Great Folktales for Kids: India and around the world

Aren’t folktales very popular with kids in every generation? Chances are every person has heard/read some interesting folktale in their life. Do you remember your class 3 teacher telling folktales as a class reward for good behaviour?

Have you listened to folktales with wonder, as the story forms in your mind’s eye? You might remember reading folktales with morals from books you got as a birthday gift. Reading them from your school library or buying the latest folktales book.

What are folktales?

Folktales are imaginary (fictional) stories that are retold by generations of people. These oral stories could originate from a specific geographical area. Folktales showcase the culture of the region they come from. They are an integral part of cultural identity of a region or country. The stories are retold by one person to another or between groups of people.

Also read: Humourous books for kids by Indan authors.

Which are the Types of Folktales?

Myths, fables and legends are types of folktales because they were passed on orally through generations of folks (people). Some folktales are about humans while fables have animals with human characteristics. Myths are about natural phenomena like a thunderstorm. Legends are about people grounded in history. Legends can have exaggerated accounts about people.

The famous folktale stories have humans, talking animals and birds, fairies and supernatural characters. The tales are entertaining and, moral and value-based. Folktales were retold by people and were not available in written form. Writers started writing down the stories in manuscripts and scroll.

By Artist maker unknown, India (18th century) – Philadelphia Museum of Arts. Image credit: Wikimedia commons CC S.A. 4.0

Then printing technology developed. Over the years, illustrated folktales books are available in print and electronic form. We can buy books online and read a variety of folktales of various regions.

Why should kids should read folktales?

Kids should read folktales because they are easy to read, have values, morals and clever problem solving. Fantastical characters and exaggerated situations make these stories interesting and fun. They have clear story elements of character, setting, problem and solution. Reading or listening to folktales boosts the imagination and vocabulary. Parents and grandparents can read aloud stories to kids. Colourful illustrations can make reading fun.

Also read: How to improve reading comprehension in beginner readers.

Which are the famous folk tales for kids?

For centuries every country or region has its folktales. India is a country of diverse languages, religion, and culture. In India, folktales and mythological legends have being retold for centuries. Folktales instil moral values of charity and austerity among others. So lets find the famous Indian sub-continent folktales.

panchatantra folktales from india
Panchatantra Stories. In this tale, the turtle is escaping from hunters (not shown) thanks to two geese, who bear him aloft on a stick that he is grasping with his jaws. Unfortunately he opened his mouth to boast of the escapade, which caused him to fall to his death and be cut up for food by the hungry boy and girl below. 7th Century Sculpture from north face of Nalanda temple 2. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons CC S.A. 4.0

Those who like folktales will also enjoy reading Sudha Murthy books for kids.

Famous folktales from the Indian sub-continent

Indian folk tales have a rich tradition, have been passed down through generations and are a significant part of India’s storytelling tradition. These tales are fascinating, and entertaining, and often have a moral or lesson at their core.

Jataka Tales

Jataka Tales are ancient folk tales that revolve around the life and teachings of Lord Buddha. These stories have moral lessons woven into the narrative, messages that impart wisdom, spiritual thought processes and decision-making, compassion and righteousness.


The Panchatantra stories have people, animals and birds that give away valuable life lessons on teamwork, loyalty, honesty and others.

Hitopadesha Stories

Like Panchatantra, these stories were originally written in the ancient Indian language Sanskrit. Later they were translated into several languages all over the world including English. Hitopadesha stories have been a source of inspiration for various other stories.

Vikram Vetal

Mysterious stories of Vikram Vetal start with a king and a ghost sitting on the king’s shoulder. The ghost asks a question and when the king answers the question, the ghost threatens to fly away.

Akbar Birbal stories

These stories are of emperor Akbar and his court advisor Birbal. Akbar asked Birbal for solutions to problems that he faced in his kingdom. These stories have witty exchanges and clever problem-solving, so these stories are entertaining yet have a moral message.

You might have read about emperor Akhbar in history books. Yet, you get to read more about Birbal in storybooks only. Birbal had a presence of mind and gave smart and amusing solutions to Emperor Akbar’s problems. 

Tenali Raman Stories

A chief advisor in a king’s court became known for his witty answers and solutions. This was Tenali Raman who lived in the 16th century in Andhra Pradesh. 

Stories about him turned into folktales passed down through generations. These stories are about the presence of mind, witty answers, clever conduct, being honest and out-of-the-box solutions.

Regional Folktales from Indian States

India has several states and each state has its unique folktales, folk songs, cultures and performing arts. Some of these folklore may not even be documented to this date, simply because they could be retold among tribals and interior village people.

But there are some regional folktales that became popular and were reimagined in animation films too. Others were documented and retold through publications.

Mixed Bag of Indian folktales 

Funny Folktales (Amar Chitra Katha Folktales Series) Paperback

This is a chapter book in the ACK folktales series, has 140 pages and published by Harper’s Collin’s Children’s Books. The author Cristopher Baretto has adapted the stories from ACK comics. The font is large, and attractive like neat handwriting and the language is easy to read. The illustrations are attractive in black and white. Yet, kids will enjoy reading as the stories are funny. Giggling over a funny story is a memorable experience for kids.

Also read: What is fiction and nonfiction?

Indian Folktales (Classics) Paperback 

The book’s author is Anupa Lal, published by Scholastic India in 2011. It’s a chapter book that has 116 pages and is suitable for kids above 8 years of age. The author’s other books are best sellers and this book too is no exception. The narration is in her unique engaging style. Stories have fantastical happenings and kids will enjoy reading them.

Sacked! Folk Tales You Can Carry Around 

Author is Deepa Agarwal and book published by Harper Collin’s Children’s Books in 2018, has 180 pages with quirky illustrations. Readers of age 9 years above can read the stories with ease. The stories are about humans, animals and demons with extraordinary magical powers. There is fantasy, humour, and adventure in the story plot. The stories are fun to read.

Storybook for kids-Famous Folk Tales – Set of 6 books

This set of 6 books published by Shanti Publications has large colorful illustrations that are very attractive and engaging. Kids can spend hours reading the stories and observing the illustrations. These books are for children of any age. Parents or grandparents can read these stories to toddlers along with picture talk. Toddlers get spellbound by the stories.

Also read: Best picture books for reading aloud to kids

Folktales from around the World

Any ancient civilization on earth will have folktales retold in various ways. So, other than ancient Indian civilization, there are ancient Chinese, Egyptian, and others.

Right from Indian Panchatantra to Japanese folklore, Asian folktales are a rich resource of wisdom, symbolism, imagination and fantasy.

African enchanting legends and folklore are vibrant, have animals with human qualities and offer messages on ethics, values, wit, entertainment and clever solutions.

European folktales are myths that have shaped their culture and create a sense of wonder, adventure and awe. From Greek heroes to mythical kings, these folktales speak of valour, honour and the quest for truth.

The indigenous people of the Americas have their share of folktales that are symbolic of nature, people, unknown forces and the human relationship with nature.

Fun activities using folk tales:

Word Detective:

A group game of word meanings by making small paper chits. Participants can sit in a circle and one person picks a chit. Whatever word is present in the chit, you have to tell the meaning or make a new sentence using the word.

Story Weaving:

Kids can make new stories using a set of words that you give them. Which means, the words should be part of their new story.

Also read: What are 21st century learning skills for students?

Storyteller in the village:

Wrap a scarf around the head and act as a storyteller in the village. Kids can retell stories and discuss moral of the story with their audience of friends and family. Folktales for kids are light and do not lodge heavy on the psyche, yet they have moral lessons that are impactful.

They provide an escape from struggles and scheduled structure of daily life. Knowing that these stories have passed on for thousands or hundreds of years gives us a feeling of culture and inclusion.

Developing a reading habit that includes folktales and various other genres of literary work, keeps us connected to ourselves, other people and cultures.


Reading folk tales of india from our home land and various parts of the world gives a wider perspective to our perception of the world.

All human beings across the globe are essentially the same. We have the same feelings, emotions and core aspirations.

The positive messages of these stories remain in children’s sub-conscious mind for long time.

The civilization in various parts of the world had their indigenous folktales, animal stories and folklore. 

After reading this article, you have a fair idea about folktales from India and around the world, that can enrich kid’s reading experience. 

The allure and charm of folktales have survived for centuries. 

Also read: Best Study Tables for Kids of all ages.

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