Not So Grimm Fairytales
May 16, 2012 8:43 AM   Subscribe

Can you recommend books of fairy tales, folklore, or myths, that are not European?

Let's say you had a budget that would cover a few new books, and you wanted some enjoyable, readable books on legends and myths from countries other than those typically encountered in the U.S. No need to rehash Greek & Roman legend, or European fairy tales. Asian or Japanese fairy tales and folklore would be great, or any other country that falls outside of what a student might generally be exposed to in the course of an American education. The books could be about the legends, or the actual story, or both.

What would be the top three books you would recommend to someone starting from zero knowledge, who doesn't want something too dusty or academic to enjoy?
posted by instead of three wishes to Education (25 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
This is a really, really borderline case but Russian folk tales (really, Eastern European/Slavic) don't tend to be represented remotely as much as Western European ones, so if you're looking for new old stories, you may have never encountered them before.
posted by griphus at 8:45 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about American Indian Myths and Legends
posted by Captain_Science at 8:54 AM on May 16, 2012

W.D. Westervelt's collections of Hawaiian legends and stories are all here - origin stories, ghost stories, stories about the gods and goddesses.
posted by rtha at 8:57 AM on May 16, 2012

Best answer: Seconding the Ramayana, also the epic Mahabharata (English translations) and the Panchatantra (animal fables) (English translations).

I grew up with, and can heartily recommend, Madhur Jaffrey's Seasons of Splendour: Myths and Legends of India.
posted by Ziggy500 at 8:57 AM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Pantheon Publishing has an awesome series of folk tales from various cultures, including two of my favorites, Folk Tales from India and Afro-American Folk Tales.

There are lots more, too. Highly recommended.
posted by Aquaman at 9:10 AM on May 16, 2012

My Neighbor Totoro was both a movie and a book.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:10 AM on May 16, 2012

I came in here to recommend the Pantheon folk tales books. I've never gone wrong with them regardless of the culture of origin of the stories.
posted by immlass at 9:22 AM on May 16, 2012

Best answer: You'll be wanting Favorite Folktales From Around The World edited by the incomparable and irreplaceable Jane Yolen.
posted by Mizu at 9:24 AM on May 16, 2012

When I was researching the appearance of Coyote in many different Native American tribe's lore, this link was very helpful: Native American Legends. When I was researching the Ainu, this link was somewhat helpful: Ainu means "human"
posted by Lynsey at 9:25 AM on May 16, 2012

er, tribes'
posted by Lynsey at 9:25 AM on May 16, 2012

Also on the fringe of Europe, the origins of Wagner's Ring Cycle and the prototypes of Grimm's tales can be traced to the Poetic Edda.
posted by Lynsey at 9:33 AM on May 16, 2012

The American tale Tikki Tikki Tembo may have been based on or adapted from the Japanese tale Jugemu.
posted by soelo at 9:36 AM on May 16, 2012

Best answer: You might want to look into Australian Aboriginal Myths and Legends. This is a pretty good book, with the stories actually told by the people. It gives you a good starting place anyway.
posted by wwax at 9:40 AM on May 16, 2012

These sometimes get lost or forgotten as childish or lower-class - and they are sometimes very different than European folklore, in origin, nature and intent - American Tall Tales.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:44 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Little Book of Hindu Deities is really cute.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:02 AM on May 16, 2012

Harold Scheub walked up and down the African continent and collected over 10,000 examples of stories from various cultures, including some that last for days. He has The African Storyteller textbook (for and from his longtime university class) and A Dictionary of African Mythology, among others.

Here's a link to some (many) of his recordings.

On a completely different tack, and one that is ridiculously Caucasian-looking but still beautiful, I've been hoping for a copy of the Chinese Fairy Tales book I had when I was a kid. Loved that thing.
posted by Madamina at 10:13 AM on May 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think that the Popol Vuh would fit your parameters. It is most simply described as the Mayan creation myth. Honestly I don't know much about it, but when I was studying Mexican art, I seem to remember that Diego Rivera did illustrations for a printing in the 40s 0r 50s.
posted by kaybdc at 10:25 AM on May 16, 2012

Latin American Folktales: Stories from Hispanic and Indian Traditions
posted by adamvasco at 10:37 AM on May 16, 2012

Folktexts: Folklore and Mythology from around the world, edited and/or translated by D. L. Ashliman, University of Pittsburgh. Many are European, but there are also tales from India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, China, and elswhere.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:00 AM on May 16, 2012

Best answer: Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales features fairy tales from around the world that Carter compiled into a single volume--way more diverse than your your standard folklore collection.
posted by xenization at 3:20 PM on May 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

I came in to recommend the same Native American Myths and Legends book as Captain_Science. It's great.
posted by whitneyarner at 3:22 PM on May 16, 2012

Best answer: I adored Pearl S. Buck's Fairy Tales of the Orient. It's out of print, but fairly easy to get from used book sites. Includes tales from India, Japan, China, Persia, Russia.

Don't forget the mother-lode of Arabian tales, One Thousand and One Nights. The Wikipedia article discusses translations you might wish to consider.
posted by angiep at 4:02 PM on May 16, 2012

I see other people have already recommended the Ramayana, so I'm going to put in a plug for Ashok Banker's version. It's not short- six pretty thick books- but I really enjoyed it where a lot of the more traditional versions put me to sleep.
posted by Tamanna at 4:59 AM on May 17, 2012

Even more than the epic Ramayana and Mahabharata, the Hindu animal folk tales of the Panchatantra are brilliant and very accessible.

I was introduced to all these works as a child via the comics published by the Indian publishing company Amar Chitra Katha which are absolutely fantastic and I cannot recommend enough.
posted by inbetweener at 1:43 AM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I read Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio as a child. It's full of very7 chinese stuff, but I don't know how readable it is.

Barry Hughart's Master Li books are a delightful take on a lot of chinese mythology.
posted by jefftang at 9:02 AM on May 25, 2012

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