Looking for enticing and creative folk tale inspired story ideas and writing prompts? You’ve come to the right place!
Read on for story ideas like a fox shape-shifter that loves to steal human’s energy by way of a deep kiss, or the adventure of a rain charmer in a land plagued by frequent flooding!
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Folk Tale Inspired Story Ideas and Writing Prompts
So, you want to write a folk tale inspired story? Let’s dive in for some intriguing story ideas!
Because I’m sure we’ve had enough Cinderella and King Arthur retellings, we’ll take a look at underrated yet fascinating folktales from around the world, which will hopefully drench you in inspiration.
Please note that the genders in these prompts and story ideas are just placeholders. It is not the intention to enforce any hurtful stereotypes or offend anyone.
Here are some folktale-inspired story ideas with adventure as the main underlining theme.
- The twelve Chinese Zodiac
Put a fresh spin into the origins of the Chinese Zodiac, which could stand on its own as a bedtime story for little children. Or, paired with a teenage hero or heroine, spin it into a coming-of-age story.
- The keeper of the forest and his half woman, half snake wife
Papa Bois is a popular folklore character of St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago. He’s the keeper of the forest, with short stature and cloven hooves. He is married to Mama D’Leau, the healer of river animals. Her tongue is forked, with elongated and coiled lower body resembling a snake.
If that is not a promising idea for an adventure story, I don’t know what is.
- The stone labyrinth
This is a picture of the stone labyrinth of Blå Jungfrun, Sweden. Who made it? Why? What awaits at the end of the labyrinth, or inside of it? Let your imagination soar, and tell an origin story of the labyrinth.
- The Golden Conch
The story of a golden snail or conch that houses a normal-sized human is a prevalent folklore in many Asian countries including Thailand, Korea, and Indonesia.
Think of it as a variation of the genie in the bottle, but with a human and a conch.
- The Shape-shifting Shaman
If a shaman may transform the course of history by the influence they have over the ruling monarch, what about a shaman/shapeshifter? Inspired by the Scandinavian gonagas, a Scandinavian shaman with an ability to change into a bird figure.
- The Rain Charmer
You’ve heard of rainmaking or rain dance ritual, which is the ritual to invoke rain. But have you heard of a rainstopper or a rain charmer?
It’s a ritual from Indonesia that is done to divert rain clouds from ruining important events such as weddings and other celebrations. It might be unthinkable to other cultures and countries, but in a tropical country in which rain falls in approximately 233 days a year, stopping rain is sometimes a necessity.
So what do you think? A face off between a rain charmer and a rainmaker? Or what about a rain charmer who’s stranded in a barren country and is forced to learn the craft of ranmaking? Or a rain charmer who allies with a dragon to control the weather?
- The black dog and the white dog
The cadejo is part of the Guatemalan folklore, a dog-shaped supernatural spirit that often appears to travelers at night. The black cadejo seeks to harm those travelers while the white cadejo seeks to protect them from harm, however, it is said that turning one’s back on either of them or speaking to it will be a recipe for disaster.
Play around with the concept to highlight that classic pull and push between evil and good.
Here are some folktale-inspired story ideas with romance as the main underlining theme.
- The Goddess of the Sea
Poseidon, who? If you ask any Indonesians, Javanese in particular, they’d be quick to tell you about the borderline mythical Nyi Roro Kidul, the magnificent ruler of the Indian Ocean who ensnares men with her beauty, magic and charm.
Her Chinese counterpart is Mazu, a shamaness who is revered as the deity of seafarers following her death.
- Human-bearing tree
I’ll see your dryads and tree nymphs, and raise you Nariphon, a tree from Thai folklore which bears humanoid women as its fruits. Created by the god Indra to distract other men’s lust away from his wife, these fruits will wither if unpicked within seven days.
- The fire demon
From Japanese folklore, Akuma is an evil, female fire demon said to be the cause of mental illness. Diana Wynne Jones‘ Howl’s Moving Castle is an example of a fire demon retelling with a fascinating origin story.
- The dhampir
Commonly associated with Balkan folklore, dhampir is the offspring of a vampire and a human. I think it will be fun to play with the concept of dhampir in an original story. Make up their characteristics in comparison to their parental heritage, and so on.
- The cambion
In the same mixed parentage camp, we also have the cambion. It has its root in the European folklore, and is said to be the result of a union between an incubus, a sucubus, or other type of demon, with a human.
- The Korean half-fox, half-human creature
Kumiho, the Korean half-fox half-human, shares some similarities to the Chinese huli jing and the Japanese kitsune.
However, Kumiho has an intriguing exception: it can steal human’s energy via a method that resembles a deep kiss. Also, if the human is somehow able to swallow the yeowoo guseul (fox marble/bead) of the Kumiho, the act may grant the human preternatural knowledge.
A very intriguing premise with many potential for drama and, of course, romance.
Now that we’ve seen some enticing folktale story ideas, let’s delve deeper into the genre.
A folktale or folk tale is a folklore genre that typically consists of a story passed down from generation to generation orally, often involving fantastical or supernatural elements and are used to convey important cultural values, beliefs, and customs.
They may also include animals, magical creatures, or ordinary people who encounter and overcome challenges or obstacles in order to learn important life lessons. They can be found in cultures all over the world with variations in plot and characters depending on the specific cultural context in which they are told.
Folktale vs. mythology
Folktales and mythology are both types of traditional stories that are passed down through generations. However, there are some key differences between the two.
Mythology refers to a system of stories and beliefs that explain the origins of the world and the supernatural beings who created and control it, involving a complex and interconnected set of stories and characters. It may be associated with a particular culture or religion, transmitted through formal religious or cultural institutions as well as oral traditions maintained by priests or other religious leaders.
Folktales, on the other hand, are often simpler, self-contained stories that are intended for entertainment or to teach a lesson, exploring themes such as love, bravery, and cleverness. They may involve supernatural elements, but are not typically part of a larger mythological system. Folktales, by contrast, are often transmitted through informal means, such as storytelling or popular literature.
Modern retellings of folk tales
Modern retellings of folk tales are important for several reasons:
- Cultural preservation: Retelling these stories in a modern context ensure that they are preserved and passed down to future generations in a new and relevant way.
- Relevance: By retelling these stories in a contemporary setting, we can make them more relatable and engaging for modern readers and viewers.
- Diversity: Retelling these stories in a modern context with diverse characters and perspectives may broaden their appeal and make them more accessible to a wider audience.
- 4. Exploration of themes: Folk tales often contain important lessons and themes that are relevant to our lives today. By retelling these stories in new and innovative ways, we can explore these themes in greater depth and provide new insights and perspectives on them.
Examples of modern retellings of folk tales
Beyond zombies, vampires and werewolves, here are some more examples of modern retelling of folk tales.
“The Gracekeepers” by Kirsty Logan is a dystopian novel that draws inspiration from Scottish and Scandinavian folklores, featuring a world where the sea has engulfed much of the land.
Folk tales can also be reimagined to fit a more adult readership base. “The Bloody Chamber” by Angela Carter is a collection of short stories that draws on various fairy tales and folk tales, but reimagines them in a darker and more sensual way.
I hope the various folktale and folklore inspired story ideas and writing prompts above spark some inspiration in you! If you need more story ideas and prompts, please browse our Story Ideas & Writing Prompts Category!
Have any question or feedback? Feel free to contact me here. Until next time!
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