Tales from Silver Lands by Charles Finger (originally published 1924) weaves together tales the author collected during travels to Central and South America throughout his life. As with many volumes of stories, they range in interest, plot, and theme. Some stories are directly connected to the previous ones in the volume. Others are separate tales supposedly told to the author, and he may include a brief narration about the person who told him the story or the place where he first heard it.
Most of the stories provide a refreshing magical story to explain simple things like monkeys in the trees or how the rat got his tail. Others magically explain the life of a simple village or how a group of strong young men destroyed the giants plaguing a town. Although the tales are told with a somewhat dated tone and structure, this represents the writing style of the era and it is perfectly suited to the fairy tale feel of all the stories. He did a good job of tying in the “silver lands” concept with mentions of silver in the stories as well and it overall was an entertaining volume of stories.
After the disasters that were the first few years of the Newbery nominees, I was hesitant to being the 1925 Newbery Medal winner. I was certain there would be blatant racism or white savior-ism as it told these stories about a different culture. I didn’t see anything blatantly offensive, which was such a relief.
There is only the question of authenticity. Wikipedia does say that Charles Finger was a world traveler and wrote books about other places. But it’s also true that I have no way to know how accurate these stories are as representative of the various cultures in Honduras or Patagonia as he describes. Most likely there are embellishments. Some may even have been completely made up and only attributed to the cultures he visited. Regardless of the origin, this imaginative volume represents a unique collection of fairy tales most likely from a culture beyond Europe.
What a refreshing read in comparison to the other books so far!
I rate Tales from Silver Lands Newbery Award winner as “pretty good” and say “maybe if you have time.”
Newbery rating scale: FANTASTIC | REALLY GOOD | PRETTY GOOD | OKAY | BLAH
What to do with this Newbery: KEEP IT AND READ IT | MAYBE IF YOU HAVE TIME | DON’T BOTHER