Stories are powerful. Often passed down from generation to generation, they can teach valuable cultural lessons. Across the world and throughout different cultures, stories are told to convey themes of facing adversity, fighting evil, discovering love and the beauty of companionship. Artist Yoshi Yoshitani – who brought us Zatanna and House of Secrets – appears to have been similarly inspired as he’s produced Beneath the Moon: Fairytales, Myths, and Divine Stories from Around the World, a beautifully illustrated collection of 78 such tales from around the world.
The stories themselves are short and sweet, single-paged retellings Yoshitani beautifully illustrates to create a vibrant blend of the cultural and human elements unique to each. This blend speaks directly to how Yoshitani felt caught growing up between two cultures: Japanese and American. Many of the stories collected here will be familiar, but others may be largely unknown outside of their particular culture. But despite their origins from around the world, there is a cohesion running through all of them, providing us with a glimpse into people as a whole.
Some of the more familiar (and favorite) stories include Scheherazade of 10001 Nights (Turkey), Sleeping Beauty (Italy), The Little Mermaid (Denmark), Crane Wife (Japan), and The Monkey King (China). It’s refreshing to read these tales in their true essence, unlike some of their ‘safer’ versions where happy endings are guaranteed, every single time. The truth can hurt but children will have to learn it at some point.
It was refreshing to be introduced to the more unfamiliar stories, too, such as The Pandavas (India), Osiris, Jet, and Isis (Egypt), Yemoja (Nigeria), The Legend of the Watermelon (Vietnam), and Condor’s Wife (Peru). I loved how this anthology exposed stories from all around the world as they help give up an understanding of how people grew up and their way of thinking. Some of my favorites included Osiris, Jet, and Isis, and Yemoja, both powerful stories in their own right.
The only shortcoming to this beautiful anthology is that the stories are limited to a single page. Generally, legends, myths, and divine stories are given space to breathe, to be told in a flowery manner, but Yoshitani’s versions, while faithful, offer little more than mere glimpses into their intricate nature and cultural significance, leaving me wanting more. I suppose there’s nothing stopping me from researching them further, but having them alongside Yoshitani’s outstanding illustrations was a unique joy.
Fairytales and legends were always some of my favorite stories to read growing up, helping feed my obsession with understanding the world around me and other cultures. That’s exactly what Yoshitani does with Beneath the Moon: Fairytales, Myths, and Divine Stories From Around the World, a gorgeously illustrated collection that gives fellow story lovers a quick dip into cultures all around the world. And the more exposure to other cultures we get, the more understanding there can be between people.