In an introduction, Lurie tells her readers that the folk tales we know best feature heroic males and passive heroines because they were chosen by males in the male-chauvinist 19th century. Be that as it may, she assembles here 15 stories that give the females active roles. A few have males as main characters, but they are males who can't do a woman's work (the comic favorite ""Gone Is Gone"") or whose cleverer wives or wives-to-be counsel them on seemingly impossible riddles or tasks. Of the tales featuring girls, there is a Spanish ""Sleeping Beauty"" with the sexes switched to make it ""The Sleeping Prince""--so exact a reversal that it seems deliberate revisionism. Also included is another, better-known reversal, ""Molly Whuppie"" (a ""Jack and the Beanstalk"" without Jack or the beanstalk). With ""Kate Crackernuts,"" ""Cap O' Rushes"" (the germ of King Lear), ""Mother Holle,"" and a ""Baba Yaga"" story also in the lineup, few of these are still, if they ever were, forgotten--and five of the 15 also appear in Minard's Womenfolk and Fairy Tales (1975)--but here they are impeccably told and handsomely presented. To each, Lurie appends a sentence or two of notes on the story's origin, the folk beliefs or customs it represents, or whatever. (One, she points out, is the story behind Ophelia's remark ""They say the owl was a baker's daughter""--interesting, if beyond the ken of most nine-year-old readers.) Margot Tomes' little heroines, no paragons of steely valor, are charmingly female and human, and her looming villains are like nobody else's, straight from the land of nightmare.