Tales, Fables, Myths, Legends

A few weeks ago I was preparing to lead a contemplative discussion around the use of language in our society and how powerful words can be. As part of this talk I was charged to come up with a short story to engage the children who would be present. I went to work trying to find some sort of tale or fable that could incorporate the morals I was trying to inspire.

While searching online I found this great book: Peace Tales: World Folktales to Talk About by Margaret Read MacDonald.

I headed off to my local library to track it down and pick the perfect tale that would fit my discussion. While in the library, after finding the call number and location, I found it quite difficult to find the section on Tales. As a weekly (or more) visitor of the library I was a bit in shock that I couldn’t find this important section. I had to enlist the librarian to help me and as we walked through the aisles we got to talking. She shared that this is a section she has recently and purposely moved to a new location to try and inspire and attract readers. It made me think about how little I have been exploring various myths, legends, and fables with my own boys.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you may be curious about the difference between a myth, a legend, fable and a fairy tale. So keeping to my English major roots I decided I needed to look it up. As my grandfather would say “here’s the skinny” (aka- here is the information).

fable is a story passed down from generation to generation that has a lesson or moral to share. Fables can include animals, plants, or objects that are personified to human-like qualities.

legend is similar to historical fiction where often it will provide information about a person’s actions, deeds, or lifetime and is based upon some truth. Think Robin Hood or King Arthur.

myth is also a story from times long ago that typically answers a social or natural phenomenon. This could include how something came to be, why something was created or destroyed, or how something works. There is also an element of morality within this type of story and often will include Gods or beings with super human powers/abilities. I often am reminded of the Greek Myths and stories about Gods and Goddesses.

Lastly and historically most recent are Fairy Tales. These were often created for children and incorporate healthy doses of magic and mysticism. Fairies, giants, elves, sprites, gnomes are all characters that often appear in fairy tales.

I feel like these types of stories are so important to children these days. They allow for both creativity and lesson learning while incorporating a bit of magic and wonder. I remember one of my favorite books as a young pre-teen was Aphrodite’s Blessings which shared short myths of Greek Gods and Goddesses.

I wonder if we spent more time reading these important stories to our children if they would embody more morals, magic, creativity, and understanding as they grow.

Here are some titles to start with:




Happy Reading!