When Albert Einstein was asked how to develop intelligence in young people, he answered: "Read fairy tales. Then read more fairy tales." It may also be true that exposure to fairy tales helps develop imagination.Sample some of the following activities to learn more about folk and fairy tales.
The following are places to go (some real and some virtual) to find out about folk and fairy tales.
Travel to California and Oregon and try and meet up with Big Foot. Or travel to the Himilyaas and look for the Abominable Snowman.
Check out all the versions of Cinderella from cultures around the world. Have your students compare them.
Travel to China and read Chinese folk tales. Then travel to Japan and experience Japanese folk tales
Visit Germany in the early 1800s. Grimm’s Fairy Tales was first published in 1812 and is one of the best-known collections of folk and fairy tales. The actual title of their collection of tales is Kinder und Hausmärchen which means Children’s and Household Tales. The Grimms didn’t write the fairy tales; they collected them
Take a walk down this spooky, moonlit road to experience folk tales of the American south.
Meet Aesop he lived sometime between 500 and 600 BC. He is famous for his moralizing fables. From this site, you can read full text of all the fables
Decide if you want to spend time with Dracula. Bram Stoker may have based his famous character on a prince who once lived in the area of Transylvania. This prince was known for being a cruel tyrant with his own citizens as well as with his enemies
Cultivate friendships with Paul Bunyan, John Henry, Pecos Bill, and Old Stormalong. And don’t forget about Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crocket and Slue-Foot Sue. The characters of American tall tales are larger than life, reflecting the qualities that it took to settle and tame a new American country
Spend some time with Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm. They were wonderful storytellers
Meet Carlo Collodi, the author of Pinocchio. He was an Italian, born in the early 1800s. His original tale about Pinocchio is very different from the Disney version that we all know. His tale begins: “Once upon a time there was a piece of wood.”
Get to know Hans Christian Andersen. Did you realize that he wrote The Little Match Girl, The Ugly Duckling, The Snow Queen, The Little Mermaid, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, The Princess and the Pea, and more? All in all, he wrote 169 fairy tales
Talk with Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Bullwinkle the Moose to relive the clever fractured fairy tales that were part of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Many of those tales can still be seen today on YouTube
For an enjoyable excursion into the world of crazy fairy tales, chat with Jon Szieszka. (His last name rhymes with Fresca). He is the author of The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Fairy Tales.
Spend time with King Arthur. The Arthurian legends of the British Isles represent an idealized king who eventually ruled the idealized nation of Camelot. Merlin, Guinevere, Lancelot, and the sword called Excalibur hold a solid position in the tapestry of British tales
Meet L. Frank Baum. Who has not grown up with his classic fantasy tale, The Wizard of Oz?
Meet Lewis Carroll, the author of the literary fairy tale, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass. His real name was Charles L. Dodgson
Visit with a leprechaun. They are small, Irish, magical, wee folks. They are often portrayed as cobblers or shoemakers. The legend is that if you catch a leprechaun, he must reveal to you the location of his treasure which is usually a pot of gold. If you catch him, he must also grant you three wishes. If you visit Ireland, watch for the road signs indicating “Leprechaun Crossing”
Meet Puss in Boots. This tale had its origins in Italy in about 1550. It was later retold by Charles Perrault and is usually associated with him. Part of the charm of this tale is that something as insignificant as a cat can be responsible for great and important achievements.
Spend time with Beowulf and Grendel. Beowulf is the hero of the epic poem bearing his name which takes place in medieval Scandinavia. Grendel was the monster who attacked the court of the Danish king Hrothgar every night and killed all the warriors. Beowulf was able to kill Grendel. But then he had to deal with Grendel’s mother who wanted revenge
Visit with Robin Hood and his Band of Merry Men. No one knows for sure if Robin Hood was a real person
Meet Charles Perrault. He is as important to fairy tales as are the Brothers Grimm. In France, in the late 1600s, he published a small volume of fairy tales that included Little Red riding Hood, Cinderella, and The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood
A particular kind of folk tale is the pourquoi tale. Pourquoi is French for why. Pourquoi tales attempt to explain why things are as they are in the world. For example, they try to explain why mosquitoes buzz in your ears, how kangaroo got its tail, and how chipmunk got its stripes
Most of these tales taught lessons or morals and pointed out human frailties. Tricksters often ended up doing something beneficial for mankind such as introducing fire or helpful tools and, therefore, had a positive aspect to their persona. Coyote was a trickster of the Native Americans of the southwest U.S., and Raven was a trickster spirit of the native peoples of the Pacific Northwest.
Read folk tales from around the world.
Study 12 versions of Cinderella
Take a fairy tale quiz and record your score
Read a new folk tale each month.
Find 15 versions of Cinderella, 5 versions of the Emperor's New Clothes, 9 different kinds of Frog Kings, and more
Study 16 versions of this classic tale
Read this book by James Garner. Does "The Duckling That Was Judged On Its Personal Merits And Not On Its Physical Appearance" sound better than the traditional title?
Kay Vandergrift of Rutgers University has written extensively about the many versions (there are 36 versions!) and aspects of Snow White. Read her hypertest version of Snow White to learn about "the fairest of them all"
Find curricular resources for the study of folk and fairy tales. There are also links to instructional materials like lesson plans which will help teachers provide instruction in this theme
Read folk and fairy tales from around the world. There are teaching materials and activities to go with many of the stories
Have your students read this book by Jon Scieszka. It's a great book to teach the concept of point of view because this tale is told through the eyes of the wolf (who claims that he is not big or bad and that he was framed).
- Betts, Louise. The Classic Grimm's Fairy Tales. Philadelphia, Pa. : Courage Books, c1989.
- Carter, Angela. Strange Things Sometimes Still Happen:Fairy Tales from Around the World. Winchester, MA: Faber and Faber, 1993.