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The Tomato Nation advice column addresses your questions on etiquette, grammar, romance, and pet misbehavior. Ask The Readers about books or fashion today!

Home » The Vine

The Vine: Ask The Readers Book-a-thon #1

Submitted by on March 3, 2010 – 9:00 AM7 Comments

Good morning, friends. Today’s Vine will work a bit differently; I have a huge backlog of find-that-book requests, so I’ll post one every hour or so throughout the day and put y’all to work on it.

Have fun!


Hi Sars!

After seeing your readers come up with the most obscure books, I thought I would throw one out now that I’m scrounging.

I had a particular collection of world folk tales and fairy tales when I was in high school. I don’t remember exactly what it was called, which is the problem. There are so many collections called “Stories of the World,” “Folktales Around the World,” etc.

This collection contained a rewrite of King Ali Mardan and the snake woman, in which a monk finds the philosopher’s stone in the ashes after killing a lamia, several stories from Eskimo legends that all involved women making penises out of seal fat because there were no men around, and one from Saudi Arabia where a girl has to placate a demon with a strip of skin from her thumb to her forefinger. She gives it to him, and he follows her back home because she’s bleeding.

The cover had a picture from the last story, with the girl sitting on a horse (or some other pack animal), with the piece of skin trailing out like a ribbon. (I didn’t realize it wasn’t a ribbon until I’d read the story.)

I have Googled and Amazon-searched this book to death, and while I’ve found several great collections, none of them include Ali Mardan and the snake woman, so I know they aren’t reprints of the collection I want.

I’m hoping one of your readers had the same collection and can help me out. I was in high school from 1994-1998, so it would have been published around then.

Thank you,

This Is Why I Knew What The Philosopher’s Stone Was Before Harry Potter




  • Hirayuki says:

    Jesus. I can’t help you; I’m just hoping I don’t get nightmares.

  • Becca says:

    It sounds like it might be one of the Lang anthologies — The Grey Fairy Book, The Green Fairy Book, etc. They tend to be enormously comprehensive, well-written, and pretty brutally honest. They are older, though, so if this collection was definitely published in when you were in high school, then this isn’t it. (You should totally read the Lang anthologies, though.)

  • Leigh says:

    Agreed about the Lang, that’s what immediately came to mind. I had the Violet one, and it’s not that, but there are many and this sounds just like something from that series.

    I tried Google Imaging “Fairy Book” “Andrew Lang” to see if I could identify it by the cover you describe, but I didn’t see it…maybe you’d have more luck, though, since you have a better mental image of what you’re looking for!

  • Elizabeth says:

    I think it sounds a lot like the first volume of The Virago Book of Fairy Tales, by Angela Carter. The Eskimo stories in particular ring a bell for me, although I read the collection years ago.

  • Leigh says:

    ETA: Looks like it might be The Grey Fairy Book (Andrew Lang)…or at least that one contains that story. The classic cover is different than you describe, but these books are pretty old so there are a lot of different versions out there.

  • Melina says:

    One place you can look at a bunch of covers all in one place is LibraryThing – That link should take you to covers for the Grey Fairy Book. Maybe that’ll help jog your memory? Or at least help you figure out if the suggested books are the one you remember? LibraryThing only has what’s on Amazon and what members have uploaded, but you never know.

  • Alison E says:

    Elizabeth, it is in fact the Virago Book of Fairy Tales. THANK YOU SO MUCH, I am so happy I don’t even know how to tell you.

    Thank you thank you thank you, and Thank you Sars!

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