Journaling Idea #30: Folklore, Mythology, Household Tales

John Vernon Lord, artist

There’s nothing quite as inspiring as a folktale or a myth. Just ask Walt Disney.

Folktales and myths are stories that have been passed down for generations within a community or a country, providing explanations for how or why things came to be; others providing moral lessons. Household tales are similar stories told within a singular family.

A wonderful free source about folktales and mythology was created by D. L. Ashliman, a long retired professor from the University of Pittsburgh.

Folktales and myths can serve as springboards to remembering your own personal stories or to creating new fictional stories.

I followed the link from Ashliman’s site to Bartleby’s collection of Aesop’s Fables and created five prompts in a short time:

  • The moral of Aesop’s “The Man and the Serpent” (“Injuries may be forgiven, but not forgotten.” led me to write the prompt: Every scar has a story.  Tell the story of one of your scars.
  • The “Town Mouse and the Country Mouse” reminded me of the adage “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” Describe a time in your experience when this was false.
  • After reading “The Fox and the Crow” with its moral “Do not trust flatterers,” people might ask themselves, am I more of a fox or a crow?
  • The moral of Aesop’s “The Lion and the Mouse” is “Little friends may prove great friends.”  When has a kind deed been repaid to you?
  • “The Sick Lion” leads me to wonder what the insults I have received say about the people who said them.

Be warned: Ashliman’s website is a bit of rabbit hole. Enjoy, but don’t get lost.


Journaling Idea #1: Return to the Nursery

Use a different nursery rhyme each day you write as a prompt. Write/type out the original as you found in a book or on the web and then try one of the following options or create your own.

Recall your memories connected to the rhyme.

The opening verse of “Old Mother Goose and the Golden Egg”, a poem based on the plot of the popular pantomime first performed in 1806, “Harlequin and Mother Goose, or The Golden Egg”. This appeared in a chapbook published in the 1860s or later, now held in McGill University.

Create an additional verse based on the form and content of the existing stanzas.

Retell the story presented in the rhyme with a modern twist.

Imagine a dialogue with one of the characters from the rhyme.

Write a journal entry as if you were one of the characters in the rhyme.

Place a character from the rhyme you selected in conflict with a character from the rhyme you selected from the day before.

Reflect on the pleasure you experience in reciting the rhyme aloud.

Draw a picture inspired by the rhyme.

Research through the web and make a one-page collection of other writers’ interpretations/responses to that rhyme.

Create a description of the rhyme’s events as if you were being interviewed by a reporter or a police officer.

Write the lyrics to your own song from the perspective of one of the rhyme’s characters.

Create an obituary for one of the rhyme’s characters.