Folk Tales

Folk Tales

“Folklore is the perfect second skin. From under its hide, we can see all the shimmering, shadowy uncertainties of the world.”

~ Jane Yolen

Over the Hills and Far Away

Dry twigs snap beneath his feet as he forces his way between the gnarled limbs of ancient trees. Dead leaves are rotting on the forest floor. He can smell them. Long slender tendrils of fungus emerge from the layer of humus, stretching up into the narrow beams of early morning light. The muscles in his … READ MORE

Lily Shaw

I truly loved with all my heart but once. I believe that’s the only way we can ever be sure we have actually experienced love, when we feel something so strong, so over-powering, that it lingers across our entire lives. And when we look back, no matter how happy we are now, we only wonder … READ MORE

The Broken Wing Butterfly

She landed on the daisy as daintily as she could, spreading her wings to keep her balance. The wind was blowing in gusts, which made landing a difficult process, but once her feet had taken hold of the silver petals, she knew she was safely home. Her wings were faded when compared with the others … READ MORE

The King and the Starling

Once upon a time there lived a wise old king who loved his kingdom. He loved every leaf upon every tree and every drop of dew which glistened with the dawn. And his people loved him too, for he was a fair and kind ruler, who held his people reverently in his heart. One night… READ MORE

The Bee

He wakes up, not in the golden warmth of his hive like all the other bees, but someplace dim and dusty. The ground is hard beneath him, and the air is stale and sour. He rolls from his back onto his stomach and lifts himself onto his feet. They clink on the steel surface of … READ MORE

The Piper

Far away in the north was once a grand city famous for its splendour and beauty. The inner city of this wondrous place was filled with twinkling lights, no matter how deep into the night it was, while beautiful people in their finest clothes passed each other in ornate carriages. The scent of champagne lay … READ MORE

Famous Red Dress

It’s five in the morning and a grey light is starting to pierce the air. The frost melts beneath its touch. Trains begin to rattle down the line, their carriages empty, the platforms still and bare. You stand upon that same spot where you first saw her. No-one passes you at this hour. And even … READ MORE

The Crow

He sits on a branch, shifting from one foot to another as he puffs his feathers out against the cold. His beak, once a sharp point, is now blunt. Even his lovely charcoal feathers have lost their gloss and sit raggedly like an ill-fitting coat. He stretches out his tired old wings. For a moment … READ MORE

Needle and Thread

All summer long he sat by the docks and sewed. Day after day his little fingers would work as he sewed together cloth to make sails for the local fishermen. For just a handful of pennies, the little boy would make sails as fine and strong as any man who called himself a sailmaker, but … READ MORE


Faraway, on the edge of an emerald sea, is a city enclosed by walls that tower into the sky. These black stone walls are adorned with hideous gargoyles that leer from every corner. But hidden within is a city where all the buildings are carved from smooth white marble. Elaborate fountains spray the … READ MORE

We Ran as if to Meet the Moon

I don’t have any friends, so when I get lonely, I talk to the moon. The moon can be a most brilliant friend. Sitting there alone in the yard outside the orphanage, I’d look up to the sky and tell her all of my secrets. She was my light, even in the darkness. Sometimes she’d … READ MORE

Silver and Gold

That dark September morning was both the happiest and the most devastating day of his life. Under the grey light of dawn, his daughter was born, and by midmorning his wife had passed away. She was only eighteen, and he was just one year older. Now he was left with nothing but the help of … READ MORE

The Sparrow and the Sun

There once lived a sparrow who loved the sun with all its heart. All throughout the spring and well into summer, he would perch on the highest branch of the tallest tree and sing to his golden beloved. He sang so sweetly and earnestly that all the people of the town would gather around his … READ MORE


It looked just like any other well in any other city; deep and dark with smooth sides worn away by the years and an echo as sweet as a bell. The water had dried out long before the eldest living generation had been born. But that never took away from the true value of the … READ MORE


She pokes her head out of the nest and looks up at the sky. It’s so blue that it looks violet against the sun. Light spills off the gum leaves that ripple in the breeze high above, while down below the ground is a crosshatch of stringy bark. She withdraws back inside the safety of … READ MORE

Cowardly Soldier

Under the torchlight, the clearing is filled with an amber glow. The wind is still and all is quiet. Through the branches that arch across the sky, there are thousands of stars glinting in the night. But he doesn’t notice these things. He can’t see the moon ripening into a golden orb, or the snowy … READ MORE


All my life I’ve been told the story of the tulip that had grown from the pavement, but I never really believed it until I saw it for myself. She was as enchanting as a fairy tale. Her bright red petals were awash with orange and gold so that she burned like a sunrise in … READ MORE


He chips away at the stone with a blunt axe, pausing only to brush away the flakes which have built up around him. His hands are coarse and weathered. The skin on his palms is a patchwork of callouses, each at varying stages of healing. He stops to look up at the roughly hewn ceiling … READ MORE

The Pearl

She lies peacefully beneath the currents, nestled in a bed of tangled seaweed. A tiny silver fish darts by. Following closely is larger fish covered with striped frills of white and orange. The smaller fish weaves between the reeds, desperately trying to lose its pursuer. First it turns one way, and then another. Its little … READ MORE

Dust and Cut Flowers

Like dust floating through a stream of sunlight. Like a small chip in the paint that resembles a tiny elephant. Like a scrap of that beloved floral pattern on an old sundress discarded to the rags basket in the laundry. I see these relics everywhere. Reminders of those tiny beautiful things. There’s an infinite sadness … READ MORE

The Shoemaker Who Made Toys

Finn Dreyer was a shoemaker who didn’t really like shoes very much. No, he didn’t like them at all. Every day he would rise early in the morning, walk across town through the slushy snow to his master’s workshop, and spend hour after hour, day after day, year after year, making shoes. First he would … READ MORE

Little Lives

She flutters above the flowers, her wings shimmering in the golden light. The gentle scent of daisies rises from the ground. She settles onto the pure white petals of a cheerful little flower, and drinks from its yellow centre. The light changes to a cool silver. Large clear drops begin to shake the blades of … READ MORE

The Gardener

Golden rays of sunlight drip from the sky and wash over her golden petals in a flood of light. She stretches her large green leaves towards it. The warmth is so sweet after the freezing night. Endless blue skies have replaced the cool twinkling stars and the morning dew quickly evaporates into the air. Even … READ MORE


She reaches down into the well, grasping the rope tightly with both hands. Every thread of the rope has turned brown and stiff with age. Inch by inch, new segments of rope come into view from the echoing depths, until finally a bucket mottled with rust appears over the edge of the well. She lifts … READ MORE

Winter Flowers

The ice advances steadily, encroaching upon the land like the rise of floodwaters. Crystal after crystal forms an icy crust upon the ground. Even the leaves on all the trees that refuse to shed their plumage for the winter are preserved in transparent cocoons. Every once in a while you can hear them tinkle as … READ MORE

Fool’s Errand

At each stride of the camel’s long legs, I can feel his muscles contort and sway with languid movement. There’s a heavy rhythm to his steps. As the sun melts away, the sky turns to amethyst streaked with orange and yellow. These brilliant colours splash across the dunes before reflecting back off the sand’s crystalline … READ MORE


Time stands still when it rains in the forest. All the birds quickly hide within the shelter of the trees. Even the insects seem to have vanished into their unseen burrows. But that constant rain continues to wash over the trees and soak deep down into the earth, feeding the roots that reach out through … READ MORE

“Pay heed to the tales of old wives. It may well be that they alone keep in memory what it was once needful for the wise to know.”

~ J.R.R. Tolkien


© Ekaterina Tretiakova and Writing on Tangents, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ekaterina Tretiakova and Writing on Tangents with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.