World Folktales and Fables Week is celebrated the third week of each March. (This year it’s March 18-24.) Be sure to enjoy a good folktale at home and in your classroom! Use #WorldFolktales on social media, and tell us about your favorite folktales and fables.
World Folktales & Fables: Important Teaching Tools
Every culture has its own way of teaching lessons and sharing how different things came to be. Many do this through the telling of fables or folktales. Here, we look at eight folktales from around the world. Each one explores the origin of different phenomena and reflects important values. These folktales, which are all part of our Multicultural Book Sets, are a perfect way to teach your students or children about different cultures and languages from around the world. A special discount for World Folktales & Fables Week is offered at the end of the article.
How the Moon Regained Her Shape, By: Janet Ruth Heller and Ben Hodson
This accomplished children’s book is the winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award and the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award. This Native American folktale follows the story of the moon and her journey to understanding that other people’s words should not define her. Moon lets the Sun’s hateful words get the best of her and it makes her feel inferior and small just like a bully’s tormenting can make a victim feel small and oppressed. The Moon’s true friend, Round Arms, then shows her all the great things that people say about her and that she should not be discouraged by the hateful words of others.
The Empty Pot, By: Demi
This book provides a great vehicle to convey the message that honesty is the best policy. This Chinese folktale about the Emperor looking for a successor shows children that you will be rewarded for your honesty in ways you could never imagine. The Emperor had given all the children seeds and said that whoever returns with the most beautiful plant in one year will be the new emperor. All the children but one return a year later with beautiful plants. Yet the one boy with an empty pot, Ping, becomes the new Emperor. The Emperor had given everyone cooked seeds so nobody should have been able to grow a plant. Ping claimed his reward for his honesty and became the new emperor of China.
Once a Mouse… By: Marcia Brown
Winner of a Caldecott Medal, this book teaches children to be thankful for what they have as things can change at any moment. In this Indian folktale there is a hermit sitting in the forest when all of a sudden he sees a mouse running away from a crow. The hermit then turns the mouse into a cat and then into a huge dog and many more animals all increasing in size until what was once a mouse is now a tiger. The tiger becomes greedy and wants more power. The hermit spots his greed and turns him into a mouse once again because he is not thankful for what he has. Children will learn from this book that it is important to be thankful for all the good you have in your life and not focus on what you don’t have.
The First Strawberries, By: Joseph Bruchac and Anna Vojtech
This Cherokee folktale about the first man and women teaches children the important lesson to forgive and forget. The story tells of the man coming home one afternoon from hunting and getting angry at the women because she did not prepare any food for him. They fight and then the woman runs away, leaving the man stricken with sorrow and trying to catch up with the woman to win her back. The woman finally stops fleeing when she sees the strawberries, giving the man ample time to catch up with her. They then forgive each other for their mistakes and go back home. Reading this book is a great way to celebrate Cherokee culture and to learn how to forgive someone even if they hurt you.
Toad is the Uncle of Heaven, By: Jeanne M. Lee
This Vietnamese folktale tells the story of the toad and how his determination and strength must be respected regardless of his size and appearance. There was a horrible drought in Vietnam, people and animals were dying and the toad knew that something must be done. He set off on a long journey to find the King of Heaven and ask him to pour rain down on the Earth. Along the way other animals joined him to the Heavens. When they got there, the King refused to speak with them, so the toad and the other animals had to prove themselves. Finally the King listened to their complaints and rained water down over all of the Earth. The King now respected the Toad for his bravery and determination and called him “uncle” which is a sign of respect. The bravery and courage of the toad teaches children that with a little courage of their own they can do anything.
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears, By: Verna Aardema and Leo and Diane Dillon
This entertaining African story about a pesky mosquito who will not stop buzzing and own up to his faults is the winner of a Caldecott Award. The iguana’s anger towards the mosquito’s foolishness sets off a chain reaction which spirals out of control, and one of the Owl’s children ends up dying because of it. The animal council then tries to find who is at fault until they finally realize it is the mosquito’s fault for telling nonsensical stories. This folktale teaches children that it is more important to tell the truth than to exaggerate facts and be dishonest.
Liang and the Magic Paintbrush, By: Demi
Originating in China, this folktale tells the story of Liang and the paintbrush he was gifted by the old man on the phoenix. It was a magic paintbrush because everything he painted with it came to life! Liang used it to paint things for the poor and the needy, and everyone was very thankful. Until one day the greedy emperor found out about the paintbrush and tried to steal it from Liang. But since the emperor could not paint well, everything turned into something he did not want it to be. The Emperor then freed Liang with the condition that he would paint whatever the Emperor wanted. In the end, Liang was ordered to paint him an ocean and the Emperor drowned in it. This shows that if you are humble and you do things to benefit the needy then you will be blessed, but if you let greed get the best of you then there will be nobody to save you from drowning.
Rabbit and the Moon, By: Douglas Wood and Leslie Baker
This fable about friendship and giving is of Native American origin and still resonates with many people today. Rabbit has always wanted to go see the moon, and the crane was the only bird willing to fly the rabbit all the way there. The story goes that Rabbit is still on the moon now and anybody looking at the Moon from Earth can see Rabbit hopping around. In return for the trip to the moon, Rabbit gave the crane a red spot on his head. Crane’s legs were stretched out because the rabbit held on to them for so long during his flight. This story teaches that lending a helping hand to others will be a rewarding experience for all involved.
Language Lizard is offering a special 10% discount on some of our favorite bilingual folktales for World Folktales and Fables Week. Use code WFF2018 to get a 10% discount on The Dragon’s Tears, The Giant Turnip and Yeh Hsien: A Chinese Cinderella through the end of March 2018.