Folklore Fun! A World of Stories

Wherever there are people, there are stories.
Stories about why flowers are red, and how the world was made, and what happened when your cousin had a run-in with a grouchy moose. We tell stories to explain, to entertain, to caution, to teach, and to remember. Some stories hardly last longer than the breath it takes to say them; they’re little bits of daily life, shared and then forgotten (“Traffic was terrible today!” or perhaps, “I saw a butterfly!”). Other stories have more staying power. Long before the written word, everything was passed down orally, preserving the thoughts, beliefs, and actions of our ancestors. In modern times, these age-old tales fall under the umbrella term folklore. Cultures all over the world have their own unique stories, an unseen backdrop of language that informs and enriches the human experience.

Around the World in 80 Tales is an extensive sampling of global folk stories, perfect for those up for a little exploring.

Have you ever heard of the Lemon Princess? A prince finds his bride when she springs out of a lemon, but a jealous woman conspires to marry the prince in her place. It’s not exactly Snow White and her apple! Americans are probably more familiar with figures like the Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, and Disney’s other popular interpretations of classic stories, but many of these commonly-known tales are specifically European in origin. While Europe itself offers its own rich banquet of stories, I fear that these “mainstream” stories often narrow one’s perception of folklore. America itself has existed long enough to develop home-grown folklore, yet in popular media we see the same handful of tales being endlessly recycled. With Folklore Fun (this being the debut post!), I hope to feature different tales and traditions as a way to celebrate the many colorful cultures of the Earth.

Princess Stories From around the World highlights a variety of royal tales from several cultures. It’s not all glitter and ball gowns!

I love folklore. It is a unique window into the past, so utterly linked to human sensibility. Pourquoi Tales, stories that explain why things are the way they are, can range from whimsical and funny to downright gruesome. Either way, it is easy to imagine a little one from long ago drinking in a tale, eyes alight with wonder, as the storyteller doles out increasingly improbable answers to every child’s eternal question, “why?” I love seeing recurring story elements that appear in some form all over the world, evidence of humanity’s travels across the globe. I love seeing each culture’s own catalog of mysterious creatures, some quiet and helpful, some mighty and terrible. Why does Japan have the human-turtle kappa in its rivers, while Scotland’s lakes hide the horselike shape-shifting kelpies? I can never get enough of these strange and wonderful stories.

Mythical Beasts is a quick introduction to some of the world’s most famous creatures.

Folklore is closely related to fairy tales and nursery rhymes, and there is no hard line separating each category. Even urban legends, modern by definition, employ age-old storytelling techniques (“I heard it from my cousin, who heard it from her dad…” and so the story perpetuates). The sheer amount of material must have been daunting to the first generation of scholars who started writing down folk tales. Preserving oral tradition is important and I am so grateful for the records that we have today. Yet these written accounts are a mere snapshot, one version of thousands, frozen in the moment of its capture. Left alone, a story sits lifeless. It is when we experience them that their purpose shines through. They are meant to be shared, debated, pondered, and treasured. A story’s true dwelling place is in our own minds.

A Bedtime Full of Stories is an eclectic collection of short stories. With 50 tales, this one book will cover many bedtimes!

Even now, long after folktales have been locked down in print, the stories themselves have a life of their own. From masterful retellings to ultra-modern interpretations of antique themes, it is evident that stories have their own special power. All around the world, communities are bound together by the stories they tell. Every day I marvel at how lucky I am to live in an age where travel is easy and print books abound. Not only can I fondly remember my own childhood folktales, I also get to explore other countries every time I pick up a folklore anthology. I imagine the families that tell these tales around a fire, or the children that swap them for a quick laugh. The more I learn about folklore, the more I want to learn. There is an entire world full of stories, just waiting to be found!

Not One Damsel In Distress collects tales from around the world that celebrate the ingenuity, bravery, and strength of girls.