Compiled by Rose Owens



Stories can help us survive.  Stories can provide tools for coping and impart emotional survival skills.  This is a working bibliography of stories that contain “bits of wisdom” or provide opportunities for discussion.  Share these stories but don’t forget to tell stories just for fun and for escape.  Escape is also a survival tactic! You are invited to share your favorite stories and how you use them.   Email suggestions to me at Storylady@civprod.com


This bibliography is not inclusive.  Each storyteller/reader needs to search for the stories that "speak" to him.  Remember that the listener takes from each story what he needs--not necessarily what you think you are giving.  This means that the uses suggested in this bibliography can only be considered as possible guidelines. 


Deciding whether to read a story or tell it can be difficult.  If you read a story, you are using the exact words of the story.  You don't risk missing an "important" element and it does take less preparation time.  (If you are reading a story and want to add certain lines, you might write them on post-it notes and put them on the appropriate pages.)  Telling a story allows the storyteller to adapt the story and "shape" it to more closely match the needs of specific listeners or specific situations.  It allows more opportunity for interaction with the audience.  Telling a story allows the storyteller to have more eye contact with the listener and increases the sensitivity between storyteller and listener. 


Story Sources:


The Black Prince       (consequences of choices, insecurity, young love, assumptions)

                A young commoner falls in love with the girl in the garden.  Every day he climbs the tree outside the garden and plays his flute for her.  No word is spoken by either of them.  Because he believes that she could never love someone like him, the young man  goes to Habee and asks for a new soul.  Changing his soul is an irreversible decision.   He returns—brave and powerful—to find that the girl still loves the boy he once was.  

“The Black Prince” (Egypt), told by Laura Simms, Ready-to-Tell Tales, David Holt & Bill Mooney, August House Publishers, Little Rock, 1992.


The Bundle of Sticks             (cooperation, unity)

            A father asks each of his contentious sons to each try to break a bundle of sticks.  None of them can.  He separates the bundle and gives one stick to each son.  Each son breaks his stick with ease. 

“The Bundle of Sticks” (Aesop), The Book of Virtues, William J. Bennett, ed., Simon & Schuster, New York, 1993. 


Dragonfly’s Tale        (consequences of choices, death, abandonment, grief and healing)

Two young children are accidentally left behind by the Ashiwi tribe.  The brother tries to make a flying thing out of a cornstalk and some corn leaves.  His intent is to help his little sister to not miss her mother so much.  His gift of love is the very thing that saves them from starvation.  Sometimes loved ones do accidentally leave you behind.  Sometimes getting your mind off your troubles can be healing.

Dragonfly’s Tale, Kristina Rodanas, Clarion Books, New York, 1992.

The Boy Who Made Dragonfly: A Zuni Myth, Tony Hillerman, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1986.


The Happy Man’s Shirt         (positive attitude, grief)

The king's son is ill and can only be cured if he sleeps for one night in the shirt of a happy man.  When the happy man is found, he has no shirt.  Money could neither buy happiness nor restore health.  It’s who you are, not what you have that’s important.

“The Happy Man’s Shirt” (Italy), Favorite Folktales from Around the World, edited by Jane Yolen, Pantheon Fairy Tale & Folklore Library, New York, 1988.


The King’s Hawk       (anger, impulsiveness, consequences of choices)

Genghis  Kahn becomes angry when his hawk won’t let him get a drink from a spring.  He impulsively kills the hawk and then discovers that a poisonous snake is in the upper pool.  He has rewarded the loyalty of his hawk with death and the consequence of his choice cannot be undone.

“The King and His Hawk,” retold by James Baldwin, The Book of Virtues, William J. Bennet, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1993.


The Lion’s Whisker   (step-parent/child relationships, stereotypes, patience)

A woman wants a love charm to make her stepson love her.  The wise man tells her that she must bring him 3 whiskers from a lion.  The lesson she learns while getting the whiskers is the lesson she needs to win her stepson’s love.  "This story deliberately challenges the stereotypes about stepmothers. . .  It is a healing story, a story about bridging troubled waters." (Len Cabral)    This story talks about the need for patience and courage in nurturing love.

“The Lion's Whisker,” (East Africa), told by Len Cabral in Ready-to-Tell Tales, David Holt & Bill Mooney, editors, August House Publishers, Inc., Little Rock, Ark., 1994.

“The Lion’s Whisker” (Ethiopia) The Lion's Whiskers and Other Ethiopian Tales, Brent Ashabranner and Russell Davis, Linnet Books, North Haven, Conn., 1997. 

“The Tiger’s Whisker” (Korea), Wisdom Tales from Around the World, Heather Forest, August House Publishers, Inc., Little Rock, Ark., 1996.  (A husband returns from the war with “no love left in his heart”.  His wife must obtain a tiger’s whisker to get the love charm.)


The Little Old Woman Who Lived in a Vinegar Bottle       (positive attitude)

The little old woman wishes for a better house.  A fairy gives her progressively finer houses.  Still the old woman continues to complain.  At the end of the story the old woman ends up back where she started--in the vinegar bottle.  Contentment comes from the heart not from the house.

“The Little Old Woman Who Lived in a Vinegar Bottle” (England), Favorite Folktales from Around the World, edited by Jane Yolen, Pantheon Fairy Tale & Folklore Library, New York, 1988.

“The Little Old Woman Who Lived in a Vinegar Bottle” (Wales) The Storyteller’s Start-Up Book, Margaret Read MacDonald, August House Publishers, Little Rock, 1993.


The Long-Haired Girl            (abuse, consequences of choices, resourcefulness,


            It is a time of drought.   The long-haired girl finds a secret source of water but is commanded by the Mountain God to keep it a secret.   She agonizes over this secret.  Finally she makes the decision to show the people in her village where to find water.  The Mountain God intends to kill her as punishment for telling.  The spirit of the Banyan tree rescues her.  Her long silver hair becomes the waterfall and the villagers remember her courage.  The message of the story says, "Don't keep an awful secret.  It is important to tell the truth and share it with someone.  Others will come to your rescue."

“The Waterfall” (China), Tales from the Enchanted World, Amabel Williams-Ellis, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1986

 “The Waterfall of White Hair” (China), Mother and Daughter Tales, Josephine Evetts-Secker, Abbeville Press, 1996. 


The Magic Brush (self-esteem, economic discrimination, determination)

            Ma Lien is refused instruction by the village artist because he can't pay.  His persistence in working toward his dream is rewarded.  An old gentleman gives Ma Lien a magic brush and tells Ma Lien to use it for the good of the people.  Ma Lien’s problems are solved because of his own efforts.

            “The Magic Brush” (China), Healing Hearts Book, Allison Cox and David Albert, ed.,                      2000.

Ma Liang and His Magic Brush (China), China Books and Periodicals, 1981.

Tye May and the Magic Brush (China), Molly Garrett Bang,  Turtleback, 1992.  (Tye May is a girl but the folktale is basically the same folktale as The Magic Brush.)

The Magic Brush retold by Rose Owens. 


Mucky Moose                       (teasing, bullying, consequences of impulsive behavior)

Mucky Moose is teased by all the other animals in the swamp and the forest because he smells so yucky.  However, it is his smell and quick wit that enables him to outsmart the wolf.  In the version I tell, Mucky Moose doesn’t allow the teasing of the other animals to bother him because “My smell might come in handy sometime.”  and “I have more important things to do than getting angry.”  He also says, “It’s only words and besides I do smell like swamp juice.”  I add a little sing song refrain that the other animals sing and Mucky Moose sings it to himself too:

            “Mucky, Mucky, Mucky Moose

                          Smells like yucky swamp juice.”

Mucky Moose, Jonathan Allen, Aladdin Paperbacks, New York, 1990.



Nadia the Willful        (missing family member, death, abandonment, grief and healing,

anger, impulsive behavior, self-control)

The story of Nadia explores the different coping strategies that her family try when Hamed, her beloved brother fails to return from a trip into the desert and is presumed dead.  Nadia finds that telling stories of Hamed eases her pain.  But this incurs her father’s wrath.   It is only when she controls her own anger and reaches within herself to find patience, that she is able to help her father obtain peace. 

“Nadia the Willful,” by Sue Alexander, Hey! Listen to This: Stories to Read Aloud, Jim Trelease, ed. Penguin Books, New York, 1992.

Nadia the Willful, Sue Alexander, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1983. 


The Story Spirits        (revenge)

            Every night the old servant tells his selfish young master a new story.  The story spirits are forced to enter a leather bag because the boy does not wish to share them.  The old servant hears the story spirits plot to get revenge by killing the young man on his wedding day.  After the servant repeatedly rescues him, the young man realizes that no one persons owns the stories.  They  are meant to be shared.

“The Story Spirits” (Korea), Apples from Heaven: Multicultural Folk Tales about Stories and Storytellers, Naomi Baltuck, Linnet Books, 1995.


Tipingee          (abuse, abandonment, self-reliance)

Tipingee's stepmother does not value her.  Not only does she act in an abusive manner toward Tipingee, but she selfishly agrees to give Tipingee away.   Tipingee is able to escape by using her wits and asking her friends for help.

            “I'm Tipingee, She's Tipingee, We're Tipingee Too,” (Haiti), The Magic Orange Tree and other Haitian Folktales, collected by Diane Wolkstein, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1978.


Reference Books:


The Shelter of Each Other, Mary Pipher, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1996.


Who's Afraid: Facing Children's Fears with Folktales, Norma J. Livo, Teacher's Ideas Press, Englewood, Co., 1994.