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Folktales A-Z

Saving Time

    Shmul was on his way to the market in Chelm one afternoon when he saw his good friend Bein on the street.
    “Sholom aleichem,” called Shmul to his friend.
    “Go to blazes,” Bein said without missing a beat.

    A Gift from St. Nicholas

    A Gift from Saint Nicholas

      Claas Schlaschenschlinger was a wealthy cobbler living on New Street in New Amsterdam. He was a contented bachelor who could afford eight – eight mind you! – pairs of breeches and he had a little side business selling geese. He cut quite a figure in New Amsterdam society, and was happy being single, until he met the fair Anitje! She was as pretty as a picture, and Claas fell head over heels for her. He was not her only suitor, by any means. The local burgomaster was also courting the fair Anitje. But the burgomaster was a stingy, hard man, and in the end, Anitje gave her heart and hand to Claas…

      Der Belznickel

      Der Belznickel

        My sisters and my baby brother danced about the house, whispering to each other excitedly about the coming of der Belznickel on that snowy December 5th evening, the day before the Feast of Saint Nicholas. According to the stories, the good Saint Nicholas chains up the Devil on the eve of his Birthday – December 6th — and makes him visit all of the children in the village to see if they have been behaving themselves and deserved the attention of Kirstkindel.

        A Baker's Dozen

        A Baker’s Dozen

          Back in the old days, I had a successful bake-shop in Albany. I had a good business, a plump wife, and a big family. I was a happy man. But trouble came to my shop one year in the guise of an ugly old woman. She entered my shop a few minutes before closing and said: “I wish to have a dozen cookies.” She pointed to my special Saint Nicholas cookies that were sitting out on a tray. So I counted out twelve cookies for her…

          Haunted Christmas

          Haunted Christmas

            The soft thud of following footsteps echoed behind him as he hurried through the snowflakes toward home. They kept pace with him, quickening when he quickened and slowing when he slowed. It was creepy. His flesh crawled at the sound and he sped up, cursing himself for walking home alone from the midnight Christmas Mass.

            I'm All Right

            I’m All Right

              We knew right from the start that Johnny was going to be a soldier. Even as a child, all his concentration was on the military. So we weren’t surprised when he joined the Marines right out of high school…

              Wait Until Emmet comes

              Wait Until Emmet Comes

                A preacher was riding to one of the churches on his circuit when darkness fell. It was about to storm, and the only house nearby was an old mansion which was reputed to be haunted. The preacher clutched his Bible and said: “The Lawd will take care o’ me”…

                The Devil's Christmas Gift

                The Devil’s Christmas Gift

                  Away down South, an old custom dictates that if someone comes up to you on Christmas Day and says “Christmas gift” before y’all do, why y’all are obliged to give that person a present. Mind you, the custom does not say what sort of present y’all should give! But those of us who hail from the South consider ourselves to be gentlefolk. The gifts given and received in this manner are good enough to keep the custom alive and well…

                  Ghosts of Red Creek

                  The Ghosts of Red Creek

                    A small party of gentlemen on the day before a crisp, cold Christmas, started from Gulfport in a large four-wheeled wagon for a thirty-mile drive into the wilderness of pine and a week’s sport after the deer. The tract of pine forest extended for miles with only a few habitations scattered through it. Red Creek drained this region into the Pascagoula River to the eastward.

                    Eavesdropper

                    Eavesdropper

                      There is an old tale which claims that at midnight, on Christmas Eve, the cattle will kneel in the barn and speak with one another. Once an old Maryland man decided to test the tale by hiding in the barn at midnight to listen. So he climbed a rope to the window in the hayloft. He lay down on the rough gray boards, covered himself with hay and waited…

                      Armadillo’s Song

                        There once lived an armadillo who loved music more than anything else in the world. After every rainfall, the armadillo would drag his shell over to the large pond filled with frogs and he would listen to the big green frogs singing back and forth, back and forth to each other in the most amazing voices.

                        La Llorona

                        La Llorona

                          Once there was a widow who wished to marry a rich nobleman. However, the nobleman did not want to raise another man’s children and he dismissed her. The widow was determined to have the nobleman for her own, so the widow drowned her children to be free of them…

                          Llorona, Omen of Death

                          Llorona, Omen of Death

                            They say that the Llorona was once a poor young girl who loved a rich nobleman, and together they had three children. The girl wished to marry the nobleman, but he refused her. He told her that he might have considered marrying her if she had not born the three out-of-wedlock children, which he considered a disgrace.

                            Lady in the Veil

                            The Lady in the Veil

                              He had not expected to meet the woman of his dreams, but there she was strolling along in the moonlight beside the cemetery. Carlos quickened his pace until he was level with her, hoping for a glimpse of her face under her veil.

                              Buried Treasure

                              Buried Treasure

                                There once was an evil priest who did not fear God or man. His duties for the church included counting the offerings and ringing the bells to summon people to Mass. But his heart was filled with greed, and he began to take advantage of the good people of his parish. The priest stole money out of the offerings to keep for himself, and when he had filled a chest full of gold, he killed a man and buried him with the chest so the murdered man’s ghost would guard it.

                                El Muerto

                                  After getting the lay of the land, so to speak, frontier man Bigfoot Wallace moved from Austin to San Antonio, which was considered the extreme edge of the frontier, to sign up as a Texas Ranger under Jack Hayes. In them days, Texas was as wild as the west could get. There was danger from the south from the Mexicans, danger to the wet and north from the wild frontier filled with Indians and desperados, and to the east the settlements still had problems with the Cherokee Nation…

                                  Girl in White

                                  Girl in White

                                    He was sulking a little, standing at the sidelines while all the other men danced with their pretty partners. His girl had not come to the dance that night. Her mother was ill, and so his girl had remained at her side. A fine pious act, he thought sourly, but it left him at loose ends.

                                    The Wailing Woman

                                      Once a Spanish soldier married a beautiful native woman and they had two children whom the soldier loved very much. However, the soldier came from a rich family. His parents and relations disapproved of his wife and threatened to disown him unless he married a Spanish woman…

                                      Joaquin Murietta: Bandit of the Goldfields

                                        Joaquin Murietta and wife Rosita lived with his older brother Carlos in California. The three Mexican immigrants were living on a small, successful farm and the men were also working a claim near Hangtown. However, the other miners living nearby tried to run them off, telling them that it was illegal for Mexicans to pan for gold or hold a claim. The Murietta brother’s ignored their threats and continued to live peacefully on their farm and work in the gold-fields.

                                        Bigfoot Wallace and the Gray Bean

                                          Turns out, the rough and tumble life of a Texas Ranger wasn’t enough to satisfy Bigfoot Wallace. No sir! He hungered for adventure, and he found it. First he fought against Mexican General Adrian Woll’s invasion of Texas in 1842, then he volunteered for the retaliatory raid across the Rio Grande…

                                          John Henry: Steel driving man

                                          John Henry: The Steel Driving Man

                                            Now John Henry was a mighty man, yes sir. He was born a slave in the 1840’s but was freed after the war. He went to work as a steel-driver for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, don’t ya know. And John Henry was the strongest, the most powerful man working the rails.

                                            The Trickster Tricked

                                            The Trickster Tricked

                                              Rabbit and Terrapin met near the stream one morning. It was a lovely clear day, and they both basked in the warm sunshine and swapped some stories. Rabbit started boasting that he was the fastest runner in the world. Terrapin wasn’t having any of that! No sir!

                                              Why the Possum Plays Dead

                                              Why the Possum Plays Dead

                                                Rabbit and Possum each wanted a wife, but no one would marry either of them. They talked over the matter and Rabbit said, “We can’t get wives here. Let’s go to the next village. I’ll say I’m messenger for the council and that everybody must marry at once, and then we’ll be sure to get wives.”

                                                The Eagle's Revenge

                                                The Eagle’s Revenge

                                                  Once a hunter in the mountains heard a noise at night like a rushing wind. He went outside his tepee, and found an eagle was sitting on the drying pole, feasting at the deer he had shot. So, he shot the eagle.

                                                  The Man Who Shot a Ghost

                                                  The Man Who Shot a Ghost

                                                    In the olden time, a man was traveling alone, and in a forest, he killed several rabbits. After sunset he was in the midst of the forest. He had to spend the night there, so he made a fire. He thought this: “Should I meet any danger by and by, I will shoot. I am a man who ought not to regard anything.”

                                                    Old Woman Who Never Dies

                                                    Old-Woman-Who-Never-Dies

                                                      In the sun lives the Lord of Life. In the moon lives Old-Woman-Who-Never-Dies. She has six children, three sons and three daughters. These live in the sky. The eldest son is the Day; another is the Sun; another is Night.

                                                      The Little Red Hen

                                                      The Little Red Hen

                                                        Little Red Hen found a Wheat Seed that, if planted, would grow up and when ripe it could be made into flour and then into bread. But what should she do with it?

                                                        The Salt Witch

                                                        The Salt Witch

                                                          A pillar of snowy salt once stood on the Nebraska plain, about forty miles above the point where the Saline flows into the Platte, and people used to call it the Salt Witch.

                                                          Origin of the Wind

                                                          Origin of the Wind

                                                            Napioa, the Old Man who made the earth, is determined to have the bags that hold the summer and winter, so he asks prairie chicken to take them from the lodge where they are kept by man and woman.

                                                            The Catskill Witch by S.E. Schlosser

                                                            The Catskill Witch

                                                              At the peak of this mountain lived the Catskill witch who managed the weather for the whole of the Hudson Valley.