Folktales are a great way for kids to learn about another culture. They teach about traditional values and ways of life and often include fantastical characters and incredible adventures that highlight life lessons and let kids dream of far-off lands long ago. Below are some of our favorite folktales from Iran.
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The Legend of the Persian Carpet is a beautiful tale from Tomie dePaola about King Balash, a good-hearted ruler who wants to share with his people the beauty of a very special diamond. But when the diamond is stolen, the king is so heart-broken he can no longer rule, and it is up to a young boy to put into motion a clever plan to bring the diamond’s splendor back to the palace and save the kingdom. This is a sweet story of a creative solution to a difficult problem, and it also lends itself very well to crafts to learn more about the world-famous Persian carpets.
Pea Boy and Other Stories from Iran is a collection of folk tales, including a silly cockroach who learns to be responsible and a humble girl who defeats a monster through her devotion to a childhood love. One of my favorites is the story of Kayvan the Brave, a “wise fool” who reminded me quite a bit of the German “Brave Little Tailor.” When Kayvan brags of killing two lions (actually two mice) in a single blow, people are so impressed – and Kayvan manages to stumble into doing such great deeds – that in the end he becomes the Commander-in-Chief of the Shah’s armies!
In a far-off kingdom, a young musician has just one chance to fulfill his dream of playing before the king. But can he overcome the obstacles created by a jealous rival is determined to stop him? Inspired by a Persian tale, The Green Musician is a story of patience and determination, brought to life in gorgeous illustrations.
Discover the beauty of a thousand year old tale in The Knight, the Princess, and the Magic Rock. Found in the legendary Persian “Book of Kings” (Shahnameh), it contains all the elements of a classic folktale – star-crossed lovers, a brave knight, a beautiful princess, magical potions, and heroic deeds.
In Forty Fortunes: A Tale of Iran Ahmed, a simple laborer, is persuaded by his wife to become a fortune teller in order to earn more money. When, by sheer luck, he finds the lost ring of a rich woman, he is called before the King to find the royal treasure and the forty thieves who have stolen it. Unfortunately, Ahmed has no talent for divining and thus no way of recovering the treasure. Can he manage to find a way out of his predicament, or will he be throw into jail? A beautifully done version of a popular folktale.
The Stone: A Persian Legend of the Magi is a great book to teach children about the connections between religions, in this case Zoroastrianism and Christianity. The Stone is the Persian legend – as told to Marco Polo – of the three Magi who brought gifts to Jesus and the mysterious gift they received in return. (Find more resources to teach kids about Zoroastrianism).
The King and the Three Thieves: A Persian Tale is an intriguing tale of a good king who wants to know the common people. He dresses as a beggar one night and befriends three strangers – who turn out to be thieves intent on robbing the king! Can the king stop the plot, and how will the thieves react when they discover his true identity? A lesson in wisdom and learning to keep your word, even if you are a king.
This post is part of the Global Learning series, where each month we focus on a different country. This month we are learning about Iran, so be sure to check out the main page for more great ideas for sharing about Iran with kids!
Also, don’t miss our blog series and giveaway for Middle Eastern and North African Heritage Month, going through the end of August!