Tips and Programs
Musings: Tales of Truth and Wisdom
This is a marvelous book! And a dangerous one - for once you pick it up, you may never put it back down again.
Ms Ford has assembled an exhaustive collection of, quite literally, hundreds of short, pithy stories, all containing some kernel of wisdom to impart. Wise men and honest ones (and women, too,) fools and thieves, charlatans and cheats all show up in these tales. Many tales are old favorites (Aesop's fables pop up throughout,) others present intriguing variations on the familiar, some are new and strange. They present many points-of-view, sometimes even contradicting one another. I certainly did not agree with the point of every story I read, but I suppose that, too, is part of the point of this book. These are stories to make a point, provoke thought and discussion, rather than stories to simply read and admire. These are stories for anyone who wants to start a conversation about values: storytellers, teachers, preachers, parents, or children.
But I really should give you some details about the book. Well, the stories range in length from 2 or 3 sentences to 2 or 3 pages. Most are a couple of paragraphs - long enough to have substance and bite, short enough for easy recall, and just right for slipping into a conversation or presentation. They come from all around the world: Brazil and Cuba, England and Ireland, Iceland, Japan, Persia, Kashmir, Samoa, Surinam and the United States to name only a few. Ford not only includes many stories from Africa and Native America, but whenever possible tells us exactly which tribal group tells the story. Other tales come from the writings of poets, essayists, preachers, and novelists.
Ford has done a lot of work to make this collection useful. She divides the book into 6 themed sections: Community, Love & Family, Resources, Room for Improvement, Beauty & Virtue, Wisdom & Foolishness. For the most part, the stories fit well within these themes. Occasionally I ran across a story I thought would fit better in a different section, but that sort of quibbling is part of the fun of a collection like this. Within each section, Ford introduces each story with a short bit on origin or theme or variations. Once in awhile, she directs us to similar tales elsewhere in the book. She indexes each story, not once, but twice--by theme (for example, compassion, courage, lies, prejudice, usefulness, worry) and by culture of origin. And if that was not enough, every story is footnoted with information on her source, plus occasional tidbits about origin, variants, or background.
I do have one complaint. For stories like this to be effective, you really should read only one at a time. Read it; think about it; absorb its point. That is impossible to do with this book. Everywhere you look there is another tempting tale, short enough that you can have "just one quick look." Before you know it, you have read 6 or 7 or 10 or 12 and they are all starting to run together in your head. So proceed with caution!
I have no doubt this will become one of the most used books in your story collection. And don't go thinking you can get away with just checking it out of the library. Once you open it, you will find yourself going back to it again and again and again. So you might as well buy a copy now and keep it close at hand.
posted January 2001
Why I Hate Lady Ragnell Alan Irvine's article and the rebuttal it engendered.