books published by his children. The title alone of one of his daughter Saira Shah's books, The Storyteller's Daughter, gives some indication, while his son Tahir Shah's book In Arabian Nights, itself an exploration of the power of the folktale, recalls:
When my father died a decade ago, I inherited his library. There were five reinforced boxes of books labeled "STORIES: VALUABLE, HANDLE WITH CARE". Among them were Aesop's Fables, Hans Christian Andersen, and the Brothers Grimm. There were many others too, the Arab collections and volumes of tales from every corner of the world...
The book was first published in large format by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich with each tale illustrated. Originally Shah asked Ivan Tyrrell to find illustrations for the tales by the likes of Arthur Rackham, Kay Nielsen and Edmund Dulac. Tyrrell instead suggested commissioning new work, Shah agreed to this and the idea was put to, and approved by, the publisher, William Jovanovich. Thirty seven artists contributed. This edition is no longer in print; the Octagon Press edition is text only.
Agnes Perkins, writing in the Children's Literature Association Quarterly cited this "lavish" edition of World Tales as an example of books that bridge the gap between illustrated books of folktales published for the juvenile market which pay little attention to sources or to authenticity of tone and language and which supply none of the working tools developed for folklore scholarship which might lead readers to further study of tales from the oral tradition, and collections by folklorists concerned primarily with local variants and the unusual persistence of motifs which ignore questions of the value of the stories from a literary standpoint.
|Title||Origin||The tale||Illustrator in large format edition|
|Tales of a Parrot||India||From Parrot Tales (the Persian Tutinama by Nakhshabi), split into three linked tales. Shah's version is taken from an oral narrative collected by the great Italian folklorist Giuseppe Pitrè, though the telling seems to link to a Sanskrit source, the ?ukasaptati.||Sue Porter|
|Dick Whittington||England||The familiar pantomime story of Richard Whittington||Ken Laidlaw|
|Don't Count Your Chickens||Spain||The fable behind the proverb, one of many variants of the fable The milkmaid and her pail||James Marsh|
|The Hawk and the Nightingale||Greece||Recorded by Hesiod in his Works and Days. Regarded by many as the earliest fable attributable to a literary work; number 4 in the Perry Index.||Ray Winder|
|Cecino the Tiny||Tuscany||A variant of Tom Thumb||Chris McEwen|
|Her Lover's Heart||India||The ancient story of Raja Rasalu.||David O'Connor|
|The New Hand||USA||Similar to the Brothers Grimm's The Old Man Made Young Again and to unofficial legends of Jesus current in Palestine, this one takes place in Alabama.||Mai Watts|
|The Mastermaid||Norway||From Norwegian Folktales collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe, translated by George Webbe Dasent.||Peter Richardson|
|The Ass in Pantherskin||India||Originates with the Panchatantra, dating at the latest form 500 A.D. and perhaps as old as 100 B.C.||Philip Argent|
|title=(help): "The poem also contains the earliest known fable in Greek literature"