Can You Match the Fable to Its Culture?

Marie Hullett

Image: Walter B. McKenzie / Photodisc / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Fables are a literary genre that often feature talking animals, mythical creatures and moral lessons. They might feature humans that turn into animals, or vice versa. Sometimes they're passed down through generations through word-of-mouth; other times they're written down and re-adapted as plays, films and even video games. So even if you've never read the original "The Little Mermaid" or "The Toad Prince," you may very well have seen an adaptation of the classic at some point or another. 

Since these stories have crossed cultures and borders over the years, many people don't know their origins. Most of the Disney movies, for instance, certainly didn't start in Hollywood. Many started as bedtime stories and bonfire tales before making their way to cinema screens and living rooms across the world. 

So, can you guess where some of the globe's most popular fables came from? Is "The Ugly Duckling" from England, Denmark or Germany? Where in the world did Bigfoot come from? These tales may have left lasting impressions on our childhood minds, but do we even know where these moral lessons came from? Take the following quiz to test your knowledge of fairy tales and fables once and for all. 

You probably are familiar with "The Tortoise and the Hare," in which a slow-moving tortoise ultimately wins the race. But do you know where this fable comes from?

The first known version of "The Tortoise and the Hare" is in Greek. The story is part of Aesop's Fables, also known as the "Aesopica: A Collection of Fables" by the slave and storyteller Aesop. Historians believe Aesop lived in ancient Greece between 520 and 564 B.C.

The story you know as "Cinderella" was originally called "The Little Glass Slipper." Do you know the nationality of the author?

You might already know the Disney version of the story of Cinderella and her wicked step-mother and step-sisters. While the most popular written version of the story is from the French author Charles Perrault in 1697, there are numerous iterations of the fable throughout history. Greek geographer Strabo recounted a similar story about a Greek slave girl who marries an Egyptian king somewhere around 7 B.C.

Do you know where the most popular version of "The Frog Prince" comes from?

While historians think the story dates back to Roman times, the Brothers Grimm's tale is the most popular version known today. The Brothers Grimm were German academics Jacob Ludwig Karl and Wilhelm Carl, who authored a number of classics including "Rapunzel" and "Sleeping Beauty."

Do you know where the story "The Golden Goose" comes from?

"The Golden Goose" is a part of the Brothers Grimm story collection, which also includes classics like "Rapunzel" and "The Frog Prince." The 1812 story is about a boy named Simpleton who gives a poor beggar a biscuit and beer. In return, he receives a golden goose.

You've probably seen Disney's version, but do you know where the original "Beauty and the Beast" tale originates from?

In 1740, French author Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve wrote "La Belle et la Bête," which is the earliest known version of the classic tale "Beauty and the Beast." After her death, Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont rewrote and abridged the novel-length book as a moral tale for young girls, but gave no credit to de Villeneuve. Since the latter version was so popular, many people still wrongly credit de Beaumont as the original author.

"Hop-o'-My-Thumb" is about a thumb-sized boy who manages to deafeat an ogre. Do you know where the story comes from?

French author Charles Perrault published "Hop-o'-my-Thumb" in his collection "Histoires ou Contes du temps passé" in 1697. The table is about a wise, tiny boy from a poor family. When his parents abandon him and his siblings, his quick wits help them survive. He even defeats an ogre by stealing his boots.

The precise country of origin of "Udea and Her Seven Brothers" remains unknown. Can you guess which part of the world it comes from, though?

"Udea and her Seven Brothers" is a fable included in "Märchen und Gedichte aus der Stadt Tripolis" and "The Grey Fairy Book." It's about seven sons who go out hunting and tell their mother that they will return if she births a girl, but not if she births a son. Even though she had a daughter, she didn't alert the boys, because she wanted to be rid of them. When the girl grows up, she learns about her brothers and sets out to find them.

Which culture does "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" come from?

Along with "The Tortoise and the Hare," "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" is another one of Aesop's fables originating from ancient Greece. In this tale, a shepherd boy continually makes his fellow villagers believe that wolves are attacking their flock. Eventually, they stop believing him. Of course, everyone knows what happens when a wolf finally does appear: The villagers think he's lying, and the wolf gobbles up all the sheep.

"Sinbad the Sailor" is a very old tale that originates as early as the 14th century. Can you guess in which language it was written?

"Sinbad the Sailor" is a fable that originates from the manuscript "One Thousand and One Nights." Although it was not included in the original 14th century manuscript (it doesn't appear until 1637), it is believed to have been told for generations prior. The story is about a sailor from Baghdad who takes several heroic voyages on the open sea, encountering many magical phenomena along the way.

You may have seen the Disney movie, "The Little Mermaid," but do you know the nationality of the original author?

Hans Christian Andersen wrote and published the original "The Little Mermaid" in 1837 as part of a collection of fairy tales alongside classics like "The Ugly Duckling." The original story's plot is much like the movie, voice-stealing Sea Witch and all.

From where does the famous fable "Jack and the Beanstalk" originate?

This classic tale first appeared in print in 1734 entitled "The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean." In 1845, author Henry Cole (pen name Felix Summerly) published a version of it in "The Home Treasury." Joseph Jacobs then published the most famous iteration of the story for "English Fairy Tales" in 1890. Historians believe Jacobs' version most closely matches the long-told oral version of the tale.

Chances are, you've seen Disney's "Aladdin." So, can you guess the origin of the original tale?

A lamp, a genie and a magic carpet: Most people know the tale of Aladdin. They may not know that the original version of the story, "Aladdin and the Magic Lamp," comes from "The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (The Arabian Nights)," a book of folktales compiled during the Islamic Golden Age. Some people credit Syrian Youhenna Diab as the story's author.

"The Boy Who Drew Cats"is about, you guessed it: a boy who can't seem to do anything but draw cats. Can you guess where this story comes from?

"The Boy Who Drew Cats" was an enduring folktale told throughout 19th century Japan. In 1898, Lafcadio Hearn wrote an English-translation version of the story (published in Hasegawa Takejirō's "Japanese Fairy Tale Series"). In the story, a small boy is rejected by his family and the church because he's only interested in drawing cat pictures. Ashamed, he runs away to a deserted building where he draws cats on the walls. When he wakes up, he discovers the corpse of a giant goblin-rat: all of the cats he drew killed it. He is hailed a hero and becomes a famous artist.

"Clever Maria" is an interesting though not widely-known folktale. Can you guess its origin?

"Clever Maria" is a Portuguese fairy tale of imprecise origin. Andrew Lang included in "The Crimson Fairy Book," which was published in 1903. In the story, the intelligent, beautiful Maria steals fruit baskets and tricks her family members, among other antics. When she's supposed to miscount her misdeeds to the king, she plays yet another trick. Even though she mocked the king and almost provoked him to kill himself, they marry and live happily ever after.

There's not just a frog prince, there's also "The Frog Princess." Do you know where the most popularized version of this tale comes from?

While "The Frog Princess" has numerous potential origins, one of the most famous variants is the Russian version "Tsarevna Frog" published some time during the 19th century. In the tale, a king demands that his three sons marry. He instructs them to shoot an arrow and says that they will find their bride near where it lands. When a frog picks up the youngest son's arrow, he is forced to marry her. Of course, the frog then turns into a princess.

"The Elf Maiden" is about two men who fall in love with the same young woman. Can you guess which culture created the story?

The "Elf Maiden" is a tale derived from Norway's indigenous Sami people. In the story, one of the two enamored men tricks the other into staying behind on an island during a fishing trip. The other manages to survive on the island for several months until a woman arrives by boat who demands to marry him and live there together. He is initially reluctant due to the lack of resources on the island. She promises to provide for them, though, and she does, seemingly by magic.

"The Ugly Duckling" is equal parts sad and sweet. Do you know where the author of this fable is from?

Hans Christian Anderson, who also wrote classics like "Cinderella" and "The Little Mermaid" authored "The Ugly Duckling." As you may know, the poor, ugly duckling endures ridicule from everyone he knows until he matures into a beautiful swan, shocking them all. The story is an example of personal transformation, or what you might today call a "glow-up."

"The Changeling" is a popular fable that was recently adapted into a Hollywood picture. Do you know the origin of this mythical creature?

Although folk tales about changelings were told throughout Europe, the version inherent to Ireland is perhaps the most popularly known. Basically, a changeling is a fairy child that fairies leave behind in place of a human child that they steal. In Irish legend, the changeling will appear ill and won't develop like a regular child, or might have abnormal characteristics like a beard.

The classic tale "Bambi" never ceases to break hearts. Do you know where the original story comes from?

"Bambi, a Life in the Woods" was first written in German by Austrian writer Felix Salten in 1923. Salten was a regular hunter, which may explain the storyline. In 1928, Simon & Schuster published an English translation of the novel with illustrations by Kurt Wiese.

"The Fisher-Girl and the Crab" is about a woman who pretends to be pregnant with a crab. Can you guess from where the fable is derived?

This 1944 Indian fable is a part of "Folk-Tales of Mahakoshal" collected by Verrier Elwin. It's about a woman who pretends to give birth to a crab; she and her husband then marry him off to a girl. The girl didn't like being married to a crab at first, but then he assumes a human shape and gives her gifts. She's frightened when he turns back to a crab, though.

"Bluebeard" is a pretty dark folktale. Do you know where the story comes from?

While there have been numerous interpretations of "Bluebeard," Charles Perrault wrote the earliest, most famous known version in 1697 in his collection of "Mother Goose Tales." The tale is about a malicious, unattractive aristocrat who murders all of his wives until finally he meets his demise.

You may have seen the Disney movie "Mulan," but do you know the source of the original legend?

The poem "The Ballad of Mulan" comes from the 6th century and was based on a Chinese folk song. The legend was reinterpreted many times over the years and become a very popular folktale in Chinese culture. No one knows for sure whether Mulan is based on a real woman.

"The Princess and the Pea" is about a young woman who proves her royalty through a peculiar test. Do you know the nationality of the author?

"The Princess and the Pea" is yet another famous Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale published in 1835. Unlike his other completely original works, though, Andersen said he heard a version of this story as a child. Historians think it may have origins in Swedish folk tradition.

"The Little Match Girl" has been adapted into a movie, musical, and other types of media since its 1845 publication. Do you know where the original version was first published?

"The Little Match Girl" by Hans Christian Anderson is about an impoverished young girl who attempts to sell matchsticks on the street. When she fails to sell any, she doesn't return home for fear of her father. Instead, she lights a flame and sees a swash of comforting images: a holiday feast, a Christmas tree, a shooting star. Sadly, the girl then dies and her loving deceased grandmother transports her to heaven.

Do you know which culture is responsible for the classic tale"Diamonds and Toads"?

Charles Perrault wrote "Diamonds and Toads" in 1695 and included it in his "The Blue Fairy Book" collection. He titled it "Les Fées," or "The Fairies." The tale tells the story of an angry widow with two daughters: a disagreeable child who resembled her, and a gentle, kind, and beautiful daughter who resembled her late father. A fairy ends up blessing the kind daughter with gems and flowers that fall from her mouth when she talks and cursing the sister and mother with toads, vipers, and snakes.

"The Flea" is a 1634 fairy tale. Can you correctly select which country it's from?

Italian writer Giambattista Basile wrote "The Flea" as part of his literary work "Pentamerone." In the story, a king raises a flea until it's as large as a sheep. Then, he skins the flea and offers up his daughter's hand in marriage to whoever can guess where the flesh came from. An ogre guessed correctly, so she had to marry him. To her horror, his home was decorated with the bones of the people he had eaten. Fortunately, an old woman rescued her and she wound up with a prince and lived happily ever after.

You probably read this one as a child. So, do you know where the 1875 tale "The Gingerbread Man" comes from?

Originally entitled "The Gingerbread Boy," this tale about a runaway cookie was first published in the 1875 issue of St. Nicholas Magazine in New York. The story was based on the "Runaway Pancake" story from Europe. Variants of the story have also appeared across Germany, Eastern Europe, and the U.K., but no matter what, the poor Gingerbread Man always gets eaten up in the end.

Many people head to "The Nutcracker" ballet during the holiday season. Do you know the source of the original story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King"?

German author E.T.A. Hoffmann authored 'The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" in 1816. In the story, a young girl's favorite Christmas toy comes to life and defeats the evil Mouse King. In 1892, Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov turned the story into a ballet.

"The Thunder Beings" is a legend commonly told by word of mouth. It's about Thunder and his two sons, the Thunder Boys. Do you know its origin?

The Cherokee people's legend is about Great Thunder and his sons, who live above the "sky vault." They adorn themselves in rainbows and lightning and bless those that pray to them and bring the gift of rain. By contrast, the thunder beings that live closer to the earth tend to cause trouble.

"The Pretty Little Calf" was published in 1965, but has origins dating back much further. Can you guess its origin?

"The Pretty Little Calf" first appeared in English in Wolfram Eberhard's "Folktales of China." In the story, a water buffalo seems to birth a stunning calf with gold-like hide, but it turns out to be a woman's child. A woman then throws a ball and announces that whoever catches it will be her husband. The calf caught her ball so she had to marry him, but then he ran away.

The precise origin of the legend of Big Foot is up for debate. Can you guess which part of the world Bigfoot is believed to roam, though?

Also known as Sasquatch, Bigfoot is a legend that predominantly stems from North American folklore. Believed to be in a transitional state between an ape and a human, the mythical creature is associated in particular with the Pacific Northwest. The folklore stems from Native Americans and loggers over the past few centuries.

Released in 1937, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was the first feature-length film made by Disney. Do you know where the original fairy tale comes from?

The Brothers Grimm published the first version of "Snow White" in 1812 alongside classics like "Rapunzel," "Hansel and Gretel," and "Cinderella." The story was recreated as a Broadway play before its Disney debut.

The tale of "Hansel and Gretel" instills fear into the hearts and minds of children everywhere. Can you guess where the story is from?

Along with a number of other classics, the Brothers Grimm published "Hansel and Gretel" in 1812. Set in medieval Germany, the harrowing tale is about two children who narrowly escape a hungry, cannibalistic old woman.

You're probably familiar with Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Baby Bear. But do you know who wrote "Goldilocks and the Three Bears"?

Originally entitled "The Story of the Three Bears," British man Robert Southey published the first version of this classic fairy tale in 1837. In this edition, Goldilocks didn't exist; instead, a menacing elderly woman crashes the home of three bachelor bears. When they return, she jumps out the window and disappears.

Thumb-sized people seem to be a popular folktale theme. Can you guess where the classic "Thumbelina" comes from?

"Thumbelina" is another one of many popular tales written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. First published in 1835, the story follows a tiny girl's adventures with toads and fairy princes. Andersen says that he was inspired by other classics like the English story of "Tom Thumb."

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