Fantastic Folklore-Inspired Stories from Around the World

orangutan list

Hello all! Since I’ve been speaking a lot about fairy tales and folklore in the last week, I thought it would be fun to just to a little list for this Sunday’s post. I decided (cos I’m a fussy reader that’s picky about retellings) to go with books that I think are great, which aren’t necessarily retellings, but rather are simply awesome stories, inspired by mythic tales. And these they are:

shadow of the fox

Shadow of the Fox– it’s not just that I really enjoyed this book- I also thought Kaguwa’s light touch was perfect when it came to representing the wonderfully complex creature that is the kitsune.


Forbidden Wish– I don’t think I talk about this book enough on this blog, even though I really enjoyed this unique Aladdin retelling.

bear and the nightingale

Bear and the nightingale– I think it’s fairly obvious how much I love this book. Bound up in Russian folklore, it’s become an instant favourite for me and is perfect reading for this time of the year.

anansi boys

Anansi Boys– this was the first Gaiman I really fell in love with- and for good reason. Not only does it absorb fascinating mythic elements, but Gaiman also puts his own unique humour and twist on the story, elevating it to the levels of genius.


Circe– ah Greek mythology is so close to my heart- so I’m delighted to have read what I believe to be the *definitive* retelling of the Odyssey. It’s simply sublime.


The Hobbit– I went back and forth about putting this on this list, because it doesn’t necessarily correlate with any one story. Instead it’s an amalgamation of so many stories and goes far beyond a traditional retelling in that it becomes the backbone for future British mythology- which meant I’d be remiss to leave it off. Besides, it’s one of my all-time favourite books and I’m biased 😉

through the woods

Through the Woods– this graphic novel is not only visually stunning, but an excellent example of unique retellings. It not only incorporated elements from the original Grimm’s tales, it also embodied something of the spirit from Angela Carter’s work. For that alone, it’s a worthy read.


What do you think of any of these? And do have any favourite retellings or novels inspired by folklore? Let me know in the comments!


79 thoughts on “Fantastic Folklore-Inspired Stories from Around the World

  1. In this context, my first thoughts went to Washington Irving and his Sketch Book. Apart from “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” – the pieces which made both Irving and The Sketch Book famous – the collection of tales includes “Roscoe”, “The Broken Heart”, “The Art of Book-making”, “A Royal Poet”, “The Spectre Bridegroom”, “Westminster Abbey”, “Little Britain”, and “John Bull”. Irving’s stories were highly influenced by German folktales;

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  2. Thanks for these recommendations. I love Robin McKinley’s books, most of which are fairytale retellings. One of my favs of her books is Spindle’s End, which is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. I love it for the world it’s set in as well as McKinley’s prose. It’s YA fantasy.

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  3. Anansi Boys is a favorite of mine too. I read Anansi stories as a child, and I really enjoyed Gaiman’s interpretation of him.
    I’d add Amos Tutuola to the list as a writer who combined the folklore of his native Nigeria with his own imagination and very distinct vernacular.

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  4. Circe and The Hobbit had to be on the list – no question! I love folk tales, I read a lot of Celtic myth and traditional stories. To be honest, I can’t think of any books where they’ve been used… not off the top of my head… myths from other cultures have been used very successfully though, so it must have been done 🙂

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  5. I was hoping you would include The Hobbit and/or LOTR. When you read Beowulf and The Poetic Edda you realize just how much folklore Tolkien borrowed/adapted for his masterpieces (without it being a mere retelling)

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      1. Whenever you get around to them I’d suggest Seamus Heaney’s translation for Beowulf and Lee Hollander’s for the Poetic Edda. Both do a nice job of providing a close approximation of the original rhythm and alliteration structure (though both have some vocabulary quirks)

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  6. I really liked bear and the nightingale ❤

    Haven't read many of these re-telling. Anansi Boys i got halfway through before i gave up. Later i found out i should have read american gods before and then it would have made sense 😀

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  7. You’ve got some brilliant books on this list. I’m a massive fan of retellings and folklore inspired stories so this is the perfect post to recommend some great books I’ll have to add to my TBR list! 🙂
    Circe is incredible, of course, and I’m glad to see The Bear and the Nightingale on this list too because that’s another favourite of mine. The Forbidden Wish is on my TBR list and I need to get around to it soon. It’s been sitting there unread for so long and I know I’m going to love it so I’m not sure why I haven’t gotten around to it yet.
    Great post. 🙂 ❤️

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  8. Lots of great stories here, well written and engaging with new takes on familiar plots. Not sure if Gregory Maguire belongs in this mix as his work is based often on well known fairy tales, but I love the fresh approach of his work.

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      1. You know him – his book Wicked inspired the famous musical, though the musical diverges significantly from his book. I’ve read many of his books – inventive approaches to what we thought we knew.


  9. I love this post so much ❤️ Books inspired by folklore and myths are my favorite, and this is such a great list. The Forbidden Wish, Circe and The Bear and the Nightingale are all wonderful. I also love Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente and Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near!

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  10. I love Julie Kagawa and look forward to read her take on Kitsune!! My first Gaiman was The Graveyard Book – and it was love at first sight. 😄 Haven’t read Anansi Boy yet because there are spiders?? Yikes, totally hate those! Lol! 😂

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  11. I wouldn’t blame you for putting The Hobbit on the list, it’s just too good (or maybe I’m biased too) 😉 Anyway, I’d love to check out Circe, The Bear and the Nightingale as well as Anansi Boys! The other picks are interesting too, great list!

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  12. GOSH I LOVE SHADOW OF THE FOX. I also really enjoyed the Bear and the Nightingale when I read it a while back. I have seen quite a few people talk about The Forbidden Wish, so I think I just might have to pick that one up. Thanks for a lovely post 🙂

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  13. I recently finished Circe and loved it way more than I thought I would! I see you’ve mentioned Angela Carter (amazing) – have you read Strange Things Sometimes Still Happen? It’s a collection of her short stories based on fairytales. I came across it today online – I haven’t read it but I’d imagine you’d quite like it 🙂

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  14. Excellent list! I’ve heard nothing but good things about ALL of these books. I am planning on reading Shadow of the Fox this month, and am keeping my fingers crossed that Circe comes in for me at my library soon!

    I just finished the last book in the Winternight trilogy this week. Hands down one of my favorite series ever. I think the 3rd book was my favorite!

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