Asian Folktales

Below is a mixture of folktales from Asian countries. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather a jumping off point for further research. Where author and publisher web site information is available, links are provided.

Texts were chosen because they offered new stories, or new versions of familiar stories, because they are commonly included in children's basal readers, and/or because the illustrations were extraordinary.

The Seven Chinese Brothers

Written by Margaret Mahy
Illustrated by Jean and Mou-sien Tseng

This often told tale is set during the reign of a cruel and insecure emperor. When one of the brothers mends a hole in the Great Wall of China, he is arrested as being too powerful. His brothers change places with him to avoid execution. Finally, the youngest of the seven washes away the armies and the emperor with his tears.

The author uses the first page of the book to explain the historical setting of the story.

There are two good sites for information about the author:

Click here for the first site.

Click here for the second site.

Copyright 1990 Margaret Mahy and Jean and Mou-sien Tseng
Published by Scholastic.

ISBN # 0-590-42057-7

Tikki Tikki Tembo

Retold by Arlene Mosel
Illustrated by Blair Lent

Chang is the second son in this Chinese family, and therefore has a short name. When he falls down the well, his brother, Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari runchi-pip peri pembo, can call for help. But, when the older brother falls down the well, Chang cannot get his brother's name out in time to save him. Fortunately, The Old Man with the Ladder knows CPR.

Visit the Spaghetti Book Club to read what children have to say about Tikki Tikki Tembo and other books.

Visit Scholastic for more information on ordering this book.

Copyright 1968 by Arlene Mosel and Blair Lent
Published by Scholastic

ISBN # 0-590-41622-7

The Funny Little Woman

Retold by Arlene Mosel
Illustrated by Blair Lent

In old Japan there lived a funny little woman who always laughs. One day her rice dumpling gets away from her. In the adventure that follows, the funny little woman is kidnapped and learns to make rice with a magic paddle that multiplies the rice with every stir. She eventually outwits her captors and goes back home with the magic paddle to live happily ever after.

Visit the Spaghetti Book Club to read what children have to say about The Funny Little Woman and other books.

Visit Scholastic for more information on ordering this book.

Copyright 1972 by Arlene Mosel and Blair Lent
Published by Scholastic

ISBN # 0-14-054753-3

The Seventh Sister - A Chinese Legend

Retold by Cindy Chang
Illustrated by Charles Reasoner

Mei is the youngest of seven sisters whose job it is to spin and weave the tapestry of the night sky. Chang is a farmer who is missing something in his life. Magpies unite these young people over and over until they finally live in the night sky together

The author uses the last page of the book to discuss the Chinese custom of celebrating the 7th day of the 7th month. It is a holiday similar to Valentine's Day.

Visit Troll Books for more information on ordering this book.

Visit Chinese Festivals to learn more about this and other traditional Chinese celebrations.

Copyright 1994 by Troll Associates, Inc.

ISBN # 0-8167-3412-7

The Five Chinese Brothers Retold by Claire Huchet Bishop

Illustrated by Kurt Wiese

Five brothers who look just alike outwit the executioner by using their extraordinary individual qualities.

Visit here to see this folktale used as an art extension activity.

Go here to find a source for buying children's books of all kinds. Warning: There are pop-up ads on this site.

Copyright 1938

Published by Penguin Putnam Books

ISBN # 0-698-11357-8

LonPoPo - A Red-Riding Hood Tale from China

Told and illustrated by Ed Young

LonPoPo is a wolf who dresses as Grandma and visits three girls at their home. Their mother has left to go visit the real grandma. At first the girls are taken in by the ruse, but soon the oldest figures out what is going on and how to get rid of the wolf.

This is a good book to use to compare and contrast with the traditional Red Riding Hood story. Ed Young has used his stories as starters for art projects. Visit this site to see Ed Young working with elementary children on just such a collage project.

Visit here for teacher resources for using Ed Young's books. This is an amazing, full-blown, computer driven lesson on LonPoPo including all sorts of resources, games, etc.

A great art exhibit sponsored by the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature is touring the country. Ed Young is one of the featured author/illustrators. Here is the link to that site.

Wolf body language is an interesting topic and science extension of this story. Here is a link to a site about wolf body language.

Copyright 2000 by Ed Young
Published by Penguin Putnam Books

ISBN # 0-698-11382-9

The Korean Cinderella
A Cinderella Story from America

Written by Shirley Climo
Illustrated by Ruth Heller

In this version of Cinderella, Pear-Blossom, the dutiful step daughter is rescued from impossible tasks by magic. In the end, an honorable magistrate finds her straw sandal and marries her. The illustrations in this book are exotically lush, colorful, and engaging.

The author and the illustrator used the final pages of the book to explain the historical roots of the story and the sources for the illustrations.

Visit Authorfest to read about this author and her books.

VisitInternet School Library Media Center for a teacher resource file on teaching with books by Shirley Climo.

Copyright 1993 by Shirley Climo and Ruth Heller
Published by HarperCollins in Mexico

ISBN # 0-06-443397-8

The Golden Slipper -
A Vietnamese Legend

Retold by Darrell Lum
Illustrated by Makiko Nagano

Proving once again that stories about poor girls being rescued by magic and by powerful princes are popular in all cultures, this Vietnamese story is another version of Cinderella. The illustrations are filled with vivid colors.

The author uses the last page of the book to provide historical context to this story.

Visit Powerup to find more children's books about Vietnam - legends, history, and recent past.

Copyright 1994 by Troll Associates
Published by Troll Associates

ISBN # 0-8167-3406-2

Disclaimer ---

This site was created by Diane Brown and Michelle Madden to fulfill requirements for an Oklahoma State University graduate class. This site is not considered to be child-safe because some of the sites referenced within this site link to the world wide web.

This page last updated April 24, 2003