Fairy tales for teenagers – a compilation

Following my addition of The Well of the World’s End to the video gallery, I asked on the Storytell listserv what other fairy tales have been found to be particularly powerful with teenage audiences. Within hours the suggestions arrived – which is typical of the way this supportive community works.

Since many visitors to this site tell to teenagers, the suggestions are below.
I have provided a link to a source. Of course, as always, there are manifold versions and variants of these old tales, so use the links as a starting point to discover the tale as you wish to tell it.

The list is not alphabetical, simply chronological as the tales were suggested. Some have the sender’s comments.
Not surprisingly, Mr Fox was the first suggestion, and the one most frequently suggested.

Powerful fairy tales for teenagers

  • Mr Fox – watch out for Prince Charming (Activity Teaching Pack based on this tale is available – for advanced learners)
  • The Warrior in Black (aka Black Prince, an Egyptian tale) especially for teen boys: ruthless force may win battles, but it won’t win what you really want.
  • The Girl Without Hands
    I tell The Armless Maiden, a version of this Grimms’ tale based on Pete Castle’s telling on his CD Tapping at the Blind. Here the incest and mutilation are explicit and graphic – a tale not for the fainthearted.
  • Petrosinella (or Rapunzel) they sometimes pick up on addiction
  • With Aschenputtel we can talk about what people would do to gain wealth and power (plus I like watching them squirm at the foot mutilation)
  • With Sleeping Beauty we talk about rape and how ‘she didn’t say no’ is not the same as yes.
  • I told Snow White last month as it was recorded for the Grimms’ first edition. They could hardly believe how creepy the prince was, having Snow White’s coffin carted wherever he went.
  • They love finding out the endings they’d never heard before – the evil queen in Snow White dancing to her death, Sleeping Beauty’s cannibalistic mother in law, Rapunzel giving birth to twins in exile.
  • Scheherazade
  • Davy and the Devil is one teens ask for again and again.
    The Queen of the Fishes is another version I sometimes tell.
  • They get real quiet and attentive for Thomas the Rhymer
  • When we did storytelling units with 7th graders (12 & 13 years old) in almost every class there was a girl who wanted to tell the Twelve Dancing Princesses and a boy who wanted to tell Godfather Death
  • Owl fromThe Magic Orange Tree, collected by Diane Wolkstein… “Owl thought he was ugly…..”
  • The White Cat from the French tradition seems to peek their interest. And ever since I started playing with fairy tales, The Snow Queen can really be powerful for close siblings, especially one is hitting their changes before the other.
  • Pretty Maid Ibronka: Antagonist in this Hungarian tale (which has slavic variants) is an oopir, a vampire-like creature, and that brings it into the realm of spookiness/spiritualism. In the end, the heroine is redeemed when she faces her youthful mistakes, so it offers hope to older teens who may fear that some mistakes in judgment during their adolescence have set them on the wrong path. (Also redemptive for twenty- and thirty-somethings who’ve changed course since their teens.)
  • In schools, I definitely include tales that are connected to the literature they are studying, which makes anything from the Arabian Nights (including Scheherazade herself, as Mary mentioned) or Chaucer fair game, and it pleases educators, who are, after all, the ones hiring you.
  • The Dream Diviner and the Snake on the vast website of folk tales maintained by Yoel Perez
  • And of course, the fairy tale which prompted this collection, The Well of the World’s End
  • Not a tale, but a 40-sec. video of why teenagers might find storytelling “cool“.

Tad-Tales for Teens is a related compilation

Videos for children to watch is selection from the video gallery

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