Our final Russian folktale of the week has a witch, an easily duped king and will answer the question of what happens to the unborn babies if you transform a pregnant woman into a duck. Because I know I've always asked myself that very question!
I have to say the headless horseman in Germany's 'The Flaming Castle' is much, much more disciplined than the American version. And let's all remember that torturing old women for secrets never ends well for anyone.
'The Dancers' is our final German story of the week and features an agitated priest who curses a group of local revelers. It's pretty much German folklore's version of Footloose, featuring a curse from the heavens.
In 'The Wizard-Dervish' Turkish folklore combines a great number of folk tropes (forsaking a child that was born through magical intervention, three princesses and a choice, lots of transmutation and even an awkwardly extended wedding.
Happy Halloween! Today I'm rectifying a great injustice, and bringing you the story of the origin of the Jack O'Lantern and one man who got the better of the Devil and still lost out in the end - Stingy Jack.
Stories like 'The Legend of The Thunder Oak' do an amazing job of showing how Christianity absorbed the rituals and ceremonies of other religions. Plus we get yet another story of the first Christmas tree.
I absolutely love the story of 'Babouscka' - the old Russian woman who declined to follow the Three Wise Men on their way to Bethlehem to see the Christ child, then decided to bring him some toys in the morning.
It's hard to read some folklore without seeing the racist attitudes that are undeniably present. Especially in stories like 'How the Pigeon Became a Tame Bird', where it has no bearing whatsoever on the origin it supposedly brings us.
'Fair Maria Wood' is the kind of folktale that I deliberate heavily before sharing because of the extreme misogyny and abuse. In the end I hope that this spurs conversation about abuse and the place that our folklore has in having brought us to where we a
In Norway's version of the black and white bride 'The Bushy Bride' we can't help but end up asking ourselves with so many stories about evil stepmothers and sisters why did anyone bother getting remarried? It never really ended well.
'The Master and His Pupil' is the English version of Goethe's 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' which, in turn, is the basis for Disney's animated version. And it's probably the most fun I've had with a folktale this year.
'The Magic Mouthful' is a reminder that folklore can be used to reinforce some pretty misogynistic views and behaviors. The worst of them are like this tale and feature a wise older woman giving misogynistic advice to a younger woman. Not cool.
'Maria of the Forest' tries to teach us that we can't avoid our fate, by having a King repeatedly attempt murder because a strange voice said he was fated to marry a the daughter of a poor charcoal burner. Not really the nicest way to teach such a lesson
I'm normally all for the antagonist getting their just desserts (as we all know), but I'll be the first to admit that 'The Stepmother' from Thomas Crane's "Italian Popular Tales" takes it all a bit too far.
'Samuel Sewall's Prophecy' comes from a particularly complicated historical figure, Samuel Sewall. Sewall was an early abolitionist (although not terribly favorable to the African American) and one of judges at the famous Salem Witch Trials.
In 'The Mouse, The Bird, and The Sausage', the Brothers Grimm show us once again why once roommates figure out their respective jobs they should just stick to them. Also, why you should never listen to a jealous bird.
With 'The Tricks of a Woman' it's surely all about historical perspective. You can see this as a tale to warn men of the cunning nature of women, but I like to see it as a woman putting a cocky man in his place.
Sometimes folklore can help to answer a question that you've held since childhood, like why is a baker's dozen thirteen? In 'The Baker's Dozen' Charles Skinner gives us a reason filled with saints, cakes and a Dutch baker in Albany, NY.
I'm a sucker for creation tales, but the Cherokee tale of 'How The World Was Made' is now my absolute favorite. It is the very first creation story I've found that fully accepts that there are unknowns in the story and I love that about it.
This week the podcast is bringing you the three tales of King Alexander's Adventures from "Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends". This first story, 'The Vision of Victory' introduces us to King Alexander and introduces King Alexander to the Jews.
In the Nigerian tale of 'The Story of The Boy and The Old Woman and How the Wasp Got His Small Waist' we learn not why the wasp is, but rather why he's shaped the way he is. And the reason, according to the Hausa, is quite a tale.
In 'A Story About Three Youths All Skilled in Certain Things and How They Used That Skill to Circumvent a Difficulty' we see the familiar trope of threes played out in a unique manner. Instead of three challenges to overcome we see three different ways to
The Armenian folktale of 'Mind or Luck, Which?' has some strong thematic ties to the story of Job in the Old Testament. Two sides arguing with a man caught in the middle and in the end, nobody actually wins.
The Armenian folktale of 'The Sparrow and The Two Children' is much, much more than another story about a wicked stepmother trying to kill off her stepchildren. It's all about showing kindness, especially to animals.
If you think you have family issues may I refer you to the English folktale of 'The Golden Ball'. Now this poor girl has family issues. Luckily she also has a true love, which is almost always better in folklore.
In 'The Two Humpbacks' we have another tale that explores the difference in fates between two individuals. However, in this case, there's no clear good or bad person but definitely good and bad outcomes - and maybe that's the point.
'How Jack Went to Seek His Fortune' is a fun version of 'The Bremen Town Musicians' and an excellent foil to the American idea of the solitary Hero's Journey. Jack can't get his fortune without the animal friends he meets along the way.
We often romanticize it, but in the individual stories of soldiers we see the true brutality of war. The American folktale of 'Father and Son' tells such a tale and the impact that it can have on generations.