After the incredible response I received from my last fairytale-inspired post, I thought I would share a few of my favourite classic fairytales and folklore from around the world. There are thousands of incredibly meaningful, and dark spine-chilling legends out there, and these are just merely a handful that intrigued me and sparked my interest! I had so much fun researching and reading all these individual tales, and I want to make it my aim this year to read more books from around the world and about different cultures so, any recommendations would be fabulous!
People have been telling stories about magic, witches, animals and heroes, since ancient times. Fairytales, folklore and legends are full of wild adventures and battles between good and evil. But what I love most about them is the life lessons that can be interpreted from them, and how they vary between cultures to represent colourful beliefs, cultural differences and centuries of wisdom.
The Blind Man’s Daughter – This beautiful tale highlights the importance of family and the lengths a daughter will go to save her father. The story begins when Shim, a poor, blind man, makes a promise to bring three hundred sacks of rice as a tribute to the temple of Budda after a monk saved his life. On his return home, father and daughter begin to weep, for neither of them could think of a way to pay their debt, that is until Shimchong’s mother returns to her in a dream with a solution…
A Purse Full of Tales – This tale focuses on a young boy who greedily demands stories from everyone he meets but refuses to share them, resulting in the stories rebelling and plotting their revenge against the boy. What I love most about this story is the moral behind it as it simply reminds us that stories are gifts that need to be heard and shared with others, rather than being kept hidden! This is a sign for anyone who has a story in their head to start writing and share your imagination with the world.
The Ballard of Fa Mulan – This legendary folk heroine will always be a favourite of mine. Like the Disney adaptation, the legend follows Mulan, as she goes to war in her father place for ten years and then returns home. When her identity is eventually revealed to her comrades Mulan simply offers a metaphor: “The male hare has heavy front paws. The female hare tends to squint. But when they are running side-by-side close to the ground, who can tell me which is male or female?”
The Empty Pot – This children’s folktale again has such a beautiful moral and teaches us the importance of honesty and perseverance. One day by royal proclamation, the Emperor announced a contest to determine who would succeed him to the throne. He declared that any boy should come to the palace to receive one royal seed and whichever boy could show the best results within six months would win the contest and become the Emperor. The young boy cared for his seed and did everything to help it grow, but alas nothing happened. Six months later, all the boys returned to the place with their blossoming plants and awaited judgment, all except for the one young boy who returns with his empty pot. The young boy presents the empty pot to the Emperor and reveals that all the seeds had been cooked, so there was no way anything could have grown! The Emperor valued the boy’s honesty and declared him his successor!
Huldufólk – Huldufólk or hidden people are elves in Icelandic folklore and are supernatural beings that live in nature and are a huge and magical part of Icelandic culture. They remain hidden in enchanted caves and rocks except on special occasions, when a lucky few may spot them wandering. According to folklore, the elves were created by God when he visited Adam and Eve. To prepare for the visit, Eve was washing the children but failed to finish before God arrived, so she hid the rest of the children. When God discovered what she had done he said, “What man hides from God, God will hide from man” and so the Hidden people came to be.
The Fountain Of Giant Land – Long ago there lived a blind King and one day a woman visited the palace with news of a fountain in Giantland that would cure his blindness. The eldest son then began his quest for the cure, but not before being enslaved by a giant, a fate that also befell the middle brother. To save his family the youngest son set out on his quest and managed to ignore the giant’s tricks and eventually reach the fountain.
At the fountain, he met an old woman and an enchanted princess in the form of a dragon who lay sleeping. The woman told the young prince to return in a year and a day when the enchantment would be broken, and he could claim her as his bride. After an exchange of rings, the prince made it back down the slope and saved his brothers. However, the two older brothers wanted the honours and blessings from the quest for themselves and, cast the young brother ashore whilst he was sleeping.
A year and a day flew swiftly by, but the prince never returned for the princess, so she travelled to meet the king and discover what evil had befallen the young prince. The king listened to their story and forced the brothers to confess. They soon found the young prince working hard for a fisherman and the couple were reunited. The fisherman revealed that, the young prince was the most faithful man to have ever worked for him, and that he had proven to the world that he would be fit to reign as king.
The Legend of Iara – Iara was once the pride of her tribe and grew to be the best warrior of them all — courageous, kind, strong and of course, beautiful. However, her brothers became envious of her and decided to solve their problem with the traditional go-to solution: murder. To save herself, she kills her brothers, but as punishment for what she had done, her father threw her into a river to drown. But she was not alone, and the fish in the river saved her by transforming her into a mermaid. Now when men found her, she would enchant them with her beauty and singing voice.
The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor – From The Thousand and One Nights, Sinbad’s adventures across the sea full of riches and of course monsters. The ever-restless Sinbad, who constantly finds himself shipwrecked tells the tale of his grand voyages across the sea and his alterations with mythological legends such as Roc’s (enormous birds), Polyphemus, the Old Man of the Sea and other royal figures.
The Legend of Baba Yaga – In the deepest darkest woods of Russia, lived a legendary woman renowned for her frighteningly ugly depiction, ever-moving house and appetite for children. Baba Yaga, the Witch of the East, is a character who influenced many classic fictional adventures including the works of Sarah J Maas, Uprooted by Naomi Novik and other Russian folklore.