15 Fairy Tales From Around The World That You Might Not Have Heard Yet
Quick question: How many fairy tales can you name? If you haven't read Hans Christian Andersen or Andrew Lang in a while, you should definitely commit to reading some of their archetypal tales soon. In the meantime, I have 15 fairy tales from around the world that you can check out right now.
Fairy tales come in all shapes and sizes. There's so much overlap between fairy tales from around the world that we have the Aarne-Thompson Uther Tale Type Index to help us keep track of each different fairy tale trope. No. 510 is the "Cinderella and Cap o' Rushes" story, which we all know and love, and which appears in many, many cultures across the globe.
But what about those stories that don't appear as often in western folk traditions — the ones we don't all know and love? On the list below, I've collected 15 disparate fairy tales from around the world for you to enjoy whenever you need a fun read with a happy ending. Because really, couldn't we all use one of those every now and again?
Check out some of my favorite fairy tales below and add your favorite to your own summer reading list:
"The Death of Koschei the Deathless," from Russia
This Russian story details the chaos that ensues when a bumbling prince frees the eponymous villain, who has been kept in chains by his wife. Catherynne M. Valente's Deathless retells the story, setting it in the years following the Russian Revolution.
"Dhon Cholechā," from Nepal
This tragic folktale from the Himalayas takes its name from the nanny goat that belongs to its heroine, Punkhu Maincha, who is kidnapped by demons after her family slaughters the animal.
"The Flood Myth," from the Quechua People
From the Quechua people of South America comes this story about shepherds whose llamas tell them to take shelter from an incoming flood on a mountain. You might also see this fairy tale billed as a Peruvian or Incan flood myth.
"Freya's Wedding," from Scandinavia
When Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, is stolen by a giant, Thor disguises himself as Freya, whose hand in marriage the giant has demanded as ransom for Thor's weapon. Together with Loki, who is disguised as Freya's handmaiden, Thor travels to the world of the giants to get Mjolnir back. Neil Gaiman retells the story in Norse Mythology.
"The Golem of Prague," from Czechia
In this story, a 16th century rabbi creates a man out of clay and animates him, hoping he will protect the Jews of the Prague ghetto from an extermination plot. You can read one version of the story in David Wisniewski's Caldecott Award-winning picture book, Golem.
"How Anansi Brought Stories to the World," from the Asante
Trickster and storyteller Anansi's origins can be found in this Asante fairy tale, in which the Sky God Nyame tasks him with capturing three other creatures.
"The Kites and the Crows," from the Swahili People
This pourqoi story from Africa explains why kites fly away from smaller crows. It was first translated into English in 1870 by Edward Steere, a linguist and bishop who studied the Swahili language by taking down stories from the people of Zanzibar. All of the stories in his Swahili Tales were originally published side-by-side in Swahili and English.
"The Mermaid and the Boy," from the Sámi People
This fairy tale from the Sámi people of Finland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden tells the story of a prince and princess who fall in love, but are forced to marry others instead.
"The Necklace of Princess Fiorimonde," from France
Originally published in 1880, the title tale from The Necklace of Princess Fiorimonde and Other Stories tells the story of an evil princess whose necklace traps her suitors' souls.
"The Princess on the Glass Hill," from Norway
This Norwegian fairy tale follows a young hero named Cinderlad as he attempts to scale a glass mountain in order to win a selective princess' hand in marriage.
"The Pumpkin Child," from Iran
This "Cinderella"-like tale from Iran centers on a girl who — because her mother wished for a child, any child, even if it looked like a pumpkin — spends most of her time living inside of a pumpkin, and only comes out when she is completely alone. The story is contained in Anne Sinclair Mehdevi's Persian Folk and Fairy Tales.
"The Tiger, the Brahman, and the Jackal," from India
In this classic folktale, a Brahma bull frees a tiger from a trap, only to learn that the predator intends to eat him as repayment for his good deed. Unable to decide whether the tiger has the right to eat his rescuer, they turn to other creatures, including the wily jackal, for advice.
"The Tinderbox," from Denmark
This Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale follows a soldier who comes into possession of a magical tinder-box, which summons some frightful, talking dogs to do his bidding.
"Urashima Taro," from Japan
In this Japanese "Rip van Winkle"-esque tale, the titular fisherman rescues a sea turtle, who rewards him by granting him an audience with the Dragon King. When Taro returns home, however, he learns that it has been 100 years since he left the mortal world. Ursula K. Le Guin retells this fairy tale in her short story, "A Fisherman of the Inland Sea."
"The Watermelon Prince," from Vietnam
Another pourqoi story, "The Watermelon Prince" tells the story of how the fruit came to Vietnam and saved a good man from exile.