European Fairy Tales

We will have those big United States of Europe, which will crown the old world just as the United States of America crown the new one.”

Victor Hugo

Once upon a time, there was an old continent inhabited by fairies, witches, enchanted trees and all sorts of magical creatures. They lived together in a world of fantasy where heroes are set to be Kings and Princesses to be Queens. With the charm of a spell and the strength of a sword, they brought us once to the lands of our dreams where no one trusts his eyes but the warmth of his heart. In this magnificent kingdom that wise men called Europe, adventurers shaped their fate as they formed new friendship. Welcome, young wizard, on this great journey! You will find that the malice of the Baltic beasts only equals the wisdom of their most remote Iberian cousins.


The False Prince and the TrueCollected by Andrew Lang

A king learns that his son, the prince, had been struck by a gentleman after an argument over a game of tennis. Far from returning the blow, the prince had merely cried. Displeased with his son’s cowardice, the king however decrees that the gentleman  be hauled in front of the court for the attacking the heir to the throne; a crime for which he was likely to die. But, the compassionate king nevertheless agrees to give the gentleman the freedom of the city, allowing him to roam wherever he wishes for the next fourteen days, under guard … The False Prince and the True tells you the mysterious story of the two Princes – one by birth and one by marriage… Read here.


The Little Ant Written by Fernán Caballero

Once upon a time, there was a wonderful little ant. She was so charming and hard working that everyone loved her! So stylish and beautiful that everyone that passed by was mesmerised … One day, while raking leaves in her front yard, she found a shiny new penny. She thought: “what should I do with this new penny?” Thus begins the little ant’s journey through the fields, where she meets a dog who barks, a cat who miaows, a pig who oinks, and a rooster who sings cock-a-doodle-doo. This nineteenth century Spanish fairy tale La hormiquita will guide you through the twists and turns of love, sorrow and mourning… Read here.


M. Seguin’s Goat – Written by Alphonse Daudet

M. Seguin never had much luck with goats. And this story is about what happened to his seventh goat, Blanquette, who decides one day to escape from her pen, attracted by the green green grass of the nearest mountain. Pretty Blanquette is afraid of nothing! High up on her perch, she thinks she is bigger than the world. But poor little thing… There, on the mountain, the ruthless wolf is waiting for her. As the night begins, she has no other choice than to face this two straight ears and two glittering eyes… La Chèvre de Monsieur Seguin is an iconic French novel written by Alphonse Daudet as part of his Letters from My Windmill. Read here.


The Cottager and his CatCollected by Jón Árnason

‘What is the name of that strange little creature?’ he asked. The merchant answered: ‘We call it a cat.’… When a young orphan exchanges his late fathers inheritance for a cat, he probably does not realise his life is about to change. But his new companion will soon teach him that cats are nothing but predictable. On the King’s table, he will change the course of History and seal the orphan’s fate… This story is credited to Jón Árnason, who was regarded as the “Grimm of Iceland”:  he collected thousands of fairy tales and short stories in the 19th century. Read here.


The Horned WomenCollected by Joseph Jacobs

Never open your door to a witch! Even if she is calling out for help. For once the door is open, there is no turning back. One dark night, a poor old woman learned this lesson the hard way: the witch soon invites all her sorcerous friends too, and together they make the old woman their slave. The only way to break free from the enchantment is to bake a magical cake with water from the well… Courage, old woman, your troubles may soon be over…! This enchanting short story was collected by Joseph Jacobs in the 19th century and included in his set of Celtic Fairy Tales. Read here.

United Kingdom

Tom ThumbWritten by Reginald Scot

When Merlin, the most learned and skillful enchanter in the world, met a poor woman who said she would be happy to have a son, even if he was the size of her husband’s thumb, the sorcerer was so amused that he granted her the wish. Tom Thumb was born that size, and never grew any larger! Despite his meagre stature, Tom embarks on great adventures which include being swallowed by a cow, falling in a cup of hot tea, and becoming a favorite of King Arthur… The History of Tom Thumb was published in 1621, and was the very first fairy tale to be printed in English. Read here.


East of the Sun and West of the MoonCollected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe

“Are you afraid?” asked the white bear. “No…” answered the young girl. “Then just hold tight to my shaggy coat, and everything will be fine”. When a poor peasant offered his youngest daughter to a white bear in exchange of a better fate for the rest of his family, he was far from thinking that she would embark on an incredible adventure during which she will talk to the four winds, be given the golden carding comb and meet a mysterious prince. Where have they gone? To the marvelous Kingdom, East of the Sun and West of the Moon… Read here.


The Princess on the Glass HillCollected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe

There is nothing wrong about being the youngest of three brothers… except that you have to prove yourself all the time. Our young hero Boots is one of them! He endures the ruthless rule of his older brothers, who despise him for always sitting in the ashes. They had better watch out, as our fearless hero is about to tame a magical horse and head straight to the Glass Hill. There he will find much more than a princess in danger… The Princess on the Glass Hill is an iconic fairy tale with origins in both Swedish and Norwegian folklores. Read here.


The Birch and the Star – Written by Zakari Topelius

During a time of war and unrest, the story begins, many children lost their parents, were deported to far away places and adopted by other families. This is the story of two of them – a boy coming to the age of sixteen and his sister of fourteen – who want to return home and find their real parents in Finland. To pursue their quest, they will have to rely on the single memory they had from their past… “A sign on our home: A birch in the farmyard, and a star shining through the birch tree”… The Birch and the Star, written by Zakari Topelius in 1915, is most likely set at the time of The Napoleonic Wars. Read here


The Brave Tin SoldierWritten by Hans Christian Andersen

Poor Tin Soldier! He was certainly not born under the luckiest of stars… The last of a series, there was not enough metal left to finish making him, and he was created with only one leg. But our brave little soldier is not the type to complain about his fate. After much adventuring, including being swallowed by a fish, he falls in love with a ballerina made of paper. The love story will be short-lived, though, as fire will soon consume the two, leaving behind nothing but a lump of tin, melted into the shape of a little heart. Hans Christian Andersen’s Den standhaftige tinsoldat has made generations weep since 1838. Read here.


The Boy Who Wanted More CheeseCollected by William Griffis

When a cheese-loving boy who claims that his stomach has no bottom meets fairies who never get tired bringing him cheese, we are all set for a plot with an explosive ending! Oh boy! 12 years old Kees van Bommel shouldn’t be so greedy… But he just can’t help eating cheese – he loves them all: the red balls from Edam, the pink and yellow spheres from Gouda, and the gray loaf-shaped ones from Leyden. What will happen when his stomach can’t take it any more? How will the fairies react? Discover all in this famous Dutch fairy tale collected by William Elliot Griffisin in 1918. Read here.


Ups and Downs – Collected by Jean de Bosschère

Never trust someone more cunning than you! This is the hard lesson a poor little nanny-goat learns when she meets a fox and decides to accompany him in his quest for water. The summer had been very hot but a well, found by chance, ends up a most welcome solace for some… and a dreadful trap for others. Poor little she-goat, did your mother never tell you not to trust crafty predators? Perhaps not the most famous Belgian folk tale, the story Ups and Downs was collected by Jean De Bosschère, a writer and marvelous painter, who included it in his Folk Tales of Flanders in 1918. Read here.


Shockheaded Peter – Written by Heinrich Hoffmann

Just look at him! There he stands, with his nasty hair and hands. See! His nails are never cut, they are grimed as black as soot. And the sloven, I declare! Never once has combed his hair. Anything to me is sweeter than to see Shockheaded Peter… With these warm words starts Der Struwwelpeter – Germany’s terrifying book that will frighten even the most fearless of children. In a set of 12 short stories, youngsters will learn that they had better eat their soup, cut their nails and sit very very still at the table. In a very German fashion, the story demonstrates the disastrous consequences of misbehavior… Read here.


The Singing Fir Tree – Swiss folk tale 

If you are a nature-lover, a religion-sceptic or an easily emotional person: move along, there’s nothing to read here! Seriously, the master woodcarver might break your heart but not the way you expect… Listen! Can you hear this strange but beautiful singing? It comes from the forest which covers the steep hills that rose above the village. Up there, a giant fir hundreds of years old is singing in despair. What will happen to him all depends on the master woodcarver… The Singing Fir Tree is an old magical Swiss folk tale which evokes the necessity of preserving the natural environment. Read here.


Sweet Porridge – Collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

There was a poor but good little girl who lived alone with her mother, and they no longer had anything to eat. So the child went into the forest, and there an aged woman met her who was aware of her sorrow, and presented her with a little pot, which when she said, “Cook, little pot, cook,” would cook good, sweet porridge, and when she said, “Stop, little pot,” it ceased to cook. If cooking can sometimes be magic, it may also turn into something far more dangerous… The Austrian Fairy tale was collected by the famous Brothers Grimm in the 19th century. Read here.


The Pig King – Collected by Giovanni Francesco Straparola

You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Or a fairy tale by its characters… The king and the queen of Anglia know it well… The queen had no child after seven years. One day, she slept in the garden, and three fairies saw her. One gave her a son and insure her that no man could harm her; the second, that no one could offend her, and the son should have every virtue; the third, that she would be wise, but the son should be a pig until he had married three times. This Italian literary fairy tale was written by Giovanni Francesco Straparola and included in his The Facetious Nights of Straparola. Read here.


The GoldenhornWritten by Karel Dežman

Up there in the high mountains around Triglav lives a mysterious creature with golden horns who guards great treasures… This is the Zlatorog, children! A pure legend which draws golseekers… One day, a young and brave hunter decided to go to find the Zlatorog and claim his treasure. In the morning, he found the animal, shot it and pursued it onto a narrow ledge where he came to find the most beautiful and healing flowers he would ever see… The story about Zlatorog was first written down by Karel Dežman in the Laibacher Zeitung in 1868. Read here.


Clever MankaCollected by Parker Fillmore

“What is the swiftest thing in the world? What is the sweetest thing? What is the richest?”. The burgomaster thought he would outsmart everyone by putting this riddle, but this mystery is no match for our dear Clever Manka. There is basically no one in town to compete with her intelligence. And when Clever Manka decides to use her bright mind to serve justice, you can bet that the whole city will benefit from it… Far from the princesses to be rescued, this old Czech feminist fairy tale, collected by Parker Fillmore, sets the bar high in the promotion of gender equality. Read here.


The Three Golden Hairs of Grandfather Know All Written by Karia Jaromira Erbena

At his birth, Plavachek was given the fate to encounter great dangers, to go safely through all of them, to live long and  cherry on the cake to marry a princess… Listen, children, you might envy Plavachek’s destiny, but you should be aware that the dangers he will face are nothing but desirable. On top of all of them: getting three golden hairs from Grandfather Knowitall will prove to be far from a pleasure cruise… This Slovakian fairy tale is full of popular wisdom. It has recently been rewritten by Karia Jaromira Erbena. Read here.


The Wawel DragonLegend from Kraków

Hear ye, hear ye, all ye who pass by: are you brave enough to defeat the terrible fire-belching Wawel Dragon? The beast lives in a cave at the foot of Wawel Hill in Kraków. Each day the evil dragon roams around the countryside, kills people, pillages their homes and devours their livestock. Hear ye, hear ye: the King intends to put a stop to this awful situation and will grant a great reward for who can slay the terrible monster his bravest knights have already fallen to the dragon’s fiery breath… The Smok Wawelski is a famous Polish legend and a founding myth of Kraków. Read here.


Eglė the Queen of SerpentsWritten by Danute Bindokien

A young girl named Eglė discovers a serpent in her clothes after bathing with her two sisters. Speaking in a human voice, the serpent agrees to go away only after Eglė pledges herself to him in exchange for his leaving the clothes, not realising the possible consequences. Three days pass, and thousands of serpents come for the bride… Eglė the Queen of Serpents is not recommended for readers suffering from Ophidiophobia. But it is considered one of the most archaic and best-known Lithuanian fairy tales and the richest in references of Baltic mythology. Read here.


Pastaris and the GiantCollected by Teikas

If you are trapped in a cave and a Giant is threatening you: better listen and obey. Or alternatively, follow Pastaris’ example and face the monster! But kids, this is serious business here! So make sure that you are first in possession of a hair from a bull, a magical feather and an enchanted scale. Then successively kill the snake, chase the rabbit and catch the dove. Only then you will be able to engage in your final battle… Pastaris and the Giant is an old Latvian myth similar to David and Goliath. If you pay attention, it will reveals between lines some famous astronomical constellations. Read here.


The Egg-Born PrincessCollected by Friedrich Kreutzwald

A queen told an old woman that she had two griefs: a new one, that her husband was at war, and an old one, that they had no children. The old women gave her a basket with an egg: the queen was to put it somewhere warm. In three months, it would break and let out a doll called Dotterine… Whether the story starts with magic doesn’t presume it to maybe end with tears… The tale Munast sündinud kuningatütar is a beloved Estonian fairy tale, collected by Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald and included in his collection Eestirahwa Ennemuistesed jutted. Read here.


Nibbly-Quibbly The GoatWritten by Volodimir Boyko

The Old Man never had such a stubborn goat! Even when all the members of his family take care of her, Nibbly-Quibbly keeps complaining and pretends to be unsatisfied. One day, the Old Man looses patience and entered in a blacksmith’s with his knife sharpened so as to kill the goat. Nibbly-Quibbly tore itself loose and ran off to the forest… There she will have all latitudes to be annoying to Runny-Bunny the rabbit, Grumbly-Rumbly the bear and Smily-Wily the fox… The anti-heroe fairy tale Nibbly-Quibbly The Goat was written by Volodimir Boyko. Read here.

Romania - Moldova

The Goat and Her Three KidsWritten by Ion Creangă

Listen to this lesson, children! This story will teach you why it is important to obey your mother and beware of strangers…  For there was once a goat with her three marvelous kids. One day, when the mother goat was out in the forest to get food for dinner, the Big Bad Wolf wandered around the house. The kids wouldn’t let him in, even if he promised to have fresh grass on the lips and milk and salt on the back. But a single imprudence would soon prove to be a deadly mistake… Readers are cautioned that the Romanian fairy tale The Goad and Her Three Kids has no happy ending. Read here.


The Grateful BeastsCollected by Hermann Kletke

Three sons set out to seek their fortune. The youngest, Ferko, was so beautiful that his older brothers thought he would be preferred. In his sleep, the wicked brothers broke his legs and left him without assistance in the forest. Poor Ferko! How would he survive on his own? He would probably have died if it was not for the fantastic beasts he met by chance in the forest. With their help, he will be now able to seek for revenge… His elder brothers are expecting him in the King’s castle. And they are not done with him yet… Good luck, young Ferko! Your pain will soon come to an end! Read here.


Kraljevitch MarkoWritten by A.H. Wratislaw

There was once upon a time a mother who gave birth to Kraljevitch Marko. She reared him, and placed him in a position to become a hero. Here comes out of the blue, our young hero at the origin of so many legends… Marko grew up into a large, strong man. He wore a wolf-skin cap pulled low over his dark eyes, his black moustache was the size of a six-month-old lamb and his cloak was a shaggy wolf-pelt. His adventures will lead him to the emperor Soliman who was waiting anxiously for the invasion of the Tatars… This long epic story is an old serbo-croatian legend still very popular nowadays. Read here.


The Nine Peahens and the Golden ApplesCollected by Vuk Stefanović Karadžić

Once upon a time there lived a king who had three sons. Now, before the king’s palace grew a golden apple-tree, which in one and the same night blossomed, bore fruit, and lost all its fruit, though no one could tell who took the apples. While committed to uncovering the truth, the emperor’s three sons set themselves at night to watch it. As nine peahens arrived, the two older sons were already asleep, but the youngest stayed awake… This Serbian epic fairy tale was published for the first time by Vuk Stefanović Karadžić in 1853. Read here.

Bosnia and Herzegovina - Kosovo

The Golden Fish – Collected by Lilian Gask

Upon a certain island in the middle of the sea dwelt an old man and his wife. They were so poor that they often went short of bread, for the fish he caught were their only means of livelihood. One day when the man had been fishing for many hours without success, he hooked a small gold-fish, whose eyes shone as brightly as diamonds. “Let me go, kind man…” cried the little creature. The old man’s mercy might bring him in return wealth and happiness… Children in Bosnia-Herzegovina all know the ancient story of The Golden Fish which was collected in 1865 by Lilian Gask. Read here.


The Three Friends and the Earthly BeautyCollected by Xenofôntos N. Saltê

A man dies leaving his wife with child. Six months later she gives birth to a son. After having found the sabre of his father, this son changes his name to Kordha the Sabre, hugs his mother and departs for adventures. His story is not set for being like a long and quiet river. Many dangers are awaiting him, including having to jump over a moat, fight against dangerous beasts, tame wild creatures and seduce the Earthly Beauty… This famous Albanian fairy tale was collected by Xenofôntos N. Saltê in 1878. Read here.


The Little Girl And The Winter Whirlwinds – Unknown

One year the wicked Winter Witch decided to stop Spring from coming on time and make Winter the only season on Earth. She hid the Sun behind dark clouds and covered the Earth with heavy snow… Against this terrible weather conditions, a little girl from the village decides to go on the highest mountain peak, where the good wizard Father Frost lives in his palace of ice to ask him for help. She will meet the Wicked Winter Witch, on her way… Despite its apparent coldness, this famous Bulgarian fairy tale will warm your heart during the winter season! Read here.


Fairy GardensWritten by Theodore P. Gianakoulis and Georgia H. MacPherson

Uncle Kostas, as everyone called him, had once been a prisoner of the fairies. He would sit stiffly down upon a stone and lean upon the tall, shepherd’s staff which he always carried, to recount his story. He enjoyed living in that paradise, but he could never forget his home and his sweetheart Christena, and he longed to go back…  This story was part of the Tales of Modern Greece written by Theodore P. Gianakoulis and Georgia H. McPherson in 1930. Read here.


The Three Orange-PerisCollected by Ignatius Kunos

A long time ago was one Padishah who was joyless, for he had no son. One day dervish takes an apple from his breast and present it to the Padishah. He share it with Sultana and not for long time ago was born a Crone Prince Shahzada. What life will have young Prince? Will be he kindliness or greedy? Lets read such a fascinating story. The Three Orange Peris is a fairy tale from the Forty-four Turkish Fairy Tales collected and published by Ignác Kúnos in 1913. Read here.

If you liked this article, you may also like: