Fairy tales and folktales

Illustration of a large red and blue phoenix with finely detailed wings, from The Phoenix of Persia

Go deeper: Fables and fairytales, myth and reality

Article by:
Jamila Gavin

Fairy tales and folktales are so much more than entertainment. They reflect our history and culture, our fears and our dreams. When did we start to write them down and how have they changed over time?

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Collage photograph of a girl, with a red dress, wings and a crown

Star in your own fairy tale

Transform yourself into a character to star in a fairy tale or folktale. You could create a new tale of your own, or enter the world of a story you already know.

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Illustrations of homemade theatres, dragons, books, ships and treasure maps from the Once upon an Adventure activity pack

Printable activity pack: Once upon an adventure

Print out our brand new activity pack and embark on an adventure with Little Red Riding Hood, the cheeky Wolf and your own wild imagination!

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Hansel and Gretel stand in front of the gingerbread house surrounded by a forest

Story collector

Create your own collection of fairy tales and folktales from around the world, as told by you.

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Illustration of a large magical white horse arriving next to a Romani family who are camping in the snow. From Yokki and the Parno Gry

Themed book list: Fairy tales and folktales

Explore tales from around the globe including Aesop's Fables, the Grimm Brother's fairy tales, James Berry’s Anancy-Spiderman and Sally Pomme Clayton’s and Amin Hassanzadeh Sharif’s The Phoenix of Persia.

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Axel Scheffler: The evolution of the Gruffalo

How do you go from a bright idea in your head, to a picture book in your hands? In this video, Axel Scheffler reveals how he transformed a few descriptors – purple prickles, poisonous wart and knobbly knees – into the Gruffalo we know and love.

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With pens and art equipment scattered across a desk, in the middle of the frame is an illustration of the Gruffalo.

Axel Scheffler: How to draw a Gruffalo

Follow Axel Scheffler’s process from pencil to paint, as he shows you how to draw your very own Gruffalo. We’ll give you a hint… start with the horns! You’ll be perfecting your own characters in no time.

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a lady in a artists studio working on a picture

Viviane Schwarz: How to develop a character

What do you think an angry shape would look like? How would your angry shape turn into a character in a story? In this video, writer and illustrator Viviane Schwarz shows us some unusual techniques for coming up with your characters.

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doodles on cut out pieces of paper on a workbench

Viviane Schwarz: How to find out more about your character

You know what your characters look like, but to write a story you need to find out who they are. Do they have a favourite food? What are they afraid of? Viviane Schwarz talks us through her simple steps for getting to know your characters.

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Pastels arranged in a circle

Viviane Schwarz: Making a story

Once you’ve got your characters, you can get started on your story. In this clip Viviane Schwarz shows us how she creates an illustration, with lots of colour and collage. Why not grab some scraps of paper and a paintbrush, and see where your imagination takes you?

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Story teller Sandra Agard sits smiling at the camera with her hands folded in her lap as she prepares to tell a story

Anancy and the Magic Pot

Do you smell that scrumptious scent? Where could it be coming from? Join storyteller, Sandra Agard, as she tells you this classic West African and Caribbean tale about the trickster Anancy-Spiderman and his discovery of the magic pot.

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A still of  a man in a green shirt in front of a white background, in the middle of telling a story.

The Giant's Causeway

What happens when two giants compete, each trying to prove they are the greatest? Find out with storyteller Paul Rubinstein as he takes you on the giant-sized adventure of Finn McCool and the Giant’s Causeway.

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Story teller Sandra Agard, wearing purple, faces the camera in order to begin telling a story

The Naughty Dog

Join storyteller Sandra Agard for a retelling of a classic Aesop fable featuring a talking dog. Our storytelling videos are designed for you to enjoy as a family or with friends. So get ready to cozy up together and be transported by Sandra’s wonderful stories.

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A women wearing a red hooded cape sits on a chair smiling at the viewer. Beside her is a soft toy wolf

Little Red Riding Hood

Join storyteller Dani Bradstreet for a surprising retelling of one of our favourite fairytales. Can you spot the differences?

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Storyteller Sandra Agard holds up a shiny object as part of the story she is telling.

The Golden Box and the Magic Flute

There are many secrets and surprises to be revealed in these wonderful tales told by storyteller Sandra Agard. Can you guess what comes next?

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Various materials sit on a table including a pair of colourful and decorated paper paws. Around these are colour pencils, scissors, a ruler, wool and a sharpener.

Paws with claws

Become a magical creature with this simple and sensory craft activity. Make paws with claws inspired by the wonderful and magical characters found in children’s books.

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Further themes

All activities

Get creative with activities for children of all ages. Invent your own superhero, make a pop-up book and much more.

Animals that talk

From fantastical medieval beasts to Winnie the Pooh and Varjak Paw, meet the wonderful creatures that bring children’s books to life.

Behaving and misbehaving

From strict behaviour manuals to rebellious rule-breakers, explore the morals and mischief at the heart of children’s books.

Big and small

From books that fit in the palm of your hand to Roald Dahl’s Big Friendly Giant, find out how children’s writing plays with ideas of size and scale.

Changing the world

From campaigns against slavery to climate change resistance, discover the power of children’s books to fight for a better world.

Fairy tales and folktales

From Red Riding Hood to Hua Mulan, from Anancy to Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, read ancient stories and playful new tales from around the world.

Fear

Face your fears by exploring the most spine-tingling stories, from dark and enchanting fairy tales to Coraline and Haunted House.

Food

From Alice in Wonderland’s bottles to baby bear’s perfect porridge, discover the temptations of food in children’s books.

Home and belonging

How do children’s books explore questions of home, family and belonging? Delve into books by Jacqueline Wilson, Errol Lloyd and many more.

Interviews

Learn the secrets of writers and artists from Jacqueline Wilson to Zanib Mian, with these exclusive interviews and tips for budding authors.

Journeys

Set off on magical journeys or real voyages of migration, from Gulliver’s Travels and Treasure Island to Sarah Garland’s Azzi in Between.

Go deeper

Explore our themes in more detail and find more fascinating facts in these illustrated articles by scholars and children’s authors.

Magic and fantasy

Free your imagination with tales of mystery and magic, from medieval phoenixes to Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights.

Non-fiction

Find out how children’s books use funny jokes, strange secrets and pictures to give you information about people, places, science and history.

Poetry, nursery rhymes and wordplay

From rude and ridiculous rhymes to inspiring verses and poems, explore centuries of nonsense, poetry and wordplay for children.

Pop-up and moveable books

From the earliest noisy books to brilliant modern pop-ups, find out how pages spring to life at the pull of a flap or tab.

School stories and reading tools

From 2,000-year-old homework to the latest classroom antics, discover books full of brainboxes, weird teachers and troublemakers.