I first encountered the heroine of The Talking Bird, the Singing Tree, and the Golden Water during a quest of my own. I was searching for evidence of girls who were:

a) physically strong
b) mentally resilient
c) emotionally sensitive
d) beautiful

In fourth grade, among the heroes and heroines commanding the library shelves of my small Midwestern town, these character traits were as infrequently mixed as the answers on a multiple choice quiz: boys were strong and resilient; girls were sensitive and beautiful. When the world of literature ventured the question: “How do you identify?” I always seemed to be stuck answering:

e) none of the above

One Thousand and One Nights’ Princess Periezade was the first of my childhood heroines to embrace all of these characteristics. She took up the same physical challenges as her two older brothers with ease and outpaced them intellectually and emotionally. Her unique combination of sensitivity and prudence allowed her to heed advice from sources as diverse as old crones, dervishes, and talking birds. When confronted with a task that had turned every man before her to stone, she used her intelligence and creativity to contrive a safeguard that enabled her to succeed unharmed. In the end, her willingness to follow the culinary advice of the Talking Bird led to the resolution of the story’s greatest mystery; the Bird used a cucumber stuffed with pearls to illustrate the sultan’s mental rigidity and reveal to him the whereabouts of his missing children.

-Eva Marguerite Olsgard

For more information, you can read the story of Princess Periazade online.

Check back tomorrow to learn about the many, many people in our lives who could be our heroines.

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