Writing Challenge, Day 18: Fables & Folklore

30 Day Know Thyself Writing Challenge

Day 18: Which genre of writing have you not explored but want to? Why?

I have always been enchanted by old stories: by fables, folklore, and legend. If it comes in a hardcover volume, smells of dust and yellowed pages, is found painted on ancient walls or has been passed from parent to child for hundreds of years at the candle-lit bedside, chances are I will love it.

It’s unfortunate that these stories are often tagged as strictly for children. Talking animals, gnarled witches, houses made of candy or standing on chicken feet—stories with these elements, that appeal to the imagination as well as to human nature, are not just timeless but ageless. The fable of a cunning fox that flatters a crow into dropping its grape is didactic and its lesson applies to adults as well as children. The same can be said of stories The Ant and the Grasshopper, The Little Red Hen, and The Goose That Laid Golden Eggs. And what folklore lacks in moral instruction it makes up for in magic: what mind is not captivated by Baba Yaga’s haggard nails and teeth? The magic comb and mirror? The glowing eyes of skin walkers, night marchers, or the chupacabra? The Irish tale of a young trickster named Jack who, banished from both heaven and hell, was doomed to wander the darkness with a burning ember inside a carved turnip?

While I’ve no ambition to be the next Aesop or Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen, I greatly admire their stories. They are pure magic and thrill me to this day—and, as a writer, I should think we couldn’t ask for more. After writing this post I am craving folklore like a chocolate doughnut with sprinkles! Perhaps after I steep myself in the stories of my childhood (and many more that I’ve missed) I will attempt something along the same lines.

Help a girl out: what are your favorite folk stories, fables, and myths? My reading list is in need!

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7 thoughts on “Writing Challenge, Day 18: Fables & Folklore

  1. Hey – didnt realise you’re participating in this challenge too! I’ve dedicated most of June to it.
    You know, I was never a Brother’s Grimm fan (although I love the tv show!). That Billy goat story scared the bejesus out of me (still does). If I were to choose a favourite myth or fable, I’d say Greek mythology. Being half Greek, you’d think I’d know more about it but I dont! I want to learn more about it though; it’s a fascinating world.

    • Yay! Yes, I was excited to see that somebody else was blogging about the writing challenge, too 🙂 Have you been enjoying it? It’s been a great exercise in discipline for me!

      Brothers Grimm is surely darker but I find it fascinating (in a haunting sort of way)… That’s so cool that you’re half Greek! If you have a chance maybe you can hear some of the folklore firsthand 🙂 I just love spoken story. I wish we did it more often in this culture than just reading to children at bedtime.

  2. There are so many hundreds of faerie tales I could recommend, mostly because I read far too many from all different cultures for research for my novel. But in particular there are two sources I have to tell everyone to go to.

    The first is a recent anime in Japan that actually turns the folklore that Japan has into little animated stories that you can watch. Each one of the stories are highly amusing and lots of fun, and I consider it reading since unless you understand Japanese you would have to read the English subtitles. The show is called Folktales From Japan, literally. You can find it here: http://www.1channel.ch/tv-2732549-Folktales-from-Japan if it is at all an interest.

    The second source is pretty much the ENTIRE collection of Andrew Lang’s ‘Fairy-books’. You can get the entire collection except for I think the Brown Fairy book on the Kindle for absolutely free, in fact most faerie tale books from the old days you can get on the Kindle for free. Andrew Lang though, gathered together faerie tales from hundreds of places, so you end up getting to read stories from all over the world by picking up his books, but they can be exhausting to get through. Each one is like 400+ pages and there is at least 12 as I remember. Searching for Andrew Lang will net you the collection though, easily.

    Beyond that of course you have Grimm (German), Perrault (French), Andersen (Danish), D’Aulnoy (French), and many others. I might add the majority of those authors had actually only written down what was simply previously spoken word stories, or retold already existing tales. Which might be surprising, but even today there are still stories told only through word of mouth that are never written down.

    • Jordan! You are amazing! Thank you so much for this great detailed reply. You are my future GO-TO for all things faerie!!! Folktales from Japan sounds like a fun way to see how my Japanese is holding up (I lived in Japan for a year after studying the language) :]

      Although when it comes to stories I think there is little that trumps reading from an old volume– except perhaps the FREE kindle version! Thank you for pointing me to Andrew Lang. I look forward to reading more tales from other cultures especially.

      I am less familiar with Perrault and D’Aulnoy. Maybe that is good motivation to pick up the pace with my French studies.

      It thrills me that there are still stories which are only shared through word of mouth. I think oral storytelling is a very rich tradition and wish there was more of it in our culture. Do you know if / suppose that some of those stories are considered sacred, and that is why they are not written? (Or is it simply a matter of they managed to stay off the story collectors’ radars?)

      At any rate thank you again for your reading and reply!

      • Well a lot of those stories simply haven’t been written down because the people that tell them don’t have a written language, and no one has translated them over to a different language to write them down. Languages die out every day, it’s sad but it happens. And with those languages a lot of stories disappear too.

        Perrault is one of those authors that people know, they just don’t often realize it. He wrote the original collections of Red Riding Hood and Puss in Boots and such. D’Aulnoy is actually one of my favorites, not because of her stories, but because she was a French Countess back in the 1600s and she coined the French Term for Faerie Tales because she wrote so many. This is back when women writers weren’t exactly accepted. Also the majority of her Faerie Tale works are actually written for adults and not children. Which most people tend to not realize (The reason why the Grimm tales are so dark) Faerie Tales were originally for Adults. It wasn’t until after the 1900s that they started to become something you read to a child, which is when we also got the updates, like Red Riding Hood being saved from the belly of the wolf instead of just being eaten.

        • You are a tome of knowledge! Thank you so much for sharing, Jordan 🙂 Have you learned what you know about faerie tales, fables, etc. in your own pursuit of the interest? Taken a class, maybe?

  3. That’s how I learn best, on my own as my interests flare. I probably would have totally bombed a class on Faerie Tales just around two years ago. The whole reason I started reading them all though was for my novel Beyond Ever After. Its the faerie tale world, but it shows the faerie tale characters after the events of their faerie tales. Its twenty years after Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, and I came up with a fun way to explain how Red was both eaten and still alive though it is unknown for now to anyone but me. Many faerie tale characters I found could combine together. There are a few ‘Goldielocks’ characters, actually named that, where the original Goldielocks tale was actually about an old woman who had gone into the three bear’s cabin. So I made two character’s the new and young goldielocks (Who has a tale with Prince Charming which is actually in some ways in the first book) and then the old Grandma of that Goldielocks who had snuck into the bear’s home. Tarnishing her family’s name forever as thieves.

    I did some combinations that weren’t there originally, but because of the way faerie tales are told, often with only titles and not names, I could combine them. So Red Riding Hood discovers the use of her magic, and ends up being Cinderella’s Fairy God Mother (As there is a whole academy devoted to producing Fairy God Mother’s since it is the only legal way to perform magic in the world.)

    It’s a fun story and I’ve had so much excitement from working on it so far. So much so that I had already started the first chapter of the second book, before I even have finished this first book completely!

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