In honor of WPPL’s Welcoming Week, we’re going on a whirlwind trip around the world! Let’s ease in with some broader collections. The books will feature familiar tales, as well as a nice sampling from nations all over the world. Angela McAllister has a lovely series of themed folktale collections, which are sourced from a stunning number of countries.
The Americas are expansive. North American Indigenous folklore exists alongside (and sometimes combines with) the tales that were introduced from overseas. The shameful history of colonialism and slavery nevertheless gave birth to homespun American tales, unique to the people and regions that gave them new life. Central America is most famously home to the Aztec and Mayan civilizations. These nations are known for their astounding art and architecture, as well as many deities. Modern Mexico, a melting pot of cultural influences, has evolved its own tales. South America, too, is home to many pre-Columbian nations, though the foreign influence has overwhelmed or substantially influenced many. The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas is an excellent collection of indigenous tales that spans both continents.
Europe’s folklore enjoys a place of prominence in the American mind. Familiar fantasy figures like fairies, elves, and trolls originated in this region. The grisly tales of the Brothers Grimm (Germany), the collections of Asbjørnsen and Moe (Norway), the fanciful tales of the Charles Perrault (France) and Hans Christian Andersen (Denmark), and many others built up a body of stories that we now encounter in picture books, movies, and many other forms of storytelling. Walt Disney played no small part in perpetuating some of these tales; he took many of these “public domain” stories and turned them into beloved animated classics. Beyond the princesses and magic, however, eerie tales of mysterious creatures and haunted waters await…
Moving south, we arrive in Africa. The resident trickster figure is Anansi the spider, who has survived for millennia by his wits alone. Despite his self-interest and practical jokes, you can’t help but root for this crafty character. It seems that he can always spin things his way. Other African tales make appearances in imaginative fantasy stories, and many emphasize the strength and dignity of Black women in particular.
There are fewer books in our collection featuring folklore from the Middle East, but there is still a nice variety. We have a traditional collection of Palestinian tales, a YA fantasy story, and some books for younger readers as well. Two juvenile fiction novels feature a golem and a dybbuk–creatures from Jewish lore!
The folklore of South Asia has enjoyed a number of recent publications. Stories inspired by India’s numerous deities have been featured in quite a few novels to date. Recently, the surrounding countries in South Asia are also beginning to turn up in books for young readers. The tales of ancient Persia, Pakistan, Iran, and more can be found in both short stories and full novels.
Finally, we arrive in the East. The powerful Monkey King is the most legendary trickster, but there are plenty of other crafty characters, not to mention fearsome ogres, monsters, and demons! Thankfully, there are many gods, goddesses, and kindly celestial creatures to keep things in balance.
This blog post ended up featuring around sixty books, and I actually had to trim quite a few off of my list! It just goes to show the incredible depth of the world’s folklore. It also is a good reminder that we live in fortuitous times, as more of these age-old stories are finding their way into modern publishing. For more detailed surveys of regional folklore, check out the other blog posts in the Folklore Fun series. Never stop exploring!
Join us September 10-16, 2023, for Welcoming Week at WPPL with events and more aimed at building strong connections with neighbors of all backgrounds. The week culminates with the Community Welcome Fair featuring local groups sharing their stories, traditions and food.
Read more blog posts about the ways Ohio, Westlake, and your local library are welcoming everyone to the community.