This study is a contribution to the discussion of folklore as a mirror of society. Spanish Galicia offers a special opportunity for examining wellknown folktales in a different context because of the cultural and economic dominance of women and the matriarchal life style which characterized the region until recently. That matriarchy was deeprooted in Galicia and did not result from male migration in modern times, is demonstrated in the historical chapters of the book, while the anthropological chapters (on family systems, work patterns, matriarchal ideology, sexual behaviour, religion and magic) tend to show that all aspects of Galician culture have been "canonized" in folklore; folklore therefore must have gone through radical changes in order to conform with the local ideology. While the women in Galician folktales almost always appear in active and aggressive hero roles, this has nothing to do with "wishful thinking" or "poetic fiction", for according to the matriarchal concept it is just the natural order of things. Surely the correlation demonstrated here between the social structure, gender roles, and ideology may also be observed in male-dominated societies, once we learn to disengage from the patriarchal concept of the "natural order of things".