A host of exotic peoples from Central Asia, Kazakhs, Kirghiz, Uzbeks and others less familiar, are represented by these recently collected tales, and this new cast of characters -- wily khans, shaitans (evil spirits) and peris (fairies) -- work some fresh variations on old folklore themes. The most notable character is the wise wife, whether old peasant woman or Golden Princess, who guides her helpless husband through a series of seemingly impossible tasks. Greed is the predominant motive, sometimes handled humorously, as in the tale of the tricksters who fake their own deaths (and end up ""buried"" side by side) in order to avoid sharing their gold with each other, or sometimes symbolically -- the benevolent Kaha bird deserts mankind because it proves unworthy of her gifts. As a bonus, there is a sampling of Turkmenian riddles and one-liners, and, finally, the ultimate in tall tales, composed of one hundred successive lies. Mirra Ginsburg has provided a helpful introduction, but no anthropological background is necessary to appreciate these happy celebrations of wit and cunning.