Welcome to our Top 32 Folk Tales for kids to read online – a delightful collection of stories perfect for children to dive into! Created with kids in mind, this free online platform aims to provide bedtime tales for both girls and boys that are both entertaining and educational. Available in various formats such as PDF, printable sheets, and audio, these timeless stories cater to kids of all ages, from toddlers to early years to elementary students. Engaging with folk tales provides an excellent way for preschool, kindergarten, and EYFS children to improve their reading skills and develop a love for literature.
Folk tales serve as a reflection of people’s history, culture, and wisdom passed down through generations. They not only offer fun, memorable characters and fascinating plots but also carry valuable morals and teachings. Storytime is a perfect night time activity as it helps kids unwind, get ready for sleep, and bond with their parents, all while learning important life lessons. Including both short, easy-to-read selections with pictures and longer timeless classic narratives, our carefully curated collection ensures an enjoyable read aloud experience as well as fun-filled independent reading sessions. So, embark on this journey through the world of folk tales today and fall in love with the best of story time, brought to life in English for children around the globe.
Top 32 Folk tales for kids to read online:
- Father Frost: This story is about a girl named Natasha who has a cruel stepmother and two stepsisters. Her stepmother arranges for her to marry Father Frost by leaving her in the forest. Father Frost appears and rewards Natasha for her kindness and sends her home with beautiful clothes and gems. The stepmother becomes jealous and arranges for her own daughters to meet Father Frost, but they are not sincere, and they are left in the forest to freeze. Natasha eventually meets a kind man and they live happily ever after. A downloadable PDF version of the story is available.
- The Old Man Who Made Trees Blossom: In this story, two old men who are neighbors put a fishtrap in the river. One of them is selfish and nasty while the other is friendly and generous. When they check their traps, the generous man has caught a lot of fish while the nasty man finds only twigs. They exchange traps, and the generous man finds a dog in the twigs while chopping wood. The dog grows to be big and strong and tells the old man to follow him to the forest, where they find a pot of gold. The nasty neighbor borrows the dog and treats him badly, but the dog leads him to a pot of trash which causes him to kill the dog. The generous man makes a beautiful grave for the dog, and from the willow branch they put on the grave grows a tree that brings good luck. When the generous man shows the king the blossoming trees, the nasty neighbor becomes jealous and tries to do the same but is arrested when he causes harm to the queen.
- The Yellow Dragon: The story is about a boy named Woe who lived on a farm with his father Yin, and they encounter a yellow horseman who turns out to be the yellow dragon spirit of storms. After staying the night, the dragon leaves, and Woe and Yin realize they are about to experience a great storm. As predicted, a violent storm erupts over the country, but the farm and land of Yin remained dry. After the storm, the yellow dragon returns to give Woe a dragon scale, which brings them good luck. Because of this, the emperor invites Yin and Woe to the palace, and Woe’s magical powers are recognized and appreciated, making way for great miracles and a happy ending. The story teaches the moral lesson of being kind and hospitable to strangers.
- Sparrow’s search for the rain: In a village near the sea, an Indian girl refuses to marry due to lack of interesting suitors. The young men of the village vow to bring her sorrow but are unsuccessful. They seek the help of Whirlwind, who banishes himself and his blind friend, Rain, leaving the land dry and withered. A quest is started to find them, and it is the small sparrow who follows a down-feather to their location. Whirlwind and Rain return to the village and bring rain and greenery with them, and the sparrow is honored and protected by the people.
- The Dwarves and the Elves: Odin observes the foolishness and fear of humans and the mischief of dwarves and elves. He sends Thor to stop a giant from Jötunheim. He then holds court and punishes the mischievous dwarves while taking the light elves under his care. He sends them to be taught by Frey, who teaches them about nature, and they go to Alfheim.
- The spring fairy and the frost giants: The story is about a group of Frost Giants who plan to capture Iduna, the Spring Fairy, and steal the treasure of golden apples she guards to bring desolation to the valley of Spring. They seek help from Loki, the Prince of Mischief, who agrees to betray Iduna with a promise of the magic apples renewing their strength. Loki succeeds in capturing Iduna and her basket of apples, which causes nature to wither and the people to age quickly. The people then summon Odin who commands Loki to bring back Iduna. Using his magic, Loki rescues Iduna, and they both fly back to Asgard. The Storm Giant pursues them, but Loki wins the race with the help of the people of Asgard who light fires. Iduna returns with the basket of golden apples, renewing life and hope for the people.
- The Ice King: In a village on a riverbank, the Indians suffered terribly during a winter ruled by the Ice King. One young man defied the giant, broke his house, and pushed the ice downstream. The Ice King threatened to return in a few moons, but the young man prepared by building a wigwam with enough resources. When the Ice King returned, the young man stoked a fire until the giant begged for mercy and promised to leave after three moons. The winter never lasted longer than three moons again. A free downloadable ebook (PDF) is available to read offline or to print.
- Why the hippopotamus lives in the water: The story is about a hippopotamus with seven wives who threw parties for all the animals, but no one knew his name. At one party, the hippopotamus said that no one would get dinner until someone guesses his name. The turtle heard the hippopotamus’ wives say his name while bathing and shared it at the next party, bringing an end to the hunger strike. As promised, the hippopotamus and his family then moved to the water forever. The story teaches the moral lesson of always keeping one’s promises.
- Rainbow and Autumn Leaves: The story is about how the animals of Canada once held their Great Council to decide how to get to the heavens. Only Turtle knew how to, and he was taken there by Thunder God. Turtle loved the heavens so much that he decided to stay there forever, and the heavenly population agreed. The animals on earth grew jealous of Turtle’s happiness and wanted to go to the heavens too. Deer eventually convinced Rainbow to take him to Turtle. All the animals of the Great Council agreed to go to heaven as well until they could ensure safety from the new race of beings that were coming. But Bear was angry at Deer for leaving them without warning, and they fought until Wolf stopped it. They all eventually crossed the Rainbow Bridge to the heavens, but Bear and Deer never became friends again. The blood that was spilled on the Rainbow Road changed the leaves of trees into different colors, and they still change every autumn.
- The God of Spring and the God of Autumn: In this story from long ago, a king’s daughter radiates and is loved by both gods and men. Many suitors come to ask for her hand, but none are successful until the God of Spring appears in a simple gray robe made from magical Wisteria. The princess agrees to marry him, but his brother, the God of Autumn, is angry and refuses to give him the rice wine bet he had won. The God of Spring’s mother magically creates a walking stick to show that everything fades away with time, even the brothers’ anger and resentment towards each other. The story explains why spring is joyful and autumn is sad.
- The story of the Norse about how everything began: The story tells of how the world was created according to Norse mythology. At the beginning, there was only a great gaping dim gap filled with waves, and from this came the House of Mist and the House of Fire. Ymir, a giant born from the ice and fire, lived in the gulf until he was killed by the Gods, who then created the earth, sea, and sky from his body. They also made humans, Fairies or Elves, trolls or dwarves or gnomes, and a Tree of Life. The world was full of mythical creatures and gods, such as Heidrun and Ratatosk, and was an exciting place to live.
- Horaizan: The story is about two wise men, Jofuku of China and Wasobiobe of Japan. Jofuku sets out on a long journey to find the herb of Immortality to please a tyrant emperor, but he ends up on Horaizan Island, where he finds eternal youth and forgets the word written on his heart. Wasobiobe accidentally reaches Horaizan and enjoys the pleasures of the island but becomes sick with homesickness because of the word “humanity” written on his heart. He returns home on the back of a crane and dies in the arms of a poor fisherman. Both wise men learn that the pursuit of eternal youth or knowledge is not worth forsaking humanity.
- The Black Bowl: This is a story about a poor and honest girl who lives with her sick and wise old mother in a cottage on the edge of a forest, which many believe is haunted. The girl wears a black wooden bowl on her head to hide her beauty, as her mother advises her that it is better for a poor girl not to be beautiful. One day, she meets a kind minstrel who helps her find work with a farmer, and eventually, she marries the farmer’s son. The black bowl on her head, which she vowed never to remove until the time came, explodes on her wedding day, revealing incredible jewels.
- The Giant’s Cliff House: In this story, a blacksmith in Ireland has a dream where a seven-year-old boy named Philip Renardy, who disappeared years ago, tells him he’s being held captive by a giant called Mahon McMahon. The boy urges the blacksmith to rescue him the next night when the door to the giant’s house opens for a short time. When the blacksmith arrives with a friend, the giant challenges him to identify Philip among a group of young boys in his service. With some quick thinking, the blacksmith saves Philip and brings him safely back to his family.
- The Jellyfish and the Monkey: In ancient Japan, the Dragon King of the Sea falls in love with a young dragon and marries her. When she becomes ill, the doctor tells the king the only cure is the liver of a live monkey, which can only be found on an island. The king sends a jellyfish to bring back a monkey, but the jellyfish has to trick it into coming back with him. Halfway through their journey, the jellyfish remembers he needs the monkey’s liver and tells the monkey about it, who promises to give it to him. However, he changes his mind, and the jellyfish returns to the palace empty-handed and without his shell, as punishment for his failure.
- The Green Willow: The story is about a young samurai called Tomodata who was sent on a mission by his lord. He rode through an autumn storm, got lost and found refuge in a cottage where he met a beautiful girl called Green Willow. The two fell in love and started living together. After three years, Green Willow died, and Tomodata became a holy man. On his travels, he came back to the cottage where he found some ruins and recited a poem about his lost love. The story is about loyalty, love, and loss.
- Why the Sea is Salt: This is a story of two brothers, one rich and the other poor. On Christmas Eve, the poor brother asked for food, and his brother gave him a piece of bacon. Later that night, the poor brother went to hell after his rich brother told him to go there. He met an old man who advised him to trade the bacon for a hand mill that could grind anything. The poor brother brought the magic hand mill home and became wealthy and popular. When his rich brother borrowed the hand mill, he couldn’t stop the soup from overflowing the kitchen. The poor brother took back the hand mill in exchange for more money. Later a sailor bought the hand mill but didn’t know how to use it, causing his ship to sink and explaining why the sea is salty.
- How Night Came: In this story, at the beginning of time, there was no night on Earth. The daughter of the Great Sea Serpent, who had married one of the sons of Man, grew unwell because of the constant daylight and longed for the darkness of her father’s kingdom. Her husband sent his three servants to ask the Great Sea Serpent for some of the darkness of the night. The servants, hearing strange noises in the bag of darkness they were given, opened it before they reached their destination and let out all the night beasts, birds and insects, causing darkness to spread across the land. The daughter of the Great Sea Serpent was delighted as she felt renewed, and the day and night cycle was established. The servants, who had disobeyed their master, were turned into monkeys with marks on their lips where they had bit off the sealing wax from the bag of darkness.
- How the Tiger Got His Stripes: In this story, a tiger needs someone to clear his farm and offers an ox in payment. After several unsuccessful attempts with different animals, the rabbit completes the task and the tiger gives him the ox. The rabbit decides to eat the ox in a place with no flies or mosquitoes, but the hungry tiger shows up and asks for some of the meat. The rabbit reluctantly gives him a small piece, but the tiger keeps asking for more until he eats the entire ox. Later, the rabbit tricks the tiger into building a stockade around himself and leaves him trapped until he jumps out and develops stripes on his sides.
- Why the Lamb Is Meek: The story is about a little lamb who is happy and carefree until a toad tricks him into being pulled into the sea. Later, the toad challenges the lamb to a race with his family members stationed along the way to cheat. Eventually, the toad convinces the lamb to carry him on his back to a party at the palace, where he humiliates the lamb by treating him like a horse. The lamb learns to be more meek and becomes a symbol of meekness. The story ends with a download link to an ebook of the story.
- Why the Tiger and the Stag Fear Each Other: The story is about a stag and a tiger who both decide to build a house in a place which is just right. They both end up working on the same clearing, and without realizing it, they build a house together. They both decide to live together but quarrel about whose house it is. Later, the stag goes hunting and brings back a tiger, and the tiger goes hunting and brings back a stag. Neither of them can eat the other’s catch, so they both remain hungry and paranoid about each other. They both end up running away from the house and are still afraid of each other to this day. The house eventually collapses from waiting for them.
- How the Speckled Hen Got Her Speckles: The story is about a little white hen who finds a piece of paper and decides to carry it to the king at the royal palace, but on her journey she meets a friendly fox, a helpful river, and a grateful fire. When the king receives the dirty letter, he becomes angry and throws the little white hen out into the royal poultry yard, where the fox comes to her aid. The royal household pursues the little white hen, but she and the fox escape, helped by the river and the fire. In the end, the little white hen becomes a speckled hen, and her descendants inherit her speckled feathers. The story concludes with links to download the eBook version.
- How the Monkey Became a Trickster: The story is about a garden where many beasts live and can eat the fruits whenever they want, but they have to ask politely using the correct name of the tree and not be greedy. There is a magnificent fruit tree, but no beast can remember its name. The monkey tricks a little old woman into telling him the tree’s name, and he comes up with a tune to remember it. He tastes the fruit but finds it bitter and sour. The monkey never forgets the name and enjoys tricking other beasts into eating the fruit.
- How the Monkey and the Goat Earned Their Reputations: In this story, a tiger invites a goat and a monkey to accompany him on a visit to his friend, and tries to trick both animals along the way. The goat falls for the tricks and is punished when accused of killing the tiger’s friend’s lamb, while the monkey outsmarts the tiger and exposes his wrongdoing. The story ends by explaining how the goat got its reputation for being easily fooled while the monkey got its reputation for being clever. The story can be downloaded as a PDF for offline reading.
- How the Monkey Got a Drink When He Was Thirsty: In this story, a monkey teases a tiger by singing a song about the tiger’s bones being in his guitar. The tiger tries to catch the monkey, but the monkey outsmarts him and escapes. Eventually, the monkey becomes very thirsty but the tiger is waiting for him at the water hole. The monkey tricks the tiger by disguising himself with honey and then later resin, so the tiger can’t catch him. Eventually, the monkey finds other sources of water. A downloadable ebook is available at the end of the story.
- How the Monkey Got Food When He Was Hungry: A monkey is hungry and borrows meal from the hen, fox, dog, and tiger. He makes a pot of porridge and feasts until he can’t eat anymore, leaving plenty of porridge left. He then pretends to be sick and invites each animal to his home at different times, letting them hide under his bed. The tiger demands the monkey repay the meal, and the monkey escapes while the bed breaks under the tiger’s weight. The fox eats the hen, the dog eats the fox, and the tiger tries to catch the monkey.
- Why the Bananas Belong to the Monkey: This is a story about how the monkeys came to believe that all the bananas belong to them. The story tells of a little old woman who tricks the biggest monkey who used to help her collect bananas, and how the monkey gets stuck in wax while trying to steal bananas. The other monkeys come to his aid, and with the help of the sun, they rescue the monkey, and from that day, the monkeys believe that all the bananas belong to them.
- How the Monkey Escaped Being Eaten: In the story, during a time when fruits and nuts became scarce, people started eating meat and killing different beasts to find out which ones tasted good. The monkey, who played the guitar, was almost caught by a man many times until he escaped. However, the man eventually caught the monkey and planned to cook him for supper. But the monkey tricked the man and his children, put sticks and a coconut shell in the pot, and escaped. The man tasted the stew and realized there was not a trace of the monkey in it, and never wanted to make monkey stew again.
- Why the Monkey Still Has a Tail: In this story, the monkey and rabbit made a contract to kill certain animals, but the monkey played a trick on the rabbit, and the rabbit sought help from the armadillo to get revenge. The monkey was left without a tail and desperately tried to get it back by trading with a cat, a cow, a farmer, the clouds, and a river to get fog, grass, milk, and rain until he found a spring on a hillside. Finally, he got his tail back and learned to guard it carefully.
- How the Pigeon Became a Tame Bird: In this story, a father gave three sons each a large melon with the advice that they should only open it where there was water nearby. The eldest two did not follow the advice and caused the beautiful maidens inside the melons to die. The youngest son followed the advice and eventually found a town with a fountain and a beautiful maiden inside his melon. He married her but was unhappy when she later turned into a pigeon. Years later, he found the same beautiful maiden again in a pigeon and they lived happily ever after. The story explains how pigeons became tame and settled near human homes.
- How the Brazilian Beetles Got Their Gorgeous Coats: In this story, a little brown beetle races against a big grey rat with a prize of a colourful coat. The beetle wins by flying instead of running. She chooses a green and gold coat which becomes the signature coat of Brazilian beetles. However, one beetle becomes discontented and wishes for a blue coat. She receives a beautiful, but soft, blue coat, and from that day on blue beetles are smaller and have soft coats. The story explains the origin of Brazil’s flag and motto, “Order and Progress”.
- The King’s Son and the Ogress: A King’s son, who loved hunting, was accompanied by a Vizier, and they saw a beast. The Vizier lured the prince away and left him alone in the desert. He met a damsel who he took pity on and rode with her until she turned into an ogress and revealed her intention to eat him. He prays for help, and the ogress leaves him alone. The prince revealed the Vizier’s conduct to his father, and he was put to death.
In conclusion, these Top 32 Folk tales offer a magical literary journey for children, immersing them in enchanting worlds filled with captivating characters and timeless lessons. By exploring the rich cultural heritage and wisdom of various civilizations, kids will not only be entertained but also develop essential critical thinking and moral values. Online access to these stories makes it even more convenient for young readers to discover and appreciate the beauty of human creativity and the unifying power of oral traditions passed down through generations. So, let your child embark on this wonderful adventure, and witness the joy, wonder, and personal growth that these cherished folk tales can inspire.