Multicultural Retellings of Fairy Tales

From Little Red Riding Hood to Cinderella, enjoy these multicultural twists on classic fairy tales and learn a little bit about life around the world.

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Multicultural Retellings of Fairy Tales

Multicultural fairy tales can take introduce new cultures from the lens of a beloved fairy tale while teaching kids about new cultures and traditions.

To go along with these, I can’t recommend the series Girls to the Rescue by Bruce Lasky enough! The diverse short stories tell legends and folktales about girls all over the world. Many of the stories open with several foreign words that are incorporated into the story. To this day, I remember that zloty is the currency in Poland and rupees are the currency of India.

The Rough-Faced Girl by Rafe Martin and David Shannon (Algonquin Tribe–USA)

This Cinderella tale is set among the Algonquin people of modern-day northern USA. The Rough-Faced girl, the tribe’s outcast, makes her own way instead of relying on a fairy godmother. 

Smoky Mountain Rose: An Appalachian Cinderella by Alan Schroeder (USA)

From deep in the Appalachian Mountains comes this story of Smoky Mountain Rose, a tale told in the lilting dialect of the mountains. 

Sootface: An Ojibwa Cinderella Story by Robert D. San Souci (Ojibwa Tribe–Northern USA, Canada)

After an Ojibwa man’s wife died, he was left to raise his daughters all alone. The older two were mean and lazy, but the youngest was hardworking and helpful. She spent all day slaving over the cooking fire, a task which earned her the name “Sootface”. She longed to marry but didn’t think her dream would ever come true. That is, until a mysterious man with special abilities shows up. 

Adelita: A Mexican Cinderella Story by Tomie de Paola (Mexico)

Adelita was a beautiful, kind-hearted girl living with a cruel stepmother and two evil stepsisters. Javier, a man in search of a wife, falls madly in love with Adelita at his fiesta, but when she disappears at midnight, he’s left wondering if it was all a dream. 

The Golden Sandal: A Middle Eastern Cinderella Story by Rebecca Hickox (Middle East)

The classic Cinderella story told with a rich overlay of Middle Eastern culture. Instead of a fairy godmother, this story makes use of a magical red fish. In addition, this version casts aside the traditional glass slipper in favor of a golden piece of footwear. 

Fair, Brown and Trembling: An Irish Cinderella Story by Jude Daly (Ireland)

Trembling, an underappreciated and overworked girl living in rural Ireland, is often left at home doing the cooking and cleaning while her sisters enjoy hours of leisure and entertainment. But when a henwife notices Trembling’s plight, she sets in motion a series of events that will change the poor girl’s luck forever. 

Domitila: A Cinderella Tale from the Mexican Tradition by Jewell Coburn (Mexico)

Domitila is a woman of many talents. She is a gifted leatherworker, a prodigy in the kitchen, and also sweet as a cactus blossom. Her sisters, however, treat her quite poorly and exploit her for her gifts while they live lives of comfort. Domitila thinks that she will be stuck in an endless cycle of working forever, until she catches the eye of a most eligible man looking for a bride, the Governor. 

The Turkey Girl: A Zuni Cinderella by Penny Pollock (Zuni Tribe–USA)

In this Zuni Cinderella story, a poor girl spends all of her days caring for a flock of turkeys. She wants nothing more than to attend the Dance of the Sacred Bird, but doesn’t think this dream will ever be a possibility for her.

The Egyptian Cinderella by Shirley Climo (Egypt)

Originally written down in the first century and retold here by Shirley Climo, The Egyptian Cinderella is a rich introduction to the history of this Arab state. Rhodopis is a slave with nothing precious to her name, save her red slippers. When a falcon carries one away, she is devastated. Little does Rhodopis know that the slipper landed in the lap of the Pharaoh himself. 

Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Story From China by Ed Young (China)

In this Chinese version of Little Red Riding Hood, a wolf appears at the door of a home inhabited by three sisters, posing as their grandmother. Together, the sisters turn the tables on the crafty wolf and outsmart him by offering him healing in the way of the tall gingko tree. It’s a little darker than the original, but the Caldecott award winning graphics are amazing. Grab the book guide here.

The Musubi Man: Hawaii’s Gingerbread Story by Sandi Takayama (Hawaii)

Hot out of the oven runs the musubi man, trying to get as far away as possible from the old woman who baked him. 

The Cajun Gingerbread Boy by Berthe Amoss (Southern USA)

The Gingerbread Boy is running again–this time through the bayou, attempting to elude a host of pursuers, including a particularly hungry alligator. 

La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya (Peru)

A bilingual re-telling of the original tale of sensitive princesses, an eager prince, and some vegetables. I love books that seamlessly incorporate foreign language words.

Rapunzel by Rachel Isadora (Africa)

Rapunzel languishes in her tower under the hot African sun, twirling her dreadlocks when suddenly, a prince rides up on a zebra. Brightly-colored illustrations and rich text make this classic tale all the more beautiful. 

Brothers of the Night by Debbie Allen (Harlem, USA)

In this retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”, an African American reverend attempts to discover how his 12 sons manage to ruin a pair of shoes each every night. 

The Orphan: A Cinderella Story From Greece by Anthony Manna and Christodoula Mitakidou (Greece)

In this Greek story, Cinderella is a young orphan girl all alone in the world. Lovely watercolor paintings and catchy rhymes will endear readers to this twist on the original tale. 

Yeh-Shen by Ai-Ling Louie (China)

Treated horribly by her stepmother and evil stepsisters, Yeh-Shen finds her only comfort in this version’s fairy godmother–a pet fish. 

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Yim (China)

In this Chinese retelling of the familiar story, Goldy Luck enters the home of three panda bears and leaves a path of destruction in each room she enters. This is a fun introduction to Chinese New Year wrapped up in a classic story.

Princess and the Peas by Rachel Himes (Southern USA)

In 1950s South Carolina, women are falling all over John, a handsome and single man with a mama who can cook the best black eyed peas this side of the Mississippi. Each one of their attempts to win him over results in disaster, that is, until a woman named Princess shows up and asks John to do something out of the ordinary. 

Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Middleton Elya (Latin America)

Roja picks flowers on the way to her grandmother’s house. While she is busy arranging her bouquet, a crafty wolf steals away with her red cape to try and fool grandmother. But Roja and her grandmother are not about to let the wolf get away with his sinister plan and soon they have him running away with his tail between his legs!

Hansel and Gretel by Rachel Isadora (Africa)

In the African version of this tale, the witch’s cottage is set in the lush African forest. Hansel and Gretel must face the dangers that the dark jungle holds and Isadora’s gorgeous illustrations make danger seem all the more imminent. 

The Korean Cinderella by Shirley Climo (Korea)

This magical retelling of the familiar tale naturally incorporates Korean words, culture, and traditions into the smallest of details like designs on a dress. 

Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella (Caribbean Islands)

Told from the perspective of the magical godmother, a washerwoman from the islands, this Caribbean tale focuses on Cendrillon’s unrequited love and her godmother’s quest to grant her happiness for life. 

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe (Africa)

In this African Cinderella, Mufaro has two lovely daughters, and the King has noticed them. To discover their true character, the King goes undercover and realizes his first impressions might have been wrong. 

The Dragon Prince: A Chinese Beauty and the Beast Tale by Laurence Yep (China)

A poor farmer with seven daughters is harassed by a dragon who threatens to eat him unless the farmer gives the dragon the hand of one of his daughters in marriage. The youngest daughter volunteers and her ability to see through to the heart helps transform the dragon into a prince. 

Rubia and the Three Osos by Susan Elya

This rhyming picture book is adorable and seamlessly integrates English and Spanish.

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Amy is a recent college graduate and now an elementary school teacher. She loves getting kids excited about learning and fostering their love for reading. Her other love is linguistics and she has enjoyed several experiences teaching English both in the States and abroad. Amy is a foster parent, avid traveler, tea drinker, and left-handed writer who hopes to author a few novels someday.

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