Sunday, November 25, 2007

BOOK: "Outfoxing Fear," by Kathleen Ragan, ed. (Norton, $15.95)

TARGET AUDIENCE: People who hear bumps in the night.

Whom do you fear? The schoolyard bully? Terrorists? Monsters with skins of stone eating your children? Would it help to know you're not alone, that people of other cultures, other ages have known fear and have dealt with it in ways that reflect both vast cultural differences and universal principles?

Ragan has thought a lot about fear, particularly after seeing her children's reactions to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. For help, she looked to written folk tales and found herself "seated at a virtual campfire with strangers and friends who each told a story in turn."

That virtual circle comprised a large crowd of storytellers: Scots, Native Americans, African tribesmen and many more. Despite their differences, a common theme emerges in their tales: The large and evil can be vanquished by even the small and weak if the latter are smart, resolute and work together. And that's true whether you are a Sudanese peasant, a fox or a moon goddess. -- Jerry V. Haines

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