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Steps to Success » International Literature

Fables from Around the World

Fables are short stories passed down from one generation to another to teach moral lessons. Why fables have continuously been passed down is because they are not only entertaining but also crucial for developing a sense of shared cultural heritage. 

Throughout my years of teaching at i-Learner, I have often come across parents asking for book recommendations. Fables are my go-to suggestion as they are a great resource to teach budding global citizens the morals of kindness and other virtues like honesty and courage. Children can also pick up story elements in a compact fable more easily than they do a novel, thereby aiding their grasp of the story arc and building summarising skills. Here are some fables from around the world; look up your favourites online and find a version that will engage your child:


The Old Man Lost His Horse – China, Asia 

This is a story about blessings in disguise. A man goes through a series of events. Most of his neighbours are quick to come to conclusions whenever something good or bad happens to him. However, the man remains unfazed by everything he faces as he believes that each misfortune may bring something good with it and vice versa.

The Boastful Turtle – The Philippines, Asia 

This is a story warning readers against being boastful. A turtle is fixated on being able to fly as he wants to boast about it to his friends. Two geese realise his dream by carrying a stick between their mouths and asking the turtle to bite on it as they fly in the sky. As the turtle soars through the sky, he decides to boast about it to animals on land. The minute he opens his mouth, he falls from the sky and is never seen again.

The Magic Mirror –Spain, Europe 

This is a story reminding readers to have confidence in themselves. A king looks for a wife, but with one condition – they must look into a magic mirror which shows the mistakes they have made throughout their lives. Many women want to marry the king, but they are unwilling to look into the mirror. In the end, one shepherdess looks into the mirror as she believes that everyone has made mistakes before but can be forgiven if they are sorry. The king decides to marry her in the end as he has been looking for a woman confident in herself all along.

Medio-Pollito (The Half-Chicken) – Mexico, South America 

This is a story of friendship. A chicken born with only one leg, one eye and one wing befriends Water, Fire and Wind and helps them out. In return for the chicken’s help, Water, Fire and Wind lift the chicken to the top of a palace where he can stay in safety, away from the danger of being cooked. That is why weathervanes are in the shape of a half-chicken.

Anansi and the Pot of Wisdom – Ghana, Africa 

This is a story reminding readers not to be greedy. A spider, Anansi, is given a pot of wisdom and is asked to share it with the world. He prides himself on being able to hold all the wisdom in the world and refuses to share it with anyone. Therefore, he holds the pot wherever he goes, creating a lot of strain on him. One day, his young daughter points out that tying the pot to his back will make moving around easier. This reminder angers Anansi. Refusing to accept that there is someone cleverer than him, he smashes the pot in rage. From then on, Anansi loses his sole claim to wisdom and wisdom is shared amongst all.


Each short, engaging fable teaches children a valuable lesson and is a great way to spark a love of reading. The next time you are wondering what your child should read, pick a new fable!