Storytelling has long been an effective method of teaching children. Starting first as an oral tradition and later published in books with detailed illustrations, fables and folktales have been passed down to children for many generations. In my case, these tales also led to my love of reading. I have fond memories of curling up next to the fire on cold winter days while reading my mother’s childhood copy of Grimms’ Fairy Tales. I loved its stories and accompanying illustrations. As a child, I considered that book to be one of my treasures - years later, it is still given a place of honor in my bookcase.
Below is a small sampling of a few other treasured tales that can be found among our CSWR collections.
Fables are short stories that teach a moral lesson through animal characters that display human attributes.
Illustration from Doctor Coyote: A Native American Aesop's Fables, written by John Bierhorst, Aesop, and Wendy Watson. Call # F1219.76 F65 B55 1987
The best known collection of fables is credited to Aesop, a slave who lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 564 BCE. Aesop’s Fables, also referred to as the Aesoica, are among the first stories to ever be printed. Originally passed down through the oral tradition, by the time the fables were set to paper in 1484, there were likely a few tales by other storytellers that were added to the collection under Aesop’s name.
The full list of Aesop’s fables is available online through the Library of Congress.
Fables of La Fontaine by Louis Henri Breviere. Call # PQ1808 A11841
Over the years, these fables have stood the test of time. Many new tales and reimagined versions of the old fables have been added along the way. La Fontaine’s Fables contained stories from various sources that were adapted for a French audience. Printed in several volumes from 1668 – 1694, they are still considered a classic of French literature.
Illustration from Fables by Paul David Holman, Call # PS3558 O35595 F33 1990
Similar to fables, folktales are also closely tied to oral traditions, but these short stories focus on human characters placed in true-to-life settings. Fairy tales are a sub-genre of folktales that usually involve both a fantasy element and a battle between good and evil.
Grimms’ Fairy Tales, originally known as the Childrens and Household Tales, are a German collection of tales curated by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm – the “Brothers Grimm.” First published in 1812, Grimms’ Fairy Tales are now listed by UNESCO under the Memory of the World Registry.
Cover art from Fairy Tales from Grimm, Call # PZ8 G882 F72 1909
Written by Lafcadio Hearn and published by Takejiro Hasegawa in 1898, the five books in this series of Japanese Fairy Tales feature beautiful woodblock prints on crepe paper.
A collection of five books, Japanese Fairy Tales by Lafcadio Hearn, Call # PZ8 J273 1898. Photo by Michael Taylor.
Known as the “American Fairy Tale,” The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was written by L. Frank Baum and published in 1900. Later republished under the title, The Wizard of Oz, the classic tale was followed by thirteen “Oz” related sequels.
Cover art and illustrations from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Call # PZ8.B327 Wo 1900
Woodblock print from Fables Choisies de J. P. Claris de Florian by Florian. Call # 848 F663f
Illustration from Russian Fairy Tales: Chiefly Following the Versions of Arthur Ransome by Arthur Ransome. Call # 398.4 R174r