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Folktales of the World

Updated on March 20, 2018
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Devika enjoys sharing her work with a friendly community. Writing is a big part of her life. Online work has improved her lifestyle.

Folktales from around the world

The Different Folktales from around the world

  • Introduction

Every culture has produced folklore.

A study of the folklore of West Africa, Russia, Japan, or North America can provide insights into the beliefs of these peoples, their values, their lifestyles, their histories.

At the same time, a cross-cultural study of folk literature can help children discover the universal qualities of humankind.

  • British Folktales

The first folktales that most children in the United States enjoyed were of the English kind. This is because Joesph Jacobs, the folklorist who collected many of the English tales, deliberately adapted them for young children, writing them.

His collection includes, cumulative tales such as ''The Old Woman and Her Pig'' and ''Henry Penny,'' and the much loved talking-beast stories ''The Little Red Hen,'' ''The Three Bears,'' and ''The Three Little Pigs.''

James Marshall's flippant's story telling of several of these tales seldom stray in content from the ''bones'' of the originally yet are wonderfully humorous in their visual portrayals.

His Goldilocks cries ''Patooie'' as she tastes the too-hot porridge,and his cartoon is illustrations show Baby Bear's room as a mess of football pennants, books, and toys.

Marshall has also given The Three Little Pigs verbal and visual topspin.

In the original British tale ''Henny Penny'' the fox eats the accumulation of animals rushing to tell the King that the sky is falling.

However, Steven Kellogg gives Foxy Loxy his comeuppance in Chicken Little by having a police helicopter pilot-a hippopotamus-fall onto the fox's poultry track.

The helpless fox is sentenced to jail and a diet of green bean gruel, and the foolish fowl are freed.

While purists may object, these humorous treatments of well-known beast tales keep the stories alive for slightly older elementary school audiences who are familiar with the original story from having heard it in preschool, on television, or at library story hours.

An element of realism runs through some English folktales. The story of Dick Whittington and his cat has its basis in history. There was once a real Richard Whittington who was three times mayor of London, in the years 1936, 1406 and 1419.

What an exceptional mayor he must have been-enacting prison reforms, providing the first public lavatory and drinking fountain, and building a library and a wing on the hospital for unmarried mothers. It is no wonder that the common people made him the popular hero of one of their most cherished tales.

The story ''Dick and His Cat'' was found in some of the very earliest chap-books of the day.

Marcia Brown's picture storybook Dick Whittington and His Cat portrays this realistic tale with handsome linoleum block prints appropriately printed in gold and black.

A Cornish variation on the German ''Rumpelstiltskin'' is prevented in Harve Zemach's Duffy and the Devil. Illustrator Margot Zemach depicts the devil as a ''squint-eyed creature''; he dances and sings:

Tomorrow! Tomorrow!Tomorrow's the day!

I'll take her! I'll take her!'' I'll take her away!

Let her weep, let her cry, let her beg, let her pray-

She'll never guess my name is Tarraway!

However, Duffy's out writing of the devil makes all of her husband's hand spun clothes disappear!

Both the language and the pen-and-wash illustrations retain the Cornish flavor of this folklore comedy.

In the Scottish Whuppity Stoorie by Carolyn White, an evil fairy cures a poor woman's prize pig and demands her daughter Kate in return unless she can guess her name. The noble pig earns her keep by leading Kate deep into the forest where she overhears the fairy call herself ''Whuppity Stoorie.''

Two versions of this story told in the Scottish ballad ''Tamlane'' show how storytellers and illustrators give new meanings to a story.

In Jane Yolen's Tam Lin, Jennet Mackenzie has a mind of her own. ''No man would want her, even for all her beauty and her father's name. For she always spoke what she thought and what she thought was never quite proper for a fine young lady.

''On her seventeenth birthday,'' she wishes to claim her inheritance, the ancient family home of Carterhaugh stolen by the fairies many years ago and left in ruins. In the garden she plucks a rose, the only thing of beauty left, and suddenly a young man appears. Claimed by the fairies over a hundred years ago, he is Tam Lin, and if she cannot save him by Hallow's Eve, he will die.

The way she must save him is to pull him from his horse when the fairy procession passes and hold him no matter what shape he assumes. Vivid and bold illustrations by Charles Mikoolaycak depict Tam Lin's transformation from a serpent still partially clad in tartan to a lion. Jennet perseveres, outwits the fairies and wins herself a husband and a home.

In Susan Cooper's retelling, Margaret meets Tam Lin in the forest in June and must save him by Midsummer's Eve.Warwick Hutton's ethereal watercolors give this version a more dreamlike appearance, and his depiction of Tam Lin's transformation is dramatically rendered over three pages.

In The Selkie Girl, Cooper and Hutton present another legend of Scottish or Irish origin, concerning a man who he takes as his wife a Selkie, who is a gray seal in the water but a woman on land. He hides her sealskin and for many years the woman lives as his wife and mother to their five children.

When the youngest child finds his mother's sealskin, she confesses that she also has a family of five children in the sea, bids farewell to her land bound family, and disappears into the sea.

Mordical Gerstein's The Seal Mother softens the ending by having the son accompany his mother under water. Each Midsummer's Eve thereafter, the human and the Selkie branches of the family to cavort on the rocks. Children familiar with Ta Lin or selkie stories can recognize the shape-changing or transformation motif, which is found in ancient mythology as well as modern fantasy.

British folklore includes giants and was folklore but has developed relatively few of the complicated wonder tales that abound in French and Russian folklore. It is often more robust and humorous than some other European tale traditions. Its greatest contribution has been to the younger children in providing such nursery classics like the ''The Three Little Pigs'' ''Henny Penny'' ''The Little Red Hen,'' and ''Johnny-cake.''

  • German Folktales

Next in popularity to the English folktales are those of German origin.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm spent more than twelve years collecting the tales they published in eighteen hundred and twelve, as the first volume of Kinder and Hausmarchen(Household stories).

They did not adapt their stories for children, as Joseph Jacobs did for British folktales, but were very careful to preserve without the benefits of a tape recorder, the form and content of the tales as they were told. In eighteen hundred and twenty three, to eighteen hundred and twenty six, these were then translated into English by Edgar Taylor.

Beautiful collections and single tales of the Grimms' stories continue to be published. German folklore is enlivened by elves, dwarfs and devils, rather than the fairies of other cultures. The Grimm brothers' The Elves and The Shoemaker tells of a kindly but poor shoemaker who is aided in his work by elves until he and his wife return the favor by making the elves clothes.

Then, off went the elves scamper and never to be seen again.

The Seven Ravens, seven boys are changed into ravens by their father's curse when they break a jug of water that was to used to christen their new baby sister.

When the sister is old enough to realize what has happened, she sets off for the glass mountain to find them. Coming at last to a locked door, she must cut off her finger in order to pass through: there she is able to release her brothers.

  • Wicked enchantments and transformations are typical of German folktales.

Read more on folktales on this link:

More about Folktales

World Folktales

Did you still tell your child about world folktales?

See results

© 2013 Devika Primić


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    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      14 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on FOLKTALES OF THE WORLD. I have a lot of catching up to do here with comments and writing again.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      14 months ago from New Delhi, India

      Interesting and sweet reminder of the folktales of the World! I still enjoy reading them.

      Thanks for sharing this well researched and wonderful information !

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Tolovaj very kind of you to comment on Folktales of the World thank you

    • Tolovaj profile image


      4 years ago

      Thanks for this lovely article and some refreshment on my favorite subject - fairy tales with all the intriguing background!

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Folktales of the World: has been one of my greater interests, thanks very much Eiddwen for vote up, and shared so kind of you to stop by at my hubs.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      5 years ago from Wales

      This is a true gem and thank you so very much for sharing. Voted up across and shared.

      Enjoy your day .


    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Jo_Goldsmith11 thanks very much for the kind commenting and for the vote up, interesting, beautiful, tweet and shared on Folktales of the World so glad you cam be by.

    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image


      5 years ago

      This is so nice to read. My family read some of the folk tales to me when I was little. ''Rumpelstiltskin" was and still is one of my favorites. You can tell with the wonderful information you provided how you really worked hard on the research.

      Just Awesome, beautiful, interesting. Up she goes with a tweet & shared. Thank you for giving me a nice trip down memory lane. hugs. :)

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      robie2 thanks for the votes up and interesting I enjoy folktales and so glad you did too

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 

      5 years ago from Central New Jersey

      I think the folk tales we hear as children cast a long shadow in terms of our cultural point of view our whole lives.... often unconciously..... I love this hub and how you chart the differences and similarities in fairy tales and folk stories across various countries of Europe. voting up and interesting

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Astra Nomik so glad to see a new response at my hub Folktales of the World thanks and have a lovely day.

    • Astra Nomik profile image

      Cathy Nerujen 

      5 years ago from Edge of Reality and Known Space

      I read a lot of the Brothers Grimm as a child and I enjoyed the parables in the amazing stories that almost always contained some lesson in some way. Nice Hub. I enjoyed reading this.

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      KoffeeKlatch Gals what a lovely surprise so nice of you to stop by and comment on my hub hope you write something new looking forward to reading your new hub. Thanks for commenting.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Folktales and folklore are incredibly interesting to me. I so enjoy reading about them. Excellent hub about folktales.

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Denise Handlon Folktales of the World has taken me some time to write and thanks very much for your kind comments and votes up and shared have a good day

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      5 years ago from North Carolina

      DDE This is very well written and interesting. It must have taken you quite some time to do the cross research on these tales. UP/U/I and will share. Thanks for a wonderful hub.

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Jackie Lynnley thanks for the votes up and sharing on my hub Folktales of the World have a good Monday

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      What a fun read, thank you for sharing this with us and you have done a terrific job! Up and sharing.

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Wow! That is amazing almost a 100 years old a great age. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment on hubs Things You Shouldn't Do to Yourself, Is Life Taken for Granted, and Folktales of the World: I appreciate your kind comments take care!

    • CraftytotheCore profile image


      5 years ago

      Well-written Hub DDE! My great-aunt is a book publisher. She is almost 100 years old now, a retired Disney exec. She tells me that my great-grandmother from England was related to the writers of Grimm's Fairy Tales!

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      AliciaC nice of you to comment on my hubs I appreciate you taking the time and stopping by have good weekend

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a very interesting hub, DDE! I love all the details that you've shared. Some of the stories are familiar to me, but others aren't. Their plots are very imaginative.

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Writer Fox so glad you could share your views here thanks very much

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 

      5 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      Very interesting research on folktales!

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      rose-the planner Thanks for commenting on my hubs Folktales of the World, Flirtatious Messages From Facebook, and What Do You Think of Prenuptial Agreements, you are very kind yourself in supporting me all the way have a special weekend.

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      B. Leekley I have more about folktales to write about need get into the next lot of research, thanks for all votes and commenting I appreciate you stopping by.

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Shyron E Shenko thanks for all votes and commenting so glad you stopped by.

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Laura in Denver thanks for taking the time an dreading my work

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Nell Rose thanks for votes up and shared I appreciate your efforts in commenting here.

    • rose-the planner profile image

      rose-the planner 

      5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

      This is such an amazing article! I thought it was so insightful regarding folklore of the world. Thank you for sharing. (Voted Up). -Rose

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      5 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      I've always loved folk stories. Thanks for the overview. Up, Useful, and Interesting.

      The United States has folk stories, too, like about Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill and Brer Rabbit.

      Google on: "Five hundred new fairytales discovered in Germany" for an interesting recent news article.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      5 years ago from Texas

      DDE, thank you for the folklore stories. I did not hear many of them when I was a child, most were one that I read to my children.

      Voted-up and Interesting and shared.

    • Laura in Denver profile image

      Laura Deibel 

      5 years ago from Aurora

      Nice international story. I loved folk tales as a child and passed on what I remembered.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      5 years ago from England

      This was great DDE, what a great read! I used to love reading all the old folk tales from around the world, and all childrens stories like these have a real story behind them, voted up and shared! nell

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Elias Zanetti thanks for commenting so glad you stopped by

    • Elias Zanetti profile image

      Elias Zanetti 

      5 years ago from Athens, Greece

      Wonderful hub, DDE! Folktales are quite fascinating as a part of our heritage is important to keep them alive.

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Vellur me too love these old tales thanks for stopping by and commenting

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      tobusiness thanks so very much for commenting have a pleasant time.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      5 years ago from Dubai

      A great write and an interesting read. Your hub brought back memories of childhood. I love to read folktales even today.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      5 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Devika, another wonderful write, Folklores are like fuel to the imagination. Well done.

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Mhatter99 thanks for commenting have a pleasant day.

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      MsDora thanks for being one of my good supporter i so appreciate your comments.

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      kidscrafts interesting about folktales, it got me thinking even more about the great tales, thanks for your continuous support.

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Romeos Quill great comment and indeed something to think about with these funny tales. thanks for the sharing and all the clicks. have a pleasant day.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. One of my teachers, Fred Wilkins, was a master at tales.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      DDE, thank you for the stories. Most folklore I know I learned as an adult and I am still learning. They are very interesting and I appreciate your research.

    • kidscrafts profile image


      5 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Folktales are so interesting to read! I love the folktales from around the world! I bought books like that when my kids were young. It was a great way to open them to different cultures.... and I learned a lot myself too :-)

    • Romeos Quill profile image

      Romeos Quill 

      5 years ago from Lincolnshire, England

      Hey DDE!

      A really thorough Hub you've created here, full of the colourful metaphors of folklore and fairytale. Entertaining stories, and I like the modern humorous spin you portrayed with the ' Henny Penny ' tale. I wouldn't put much stock in these tales, but they are entertaining fancies, to ignite eager imaginations - The Three Bears, Dick Whittington ( an able, and philanthropic man, judging from the story ), etc.... always found, as a kid, the ' Hansel & Gretel ' tale by the brothers Grimm a little unsettling for my sister and I, because we understood that those things actually go on in real life ( apart from the edible house lol! of course ).

      Thank you for an entertaining read, and have a lovely remainder of this day.All the clicks, and sharing.

      Best Wishes,


    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      billybuc thnaks for taking part in my hub comments Folktales of the World

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      rajan jolly thanks for commenting have a good day

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      thumbi7 tthnaks for votes and for commenting

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      MG Singh thanks

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      D.A.L thanks very much for stopping by and commenting and for the votes have a pleasant day

    • DDE profile imageAUTHOR

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hi pstraubie48 during my research it ll just came back to me even more now and my favorite is Rapunzel love that story. Great to read your comment thanks for votes and stopping by.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      5 years ago from sunny Florida

      O loved this. I read many folktales over the years to my students and to my oldest grandson. And since the new baby was born I read them to him. He wants to hear them again and again.

      Well done. Angels are on the way voted up

    • D.A.L. profile image


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Once again you have produced a brilliant article ,awakening some very old and pleasant memories from my childhood days. Apart from the English ones that we all heard in the era of my childhood, and most of the German ones were familiar also especially The Elves and the Shoemaker.

      Thank you for awakening those memories. Voted up.

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      Good research made interesting.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 

      5 years ago from India

      Very interesting hub. I used to read folktale for my children along with other stories when they were small.

      Good collection

      Voted up and shared

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Folklore and folktales are what make a culture and it is interesting how a lot about the old traditions can be learnt by hearing about them. Thanks.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Nice job of research. Folktales are a part of our heritage and are fascinating. Thanks for giving us some background on them.


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