illustrators: Vicki Trego Hill and Mona Pennypacker
Cinco Puntos Press, 2004
The author is correct, totally correct: There are many, many variations of this ancient legend. Hayes writes, “the stories weren’t told merely to entertain the children. Storytelling was a way for older ones to pass some wisdom and understanding on to the young.” It seems that Hayes’ version is meant to show young people that pretty, even beautiful, women are vain, jealous, and will destroy anything that, and anyone who, gets in their way.
The young woman in this story is so beautiful that she won’t give the time of day to the young men of her village and will only go with the most handsome man in the land, who eventually kicks her to the curb for a woman of his own class. He is a dog, but also a man, so that makes it OK for him to treat her like chattel. She is beautiful, and since no woman should have any rights—beautiful or not—she kills her children because she is jilted. The double standard is so strong here it reeks. Most Llorona stories tell of a woman so overburdened she snaps, whether La Malinele or La Malinche, under the strain of oppression, not vanity. Hayes’ message to children is a patriarchal one: Be a sexist man and you will be rewarded. Be a beautiful woman and you probably should hide under a rock because you won’t be a good person.
There are too many good versions of this tale to bother with this one. It is sexist and an affront to women. Not recommended.
—Judy Zalazar Drummond