Best Folktale Collections: The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library

Where to get stories to tell? What are the best folktale collections? I have worked as a professional storyteller for many years and can recommend the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library story collections. I own more than half of the books in this library.

The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library is a library of fairy tales and folktales. The books contain stories from different cultures collected by different authors. Currently, there are 17 print books published by Penguin Random House.

Best Folktale Collections
Some of my second-hand books from the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library

Like in an actual library, the books you find in this ‘library’ are very different. They have one thing in common: They all contain many, many stories. They were mainly collected from oral storytelling.

However, they vary wildly in the amount and kind of stories they contain. Below are all the books in this library, with my comments about the books I own.

Note: Earlier editions looked very different. Penguin has chosen to give them all similar, new, fresh-looking covers.

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💡 As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I get a little percentage whenever you buy something after clicking one of my affiliate links. Thanks!

1. Favorite Folktales from Around the World (Jane Yolen)

Favorite Folktales from Around the World

If I could only recommend one book with stories, it would be this one. It gives you a variety of tales from all over the world.

Favorite Folktales from Around the World is a collection of fairy tales and folk tales by Jane Yolen. The tales are taken from folktale collections published worldwide and grouped by themes like ‘love,’ ‘death,’ ‘tricksters,’ ‘wisdom’ etc. Favorite Folktales from Around the World is part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

When I started storytelling, one of the best storytellers in Europe recommended it to me. He said: “Almost all these stories are good for telling.” I found that to be true.

2. African American Folktales (Roger Abrahams)

African American Folktales

I loved the diversity of the stories in this book.

African American Folktales is a collection of folk tales by Roger Abrahams, past president of the American Folklore Society. The tales are very varied. What they have in common is their link to African American culture and history. African American Folktales is part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library.

I enjoyed reading this book. I sold it, though, because as a European without African or African American connections, I felt I lacked the cultural background to tell them.

3. American Indian Myths and Legends (Richard Erdoes / Alfonso Ortiz)

American Indian Myths and Legends

Now, there’s a wide variety of Native American tribes and their stories!

American Indian Myths and Legends is a collection of Native American stories by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz. It contains more than 160 tales from over 80 tribal groups from North America. American Indian Myths and Legends is part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library.

I have not read this book yet.

4. Legends and Tales of the American West (Richard Erdoes)

Legends and Tales of the American West

You might have heard a tall tale. You might have listened to a taller one. But this book contains the tallest of the American West frontier.

Legends and Tales of the American West is a collection of stories from the American Wild West. These tall tales, which were mostly heroic and comedic, were collected by Richard Erdoes. Legends and Tales of the American West is part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library.

I have not read this book yet.

5. Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece (Gustav Schwab)

Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece

The Greek Myths are legendary, and rightly so. This massive book contains the most famous ones and some more.

Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece is a collection of classical Greek myths. It includes Odysseus, Narcissus, Heracles, Helen, and Hera, to name a few. Gustav Schwab retold all for easy reading. Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece is part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library.

I loved reading this book. When you are finished, you will recognize much more Greek mythology in other folktales and movies.

6. Irish Folktales (Henry Glassie)

Irish Folktales

The Irish can tell stories—there’s no question about it—and they can draw upon a rich heritage.

Irish Folktales is a collection of Irish stories by Henry Glassie. The book is a wonderful cauldron of magic, faith, comedy, wisdom, foolishness, and heroic deeds: Saint Patrick, Finn MacCumhail, and the Fairies. Irish Folktales is part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library.

I love many of the stories in this book. However, as a collection, I found it a bit chaotic.

7. Norwegian Folktales (Peter Christen Asbjørnsen / Jørgen Moe)

Norwegian Folktales

The Norwegian wonder tales are some of my favorite stories. This book is relatively small but worth it.

Norwegian Folktales contains some of the folktales collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe—beautiful stories about giants and trolls, beautiful princesses and castles, and speaking polar bears. Norwegian Folktales is part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library.

I tell some stories from this collection (for example, a 45-minute version of White Bear King Valemon). I love many of the stories here. Highly recommended!

8. The Norse Myths (Kevin Crossley – Holland)

The Norse Myths

Since the Marvel movies, everybody knows Thor and Loki. You will find more stories about them and the other beloved Norse Gods in this book.

The Norse Myths is a collection of Scandinavian myths, freshly retold by Kevin Crossley-Holland. You will find Odin, Thor, Freyja, Loki, and the rest of the Viking world come alive before your eyes. The Norse Myths is part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library.

This book is a treat. Extraordinary stories that immerse you in the Scandinavian mythical world. Loved it!

9. The Victorian Fairy Book (Michael Patrick Hearn)

The Victorian Fairy Book

Indeed, it is a book from the Golden Age of written fairy tales.

The Victorian Fairy Tale Book is a collection by Michael Patrick Hearn of literary fairy tales from different writers, including stories and poems from writers like Robert Browning, Kenneth Grahame, and J. M. Barrie. The Victorian Fairy Tale Book is part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library.

I have not read this book yet. Be aware that the fairy tales in this book are literate, not ones that were told orally.

10. The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Jacob Grimm / Wilhelm Grimm)

The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales

When you say fairy tales, you say Grimm. I wrote about their life; you can read their fairy tales here.

The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales collection by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm consists primarily of German fairy tales. It is a translation of the last, 7th edition, published in 1857. The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales is part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library.

If you are interested in fairy tales, reading The Brothers Grimm’s collection is required (and very pleasant!). I prefer this Jack Zipes’ version (link to Amazon).

11. Yiddish Folktales (Beatrice Weinreich)

Yiddish Folktales

Yiddish folktales are something else and might become your favorites after reading this book.

Yiddish Folktales is a collection of folk tales and fairy tales gathered in small towns and villages in Eastern Europe. Beatrice Weinreich edited this collection of allegorical tales, wonder tales, legends, and more. Yiddish Folktales is part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library.

This book is organized into chapters with different kinds of stories. That makes it ideal to taste a little here and there of this unique flavor of stories. Recommended.

12. African Folktales (Roger Abrahams)

African Folktales

African stories from Africa south of the Sahara. Get ready for some warmth and chilling!

African Folktales is a collection of folk tales from the area south of the Sahara desert. Roger Abrahams selected almost a hundred stories from different regions, displaying a wealth of cultural diversity from Africa. African Folktales is part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library.

What a beautiful diversity of stories is found here. Some I never read anywhere else. I liked many stories a lot!

13. Latin American Folktales (John Bierhorst)

Latin American Folktales

The dances, the day of the dead, the saints, the color, and the passion. Let’s go to Latin America.

Latin American Folktales is a collection of folk tales from no less than twenty countries in Latin America gathered together by John Bierhorst. It is filled to the brim with tricksters, witches, and ghosts. Latin American Folktales is part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library.

I have not read this book yet.

14. Japanese Tales (Royall Tyler)

Japanese Tales

More than 200 (!) tales from Medieval Japan.

Japanese Tales is a collection of folk tales from medieval Japan collected by Royall Tyler. Beauty, ghosts, jokes, demons, wisdom, and drama—you will find it all in this collection. Japanese Tales is part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library.

I have not read this book yet.

15. Folktales from India (A. K. Ramanujan)

Folktales from India

There is no end to the wealth of stories from India. So, where to start? With this book.

Folktales from India is a collection of folk tales by A. K. Ramanujan from all over India. Tales about the power and foolishness of kings, animals enacting human life, and Gods coming down to shake things up. Folktales from India is part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library.

I have not read this book yet.

16. Chinese Fairy Tales and Fantasies (Moss Roberts)

Chinese Fairy Tales and Fantasies

Familiar and yet so different: the Chinese fairy tales in this book.

Chinese Fairy Tales and Fantasies is a collection edited by Moss Roberts of tales from all over China. Many short tales are organized in different chapters, showing a lot of flavor and diversity. It is part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library.

Most of the tales in this collection are pretty short. I would have loved longer stories.

17. Russian Fairy Tales (Aleksandr Afanas’ev)

Russian Fairy Tales

Russia is vast, and so is its cultural legacy. Here, you find stories you will find nowhere else.

Russian Fairy Tales is a subset of the stories collected by Aleksandr Afanas’ev. In this collection, you will find many wonder tales, fables, and down-to-earth folktales. Russian Fairy Tales is part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library.

I once had a Russian girlfriend, and even when the relationship ended, my love for Russian tales did not. It did not take long for me to start to love the magic and mystery of the Russian fairy tales—Ivan, Baba Yaga, Vasilisa, the Firebird, and so on.

And, of course, when you say Russian fairy tales, you say Aleksandr Afanas’ev. Must have!

Who is the author of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library?

Each book in the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library has a different author. As a result, the folktale collections vary wildly in size and the kind of stories they contain.

Which books are no longer published in the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library?

Several books were once part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library but are now discontinued. You can find the list of all books published under this label at Goodreads. A noteworthy example is the collection of Italo Calvino (link to Amazon), which surely would fit in this list of best folktale collections.

More about the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library

If you found this blog about the best folktale collections interesting, you might also like what I have written about the five best books about oral storytelling.


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