One Thousand and One Nights (created during the Islamic Golden Age), The Welsh Legend of King Arthur, Brothers Grimm’s Little Red Riding Hood, Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Rudyard Kipling’s How the Camel Got his Hump, Cinderella (found in widely different cultures), Aesop’s fable The Tortoise and the Hare… The chances are you could tell the tale of at least one of these (and any moral of the story too). These are stories shared and passed down from generation to generation, stories that amuse and confound, stories that sought to explain the human condition. Despite their compact size, fairy tales, folklore, myths and legends reflect our history and culture, our fears, our hopes and dreams, and very often deliver a powerful message.
The now annual George Green’s Reading Challenge for 2023 is to read one folktale, myth or legend every month until March 2024. That’s twelve short stories to discover and share with peers, family and friends.
On the first of each month, we will post a captivating fairy tale, myth or legend as recommended by students and staff, reflecting our diverse community. These include the story of Anansi from Ghana, a spine-tingling Somali fable and Ukrainian folklore.
We hope you take on this year’s challenge to read each monthly tale to learn about what people believed in and why, to discover re-interpretations which reflect today’s world and, above all, appreciate the power of the imagination! Please share your reading experience by:
– tagging @ friend or teacher in your class or form class Teams channel to recommend a tale
– write a review to let everyone know what you thought – simply email these to LRC@georgegreens.com and we’ll post it
– adding each month’s tale to your email signature
Start your George Green’s Reading Challenge 2023 belowone folktale, myth or legend every month until 2024…
Our last myth of this year’s reading challenge marks Lunar New Year on the 10th February. This year is the Year of the Dragon.
Dragons are very popular in Chinese art, history, and culture. They are believed to be wise and bring prosperity, and good luck. On festival days, dragon dances are performed with giant puppets by Chinese communities across the world. In Western myths and stories, dragons are often evil creatures; but although Chinese dragons may look very fierce, they are usually stern and friendly guardians who bring protection and good luck. They are also associated with water and these elements come together in the traditional story of The Four Dragons (edited by the British Council), which tells how dragons helped to create the four great rivers of China.
The inspiration for January came from In Their Shoes, a compilation of timeless fairy tales and folktales all tied together (excuse the pun!) in the fact that each story has shoes as the central theme, or shoes become a large part of the story. The story selected was the myth of Perseus and Medusa, one of the most known myths of the Greek Mythology, because there are the winged shoes of Hermes that he wears to find the Gorgons.
The inspiration for December came from Strasburg, Germany. Here, Count Otto falls in love with the Queen of Fairies and marries her, promising never to utter a certain word. When he does, she disappears, and he lights a tree to attract her back — the people of Strasburg say this is the origin of the Christmas tree.
The inspiration for November comes from India and was selected by Ms Brown, our school librarian, who describes it as a beautiful short story about the power of altruism and kindness.
“A story, a story, let it come, let it go!”West African saying
The tale for October marked Black History Month in the UK and celebrated the power of storytelling which has been part of African and Caribbean culture for hundreds of years.
This version of The Moongazer originates from Guyana but different versions can be found across the Caribbean, all telling the tale of a giant ghostly figure that appears on the night of a full moon. Most Caribbean stories originated in Africa, carried to the islands by enslaved Africans. They were then influenced by European and East Indian folklore. As such, this story written and told by the London-based British-Guyanese storyteller and author Wendy Shearer has travelled through time, changing with each telling and each storyteller.
You can find the full collection of African and Caribbean Folktales, Myths and Legends in the LRC.
The inspiration for September came from Japan and was chosen by Ms Harrison who taught there before becoming a teacher in the UK and who remains a huge Japanophile. ‘The Spider’s Thread’ is a well-known story in Japan. It is moral fable about good, evil and redemption and was written by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (known as the father of the Japanese short story) in 1918. Akutagawa was inspired by Buddhist fables; according to some Buddhist beliefs, those who lead good, compassionate lives are reincarnated into a better life, and those who do not are sent to into an abyss.
This is modern re-telling was created by the puppeteer and theatre maker, Aya Nakamura. The images at the start are stills from Aya’s film The Spider’s Thread which combines the Japanese tradition of Kamishibai with the Western approach of Paper Theatre including woodblock prints and old samurai film posters from the 1950s. The film can be viewed here The Spider’s Thread – Aya Nakamura
The inspiration for August came from Ms Di Fraia in MFL and was a poem by the late Italian children’s author Gianni Rodari entitled ‘La Luna di Kiev’ (The Moon in Kyiv), “La luna di Kiev”, Gianni Rodari – We Love Italian This simple poem written over 70 years ago, resonates acutely today in reminding us that, no matter where we’re from, or where we live, we all exist under the same moon.
Our story for July came from Ms Elmi in History.
July was a fitting month for this spine-chilling Somalian fable as the 1st marked Somalia Independence Day, a national holiday observed in Somalia every year to celebrate the unification of the Trust Territory of Somaliland and the State of Somaliland into the Somali Republic on July 1, 1960.
A fable Ms Elmi first read as a child, she does warn that it is pretty scary in its exploration of the themes of good versus evil and justice. This version, sourced by her, is bilingual and contains wonderful illustrations. Click on the cover to open and begin the tale…
Our story for June came from Ms Hurley who, as a linguist and something of a globetrotter, has a wonderful collection of fables and tales from around the globe including this compendium of Chinese Fairy Tales and Legends. The story tells the tale of how cats and dogs became (supposed) enemies. Simply click on the cover below (and all covers) to read.
If you are interested in reading more stories (both fiction and non-fiction) set in China, do check out our recommended reads from all continents here (all in the LRC). We also highly recommend the writer Amy Tan and, for older readers, the epic Wild Swans by Jung Chang.
Our story for May was came from Mr Opoku’s childhood ‘African Folktale Series’ books. A family member from Ghana posted a hard copy (which we’ve scanned) along with other moral fables which can be found in the LRC. The Fate of the Deceitful Tortoise is a Nigerian folktale which delivers a moral message and collective action in ensuring moral justice. Simply click on the cover below (and all covers) to read.
Our story for April was Pollito Tito, a modern adaption of ‘Chicken Little’ in Spanish, recommended by Ms De Calle Sierra. Try reading in Spanish first by opening up the book here (combine with audio or watch the accompanying video):
You can read the English version here
March’s story was L’Oiseau et la Baleine, a beautiful French children’s story recommended by Ms Kinghorn and Ms Di Fraia. Try reading in French first by opening up the book here:
You can read the English version here
There is also a wonderful animation here: The Bird & The Whale | Short Animation | Full movie | Award Winning – YouTube