Monday, May 15, 2017

Tales of Superhuman Powers

I'm a big fan of the blog Multicolored Diary, run by storyteller Csenge Virag Zalka. When I heard about her book, Tales of Superhuman Powers, I was immediately intrigued and put it on my wishlist. For anyone who wants to learn more folktales, and also enjoys a good superpower story, this book is SO MUCH FUN.

Which is not to say that all the tales it contains are "feel good" stories- there's a good mix of happy endings with tragic tales and chilling warning tales. But the concept is so enjoyable-she has the tales organized by superpower, so you can choose to read about people with superhuman strength, speed, invisibility, elemental manipulation, etc. Before each tale, Csenge includes information on the ability, the source of the power, origin of the tale, teachings, age groups it's appropriate for, information on tale variants, and a list of popular heroes with that same power from Marvel, DC, etc. After each tale she provides comments, which I especially like. So often a tale will have really bizarre, or disturbing, elements and you're left wondering what to make of it. With her vast storytelling experience, I'm beginning to see that often, stories with puzzling or hard to read parts are the ones that lead to better discussions afterwards-something that has been lost as our own fairy tales have become printed in books or translated to the screen rather than told orally. Many tales were probably meant to prompt the listener to say "that's not fair!" or ask questions, not to be its own neat little morality guide as many printed fairy tales around the Victorian era were.

All the tales are interesting, but so far some of my favorites are the ones about the power to make drawings come to life-not a power you run into often! I highly recommend this book to anyone-it's great for those that know nothing about fairy tales beyond pop culture, because superpowers are a pretty universal interest, but it also contains really unique tales that are probably new to all but those who have thoroughly researched world folklore. Almost every single tale in the book was completely new to me (although some are familiar from being referenced on Multicolored Diary).


  1. <3! Csenge Virag Zalka's blog is a must for me to read when her new posts pop up. Her book has been on my wishlist for longer than I care to say. Sounds like might be fun to read to my son too. We are into an 'ask me questions about ANYTHING and I will be honest with you', so this should provide great fodder (and stretch my vocabulary to explain things honestly but gently!). Extra incentive to 'afford' it now. :)

  2. Wow, this sounds like a really interesting book! I'll have to look into it. Great review!

  3. I remember coming across this book! I'll have to read it more thoroughly.

  4. I bought this book because I learned it had a variant of The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship in it, which I thought was going to be one of the target tales for my dissertation. When I did my sampling and "Fool" didn't make the cut, I was bummed, but now I'm pumped to dig into this book once more! Thank you for the inspiration to use it as a reward for my 1500 words today, and for the link to her blog! <3

    1. You're welcome, glad to share such a fantastic resource!

  5. This is going in my wishlist! Thanks for the recommendation - it does look like a really fun read.