Fairy Tales from Around the World

The telling and reading of fairy tales has been around for nearly 6,000 years! These tales are ubiquitous to culture and can be found on nearly every continent. Not only do fairy tales and folklore carry on the culture of a region, but they are an important part of passing down traditions and life lessons to children.

According to Learning through Literature, “[fairy tales] enrich imagination, cultivate deeper understanding of life’s great truths, and elevate understanding of spiritual things that can be difficult and complex to convey.” Most fairy tales have life lessons woven into the plot and characters typically face a struggle, a tough decision, or a major life lesson by the end of the story. Children often struggle to comprehend concepts necessary to navigate adult life. Fairy tales to the rescue! “They often contain oversimplifications because that’s a function of how they teach us universal truths.”

Check out some of the fairy tales we discovered from all around the globe!

Zimbabwe – Mufaro’s Daughters

Inspired by time spent in Zimbabwe and the Xhosa Folklore, author John Steptoe wrote a beautiful tale about Mufaro and his two daughters, Nyasha and Manyara. The girls couldn’t be more different. One is kind and beloved by the villagers and the other is mean-spirited and bullies her sister. The sisters learn a life lesson when the King announces he is ready to marry and uses trickery to get to know the sisters as they truly are before choosing whom to wed.

India – Kathasaritsagara

One of the oldest and largest collections of folklore, the Kathasaritsagara is, “unparalleled in its appeal and the undiminished popularity of its tales over the centuries.” according to Rohini Chowdhury. This incredible piece of literature has also inspired hundreds of other tales including Arabian Nights and Canterbury Tales.

Japan – The Cat’s Elopement

Considered a hidden gem from collector Andrew Lang’s The Fairy Book, this Japanese fairy tale tells the story of two cats who fall in love. Their owners won’t let them be together so they eloped. But this is where their adventure begins. To read the full story, click here, to listen click here!

Guatemala – The Hen and the Coyote

This short but to-the-point fable comes from a collection is 41 tales of the Q’anjob’al-speaking people of the Cuchumat’n Mountains of Guatemala. Long believed to be a Mayan folktale, the Hen and the Coyote are amidst a battle of wits, and the coyote doesn’t realize what he’s up against. Check out the full story here.

England – The Ring and the Fish

One of the many tales included in English Fairy Tales, collected by Joseph Jacobs, this story showcases why one shouldn’t tempt fate. A mighty baron learns that he can’t change what the Book of Fate foretells about who his son is going to marry. Check out the story here!


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