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Folktales A-Z

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…

    First Things First

    First Things First

      Well, the spring floods here in Vermont are mighty fierce, doncha know. One young farmer named Tom got trapped one year when the river started rising near his place. He watched the water creep up to his front porch, and then through the front door, and then on up the steps until he and his wife were trapped in their upstairs bedroom.

      One Short

      One Short

        There is a tale once told of a Mississippi riverboat captain who called all of the passengers to the top deck in the middle of the night. When the announcement was made, everyone hurried topside, wondering fearfully what had occasioned the disruption in their sleep.

        The Snow Maiden

        The Snow Maiden

          Once upon a time there lived a peasant named Ivan and his wife, Marie. They were very sad because they had no children. One cold winter day the peasant and his wife sat near a window in their cottage and watched the village children playing in the snow. The little ones were busily at work making a beautiful snow maiden.

          The Ice King

          The Ice King

            Once upon a time there was a village built on the bank of a wide river. During the spring, summer, and autumn the people were very happy. There was plenty of fuel and game in the deep woods; the river afforded excellent fish. But the Passamaquoddy dreaded the months when the Ice King reigned.

            Saint Nicholas and the Children

            St. Nicholas and the Children

              Two little children lived with their old grandmother in a remote place in the Canadian forest. They were twin children—a boy and a girl, Pierre and Estelle by name—and except for their dress it was not easy to tell them apart. Their father and mother had died in the springtime, and in the summer, they had left their old home because of its many sad memories and had gone to live with their old grandmother in a new home elsewhere.

              The First Christmas Tree

              The First Christmas Tree

                At the time when the Christ Child was born all the people, the animals, and the trees, and plants were very happy. The Child was born to bring peace and happiness to the whole world. People came daily to see the little One, and they always brought gifts with them.

                No Room: A Christmas Legend

                No Room

                  Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, on the night before Christmas, a little child was wandering all alone through the streets of a great city. There were many people on the street, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, uncles and aunts, and even gray-haired grandfathers and grandmothers, all of whom were hurrying home with bundles of presents for each other and for their little ones. Fine carriages rolled by, express wagons rattled past, even old carts were pressed into service, and all things seemed in a hurry and glad with expectation of the coming Christmas morning

                  Legend of Babouschka

                  The Legend of Babouscka

                    It was the night the dear Christ-Child came to Bethlehem. In a country far away from Him, an old, old woman named Babouscka sat in her snug little house by her warm fire. The wind was drifting the snow outside and howling down the chimney, but it only made Babouscka’s fire burn more brightly.

                    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…

                        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.

                            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…

                              The Street of the Jewel

                              The Street of the Jewel

                                What this street was called, in very old times, Señor, no one knows: because the dreadful thing that gave to it the name of the Street of the Jewel happened a long, long while ago.

                                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…

                                  Racing a ghost

                                  Racing a Ghost

                                    It was early on Christmas morning when John Reilly wheeled away from a picturesque little village where he had passed the previous night, to continue his cycling tour through eastern Pennsylvania. To-day his intention was to stop at Valley Forge, and then to ride on up the Schuylkill Valley, visiting in turn the many points of historical interest that lay along his route.

                                    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.

                                      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.

                                                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…

                                                    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…

                                                      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!