Jane Yolen and Shulamith Oppenheim, The Fish Prince and Other Stories: Mermen Folk Tales (Interlink Books, 2001)

Aimed at an adult audience as part of the Interlink series of folklore, this collaboration brings together children’s author and folklorist Jane Yolen and Shulamith Oppenheim, author of Iblis, a retelling of the Islamic version of the Fall from Eden.  A thin volume, The Fish Prince brings together 27 tales from around the world that reconstruct the background of the Mermen.

Sections are divided by geographical locations.  Stories from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, the Pacific Islands and the New World weave together, reflecting mysterious accounts of people from the sea.  The prologue explains that the sea is the place where life first began and evolved toward life on land.  To quote a passage, “This, then, is humankind’s heritage -- sea and earth, earth and sea.”  With this in mind, the authors take us on a journey of the evolution of the Mermen and ourselves.  Stories are told of accidental drowning, along with those related to sacrificial rites, those of  misunderstood sea-life, and the many Gods and spirits believed to inhabit the Seas, lakes and rivers.  We can see vividly through each tale how humanity has attempted to make sense of the awesome and mysterious realm of the sea and water.

A delightful read for the tales alone, this small work also gives background in the psychology and history of the myths themselves.  Seamless writing carries the reader along on an entertaining adventure of the sea and Mermen.  Don’t expect any quarter page footnotes, but this book was solidly researched.  A section at the back gives a broad overview of the various Gods of the sea and an excellent bibliography of general and geographically divided sources.  This is an excellent book for any student of mythology or folklore.

[Rebecca Wright]

Jane Yolen's Web site won the second annual "Best of the Year" mention for "most interesting Web site"
in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, #15.

Learn more about Shulamith Oppenheim here.

To read GMR's reviews of 26 (as of 9/02) of Jane Yolen's books, collections and collaborations,
see our review index.