Animal Myths & Fables

Animal Myths and Fables

How the Bluebird and Coyote Got Their Color: This article tells the story of the blue bird that once was very drab. A great spirit told her of a lake in which she could bathe and become a beautiful color blue. After five days of bathing in the river, the blue bird did, indeed, come out a beautiful blue color. The coyote was watching from the shadows and also wanted to be a beautiful blue. The blue bird told the coyote how, and he also succeeded in becoming blue. However, the coyote then ran into a stump, and dust covered him. That is why, to this day, he is the color of dirt.

Turkey Makes the Corn and Coyote Plants It: An Apache legend that seeks to explain the origin of corn, this story tells of a boy and girl who were hungry and a turkey that came to their rescue. The turkey shook its body, and many kinds of seeds and fruits fell out of its feathers. It then shook again, the result being corn all over the ground. The story continues to tell of the coyote planting the corn in an incorrect manner, becoming angry, and ultimately becoming an outcast to the rest of the community.

The Hermit Thrush: This is an Iroquois Indian legend that tells us of a time when birds had no song. The creator offered the birds the opportunity to have song; the first bird to break into the realm of the spirit world, or the one that would fly the highest, would have the most beautiful song. As it was quite evident that the eagle would be able to fly the highest, the thrush hid in the feathers about his head and slept until the eagle flew higher than any other bird. Then the thrush leapt out and flew even higher, bursting into the spirit realm, acquiring the sweetest and most beautiful song of all the birds. However, he felt ashamed that he had cheated to acquire this gift, so he is still one of the shyest birds. Only so often can one see or hear the hermit thrush’s beautiful song.

How Bear Lost His Tail: Folklore weaves a tale of a bear that, indeed, once had a tail, until a tricky fox cunningly caused him to lose it. Bear, being a great lover of fish, was eager to learn when fox showed him a way to use his tail to catch fish through the ice. Fox convinced Bear to dip his long, beautiful black tail into a hole in the ice, turn his back, and trust Fox to shout when a fish grabbed a hold of his tail. Fox trotted off to bed, however, finding Bear in the same position in the morning, covered with snow. When he shouted “now, Bear!” Bear jumped with a start, pulling his tail too quickly from the water, breaking it off. Therefore, today, Bear only has a short, stubby tail.

Tale of the First Monkey: Philippine folk tale that tells us of a young maiden who was told by her patroness to take cotton, clean it, beat it, and spin it, to make a dress. The maiden, however, was lazy and thought that the leather she had been given to beat the cotton on would make a fine enough dress. When the patroness saw the dress of leather, she was angry at the maiden’s laziness and told her that the leather would become her skin, and the stick with which she was to beat the cotton would become her tail. Hence the first monkey came into being.

The Story of the Raccoon's Mask: The raccoon, being known as a trickster, earns his mask in folklore, when he plays a trick on his sleeping coyote friend. The coyote, on waking, throws the raccoon into the fire by accident, tossing river mud on him to put out the fire when he realizes his mistake. Therefore, the raccoon now always wears what resembles a mask, charred around his eyes from the fire, and white river mud to form a mask.

Unicorn Legends: This site provides a collection of legends of unicorns, the most mystical of all creatures. Many believe in its existence, though it has not been sighted for years, and no evidence of its existence has been found. Through all the legends, however, unicorns are always a good omen, come to those who are good and worthy, often innocent maidens in search of true love.

Crow Brings the Daylight: At one time the Intuit people knew no daylight, only darkness. Crow told them of daylight, in the South, that he had seen; they begged him to bring it to them. Crow flew farther and farther south until he found daylight and was able to obtain a ball of daylight from the Indian chief of a village by flying into his son’s ear and asking to play with the ball of light. When the son went outside to play, the crow resumed his normal bird state and flew away with the ball, taking it to the Intuit people. Because Crow was only able to bring one ball of daylight, it must take six months to rejuvenate itself; therefore, the Intuit people enjoy six months of darkness and six months of daylight.

How the Swan Got His Long Neck: Swans once had short necks, just like other ducks and birds. However, one swan wanted to get some air and was flying through the air. When he got tired, he dropped down and got caught between tree branches. His body kept dropping and dropping, so his neck got longer and longer, because his head was still stuck in the tree. The other swans liked the way it looked and did the same thing, and now swans have long necks.

Spider, Hare and the Moon: A tale is told of the people of earth being afraid of dying, and the Moon being sad on account of it. So Moon tells Spider to take a message to the people of earth telling them that they will die eventually, but that death is all right. Hare intercepted Spider and offered to take the message himself; however, he only heard part of the message before rushing off… “the people of earth are all going to die.” Moon was so angry that Hare delivered the partial message that he punches Hare in the nose, causing his nose to split. He orders Spider to deliver the message himself; he does still to this day, weaving his webs in the corner.

How Kangaroo got his Tail: Australian legend explains why kangaroos have tails and wombats have flat heads in this story of Mirram the kangaroo and Warreen the wombat. Mirram loved to sleep outside under the stars; Warreen preferred to be indoors in his nice, cozy hut. Mirram teased Warreen about this relentlessly until one particularly wintry night when Mirram finally went knocking on Warreen’s door begging to be let in from the cold. Mirram finally pushed his way into Warreen’s den to sleep, and Warreen demanded that Mirram sleep in the corner, which had a hole in it where the rain and wind could come in. When Mirram woke he was angry that Warreen had such a nice sleep, so he dropped a rock on Warreen’s head, flattening it, and cursed him to live in a damp hole for the rest of his existence. Warreen made a spear in retaliation and threw it into Mirram’s backside, vowing that would thereafter be his tail and he would sleep under the stars forever. Therefore, kangaroos now have tails and have no burrows.


Sites of Animal Myths and Fables

v     Native American Stories for children and adults - Indian myth and legend.

v     African Stories, African Traditional stories, myths and superstition

v     Kibibi's InfoSuperFlyway - Tales, Fairy Tales, Folk Lore all about birds.

v     Celtic Animal Allies

v     Legends of Whales and Dolphins

v     Legendary Animals of Christmas

v     Native American Animal Legends

v     Animals Myths & Legends - Planet Ozkids

v     Cat legends, feline myths, kitty fables


Resources for Teaching Children About Animal Legends and Folklore

v     Animal folktales: Legends, superheroes, and pour quoi tales

v     Education World: Lessons for Teaching About Fables and Legends

v     Myths and Legends Unit for 10th Grade

v     Grade 10: Universal Myths and Symbols: Animal Creatures and Creation

v     First Grade - Lesson 1 - Indian Folklore

v     SCORE:Aztec Folktales--Teacher Guide