and other tales of animal wit and wisdom


© P 1992 Fran Stallings /Prairieflower Productions
1406 Macklyn Lane, Bartlesville OK 74006-5419

People all over the world tell animal stories to explore our kinship with our fellow creatures. Some tales help us to remember special aspects of an animal's non-human nature. Others put human words and emotions into an animal's mouth, that we may learn a lesson in human nature from the perspective of our non-human kin ...

These ancient folktales come from public domain. I invite you to learn and retell them in your own way. Look below for additional background information and help in finding traditional sources you can use to develop your own versions.

If you choose to tell my versions (adapted and with original material, ©1992), please remember to mention where you heard them: say "as retold by Fran Stallings," etc.

Cover illustration adapted from "Reeds and Cranes" by Suzuki Kiitsu, Edo Period, The Detroit Institute ot Arts.

Translator for "Tsuru No Ongaeshi" text: Shizuko Mamiya. "Tsuru No" means "Crane's." "Ongaeshi" literally means "the obligation to repay a kindness," a debt of honor which is not taken lightly in Japan.

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Adapted from "How the Brazilian Beetles got their Gorgeous Coats" in My Book House Vol. III pp 172-175, ed. Olive Beaupre Miller (Chicago: The Book House for Children publishers, 1920).

RABBIT'S CLEVER NOSE -- Burma (5:50)

My retelling mutated out of Maung Htin Aung's "Rabbit Has A Cold" (Burmese Folktales. Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1948) . Aung doesn't emphasize lion's overwork or worries, just says he got tired of his ministers but wanted to "give a semblance of legality to his unjust act." Aesop told a version in which the lion tested sheep, wolf, and fox as a condition of employment in the first place. You can find this in the Grosset Aesop's Fables pp 154-5.

TO FOOL A CAT -- Japan (5:04)

This grew out of "How to Fool a Cat" in Kintaro's Adventures and Other Japanese Children's Stories, ed. Florence Sakade (Rutland VT: Charles E. Tuttle Co, 1958).

THE WISE BIRD -- Rabbinical tradition apparently adopted it from Aesop. (7:13)

My retelling has taken some original twists. More traditional versions: "The Bird's Wisdom" in Jewish Tales one Generation Tells Another, by Penninah Schram. (Northvale NJ: Jason Aronson, 1987); "The Labourer & the Nightingale" in Joseph Jacobs's The Fables of Aesop (Macmillan 1894) or pp 69-70 in the GrossetAesop's Fables.

SPIDER AND FLY -- Baltic nations. (5:09)

Based on "The Spider and the Fly" in Tales of the Amber Ring: Stories of the Baltic Countries by Milos Maly, translator Vladimir Varecha. ( London: Orbis Publishing 1981).


In 1975, a child in Nagoya, Japan, gave us an exquisite book written in Japanese by Matsutani Miako and illustrated by Iresaki Tihiro (Tsuru No Ongaeshi. Tokyo: Kaisei Sha). Our friend Mamiya Shizuko orally translated the text. This retelling grew from Mamiya-san's translation.
Such "crane daughter" stories are told in Totori Prefecture, NW of Kyoto, on the Sea of Japan. More widely known in Japan are "crane wife" tales, which appear in traditional artwork, classic and modern operas and plays. Many other animals repay debts of gratitude to humans in the Japanese genre of ongaeshi stories.
Weaver Kelly Wilhelm informs me that the order of the noises made by the loom is wrong: it should go, "Tsin! Ton, ton! Kara, kara!"
You can find Iwasaki's illustrations in The Crane Maiden (NY: Parents' Magazine Press 1968) with a text ("English version by Alvin Tresselt") that differs in a number of points from the Japanese version. Another American picturebook version can be found in Bartoli, The Story of the Grateful Crane, 1977.

THE FOX AND THE GEESE -- Germany (1:35)

See "The Fox and the Geese", #86 pp 393-4 in The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales (NY: Pantheon Books) or other large collections of Grimm's tales.


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"Fran is excellent!" "Heartwarming" "Her voice is magic." "She is totally captivating with her ability to teach through stories. I see unlimited potential for applicability."

Fran is available for workshops, concerts, and residencies.