Sherry Norfolk,
Haunted Hearts: Tales
of Love and Tragedy

(August House, 1998)

Sherry Norfolk offers six love stories, ranging from touching to tragic, in this audiotape from August House.

The first story, "Song of the Shepherdess," is a haunting tale adapted from an original story by fellow storyteller Carmen Deedy. The shepherdess of the title asks terrible things of her suitor, then learns that love cannot be conditional or else it leads to loss. Norfolk follows it with "Woman of the Wood," a Russian story about three men who create a woman out of wood, bring her to life, then argue about to whom she belongs. The story -- and the solution -- bears a close resemblance to the story of Sir Gawain and the loathly lady. "Tezin," the final story on side one, is an Afro-Haitian story about a girl whose happiness is destroyed by her father's ambition, although it's possible that the ending is happy. You'll have to decide for yourself.

Side two starts with "Revenge," a Japanese tale about a samurai warrior who grows dissatisfied with the pretty and pliant wife he so desired -- and the result of his solution to his "problem." This one is pretty shivery -- it might be a bit too strong for younger listeners, so use discretion. "Very Pretty Lady" is an original story from The Devil's Storybook by Natalie Babbitt, and it concerns a very pretty lady who longs to be loved for herself, not her beauty, and how the Devil inadvertently helps her get her wish. The final story, "The Tiger's Whiskers," from Korea, is about how sometimes love requires patience and endurance.

Norfolk's voice convey the emotions associated with the stories convincingly: the shepherdess's startled delight when her tasks are carried out, the girl's despair in "Tezin," the flutteriness of the "Very Pretty Lady." Her style is unadorned and evocative; the listener can easily imagine her telling the stories right down to the very gestures she would be making. Brief selections of hammered dulcimer music performed by David Marcus provide bridges between the stories; it's a nice, understated touch that enhances the recording.

The selection is diverse and unusual and the presentation appealing with authentic respect for the stories. Share this one with someone you love.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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