Short Stories with Long Shadows
I am Juan Artola Miranda, a fabulist living in the Mexican Caribbean. I made this site to collect and tell all manner of tales, most of them old, passed down for thousands of years. Myths, legends, fables, parables, and fairy tales told around campfires in languages long forgotten, eventually written down in archaic, exotic tongues.
The bodies of these storytellers died long ago, but their spirits can still haunt us if we let them. I will attempt to translate and retell their stories in a way that retains those spirits.
Some of the moral lessons in these stories are strange, even reprehensible. They're an underground passage into a darker time when all light was made of fire.
I will keep a list of the stories here.
Fables are an ancient form of storytelling, as old as language itself. They're short stories with clear moral lessons. They usually have animals as the main characters. They're often quite dark.
Aesop is said to have lived in Ancient Greece around the 5th Century BCE. He wrote the most influential fables in the history of the world. He may not be real.
Aesop told over 700 fables, some of which have aged better than others. I may eventually get around to publishing all of them, but I've started with the ones with moral lessons that still resonate today:
- The Frogs and the Ox: about the male ego.
- The Ant and the Grasshopper: about preparation.
- The Eagle and the Fox: about betrayal.
- The Wolf and the Lamb: about our inherent nature.
- The North Wind & the Sun: about persuasion.
- The Fox and the Billy Goat: about trickery.
- Two Wishes: about envy.
- The Milkmaid & Her Pail: about distractions.
- The Crow and the Pitcher: about resourcefulness.
- The Tortoise and the Hare: about practice.
- The Boy Who Cried Wolf: about false alarms.
- The Dog and Its Reflection: about greed.
- The Fox and The Grapes: about rationalization.
- The Lion and the Mouse: about kindness.
- The Owl and the Grasshopper: about manipulative flattery.
Around the same time that Aesop was telling his fables, the Panchatantra was being slowly assembled in India. After Aesop, it's the most significant collection of fables in history.
While Aesop preferred short stories with clear moral lessons, the Panchatantra takes a different approach. The fables are longer, the animals have more personality, and the stories are riddled with poetry (which I've removed).
- The Mongoose and the Farmer's Wife from the Panchatantra.
- The Monkey and the Crocodile from the Panchatantra.
- The King's Parrots from the Panchatantra.
- The Jackal and the Lion from the Panchatantra.
- The Frog King and the Snake from the Panchatantra.
- The Talkative Tortoise from the Panchatantra.
- The Lion-Makers from the Panchatantra.
- The Crane & the Crab by Buddha.
- Belling the Cat: about talking big but doing little.
Russia has a staggeringly rich history of fables, short stories, and literature in general. I will expand this section soon.
- The Two Horses by Leo Tolstoy.
- The Monkey and the Peas by Leo Tolstoy.
- The Scorpion and the Frog by Lev Nitoburg.
Latin American Fables
Latin American fables aren't nearly as influential as Greek or Indian ones, but this is where I live, so these are the ones I know and write.
- The Lonely Toucan by Juan Artola Miranda.
- The Black Sheep by Augusto Monterroso.
- The Rabbit & the Lion by Augusto Monterroso.
- A Tale of Two Orangs by Juan Artola Miranda.
- The Fearless Jaguar by Juan Artola Miranda.
- The Viking & the Oak Tree by Juan Artola Miranda.
- The Noble Lobster by Juan Artola Miranda.
I haven't yet begun to delve into the depths of American fables. I'm not sure what I'll find. I will keep this section updated.
Africa is a goldmine of goldmines, and also fables. I'll add more here as I discover them. This first one is quite good.
- The Snake, the Farmer, and the Heron from the Hausa.
- The Midnight Goat Thief from the Ndebele in Zimbabwe.
- The Man Who Never Lied seemingly from somewhere in Africa.
- Why the Bat Flies At Night from Nigeria.
I don't know very much about Middle-Eastern fables yet. As I learn, I'll post more.
Parables are short stories used to get people pondering morality or spirituality. The moral lessons aren't as straightforward as they are in fables. And, unlike fables, the characters are usually human.
Parables are often thought of as being spiritual, but they aren't always. For example, Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island, also wrote parables, including the famous story of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. I'll begin with a short one of his that I like very much.
- The Citizen & the Traveller by Robert Louis Stevenson.
- An Anecdote for Lowering Work Morale by Heinrich Böll.
- The Fisherman & the Industrialist by John Lane.
- The Foolish General by Juan Artola Miranda.
- The Man Who Cast Himself Away by Juan Artola Miranda.
- The Complacent & the Thieves by Juan Artola Miranda.
- The Horror of Haste by Juan Artola Miranda.
- The Balance of the Village by Juan Artola Miranda.
Parables are particularly prevalent in religious texts, notably in the teachings of Jesus, Buddha, and the Babylonian Talmud. I'll include some of those here.
- The Shipwrecked Sailors from the Talmud.
- The Wise Woman of Tekoah from the Old Testament.
- The Parable of the Ewe Lamb from the Old Testament.
Folktales are passed down orally from older generations to younger ones. They're usually about the everyday experience of everyday people, conveying traditional wisdom along with social norms and values.
So far, most of these stories are Jewish, but that's only because I've been reading A Treasury of Jewish Folklore. Most of these folktales are quite clever, with great twists. I think you'll enjoy them.
- How the Cobbler Got Away With Murder from a Treasury of Jewish Folklore.
- All Right from a Treasury of Jewish Folklore.
- A Rabbi for A Day from a Treasury of Jewish Folklore.
- The Poor Are Willing from a Treasury of Jewish Folklore.
- The Modest Saint from a Treasury of Jewish Folklore.
- Truth in Fine Clothes from a Treasury of Jewish Folklore.
- He Ran for His Health from a Treasury of Jewish Folklore.
- The Fine Art of Fanning from a Treasury of Jewish Folklore.
- A Lesson in Talmud from a Treasury of Jewish Folklore.
- The Power of a Lie from a Treasury of Jewish Folklore.
- The Engineering Professors & the Plane by Anonymous.
Similar to fables and parables, fairy tales are a genre of folklore passed down from generation to generation. They exploded in popularity in the 19th century due to authors like the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.
What makes fairy tales unique is that they're fantasy stories written for entertainment. You won't find explicit moral lessons. Instead, you'll find dark tales of fairies, wizards, giants, and ogres.
However, even when we're reading fantasy for entertainment, we prefer stories that feel real. And so, the fairy tales that stand the test of time often resonate with us on a deeper level.
- Sleeping Beauty is a classic French fairy tale originally written by Charles Perrault in 1697. It is not the same as the Disney version. This is my translation, with the language somewhat modernized yet still keeping to the original plot and spirit.
- Puss in Boots is a classic Italian fairy tale written by Giovanni Francesco Straparola in 1550. Again, it is not the same as the Disney story. This is my translation. I've modernized the language while keeping the plot and tone the same.
- The Yabebiri River Crossing is a Uruguayan fairy tale written by Horacio Quiroga in 1918. I've translated it into English and retold it in my own words. The plot and pacing are the same.
- The Emperor's New Clothes is a Danish fairy tale originally written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1837. I've translated it into English and retold it in my own words, as is the tradition with fairy tales like these.
- The Little Mermaid is another fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen. It's completely unlike the Disney version. It's dark, sad, and hauntingly beautiful.
Just-So Stories are fanciful origin tales explaining how certain facts of nature came to be. They were first popularized by the British-Indian author Rudyard Kipling in 1902 in his book Just So Stories.
- How the Leopard Got His Spots by Rudyard Kipling.
- How the Camel Got His Hump by Rudyard Kipling.
- How the Elephant Got His Trunk by Rudyard Kipling.
Myths & Legends
Myths are traditional stories rooted in a culture's belief system, so think of gods, goddesses, and heroic beings. All cultures have these belief systems, and so all cultures have their myths, though some are more influential than others. Similar to parables, they give us moral guidance.
A legend is what happens when history and myth become intertwined. They're semi-historical stories that are passed down through generations. They're told as if they're true or at least plausible.
I may focus on these next, beginning with the legends of El Dorado, King Arthur, Zorro, and Robin Hood.
- The Legend of Milo of Croton: a tragic tale of gradual improvement.
- The True Story of the Pied Piper: a medieval horror story.
- The Legend of David and Goliath: about the giant and the future king.
- The Story of Cortés & His Ships: about cutting off retreat.
- The Spider King & His Astrologer: about manipulation.
- Odysseus & the Sirens: about resisting temptation.