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Pocket Tales: Myths & Legends à la Carte

Author and bibliophile Peter Kohler probes the deep roots of human culture in this series of wry essays unearthing universal pathos, humor and abiding wisdom in folktales, myths and legends from all parts of the world.

About Peter Kohler
Bio of Peter Kohler, author of Pocket Tales and a frequent contributor to this site.

Aesop the Fabulist
Aesop, Aesopic, Aesopian ... if this fella ever really lived, he sure started something!

Bedbug and Flea
Truth is in the details, somebody once said. Here's a summary of an insect-sized view on some intimate matters, in a fable from ancient India.

Blame It on Plato: The Meanings of 'Philosophy'
What the heck is mythology? That's the real question! And the answer: It is a flawed, oft-misunderstood, made-up term, wrenched into English from a couple of Greek words...

The Blind and Prophetic
When the Greek gods had questions about sex, who did they turn to? Here's some classic information often passed over in courses on classical mythology....

Bookworm vs. Bookworm
When a bookworm (a lover of books) meets a bookworm (an eater of books), mayhem will ensue.

Days of Owls and Dances of Cows
The Chinese people, who enjoy a complex relationship with their vast culture -- which has one of the deepest taproots in all of history -- are often keenly aware of the subtleties of nature: that in which we are embedded and a part of, as well as that with which we are imbued.

An Elusive Ghost: Lao Tzu
A meditation on the life of Chinese philosopher and holy man Lao Tzu.

Tooth Fairy Feels the Bite of Economic Recession
From Peter Kohler: Latest poll results indicate the Tooth Fairy's average payout is 13 percent less than it was a year ago. Free market forces at work?

Finno-Ugric Is Not a Fine Burp
Ugric is not, as at first I thought, perhaps because of the inflection with which I heard it spoken, a burp. Much less is Finno-Ugric a fine burp...

The Fish of Fertility
Symbols and gestures, I’ve noticed, can be misunderstood. For example, last Friday as I hurried through the kitchen on my way out of the house on some errand or another I was momentarily brought up short by my wife, who was standing in front of the open refrigerator with a fish in her hand. She turned and shook the fish in my face. That may...

Glooskap
Imagine if, though you were a warrior, you lived with an unbearable fear of death; so much so that every time you looked upon the dead you saw your own face...

Happy Gutenberg Day!
Bibliophiles unite! Celebrate the invention of movable type by giving a book to a friend on February 23rd.

Heads Will Roll
These traditional stories from Fiji and a Native American tribe of the Pacific coast demonstrate that you can still get ahead in this world without a body.

Igpupiara (Of Mermen and Showmen)
If you want to believe in mermaids (or mermen or merfolk of any kind, for that matter) then the Igpupiara are a pretty good place to start...

Imps and Devils
Some survive by their wits and some don't. A couple of devilishly fun Korean folktales.

Jeboo and Jeboo
People sure will be people, and they'll tell stories about it too ... as in these folk tales from Liberia.

Kondole
There is a charming myth from southern Australia which tells of a blistering hot day at the time of the Ceremonies. The performers realize they have no means of providing light for the evening rituals, so they invite Kondole to join them...

The Maero
According to the legends of the Maori of New Zealand, the fearsome Maero, or wild people, were inclined to such hijinx as kidnapping folks and then fighting them to the death...

Najagneq
Najaqneq - Many of the shamans of old, as of now, were masters of sham. Their trickery included such skills as sleight-of-hand illusions, subtle or spectacular theatrics of boggling variety, and an ability to create through these and other strategems a belief in their tribespeople of spooks and spirits.

Not About Q
Speaking only for ourselves, we would not touch the subject of Quetzalcoatl with a ten-foot pole. But here is an interesting legend from ancient Mexico.

Poki and Ku
Are all men dogs? If not, why do some men turn into dogs?  A legend from old Oahu.

Sex Is the Law: Chants, Rhymes and Mockery in Children's Folklore
The unknown can be very annoying, and even sometimes terrifying... for us all....

Skogsra: Forest Spirits in Swedish Folklore
Notably unpredictable, these folklore babes seem as easily to bestow good fortune as trouble.

So Close to Home
Stories can unite people. Neighbors gather to listen to a clever raconteur, to view a movie reel, to watch a play or a dance. Writers have their audience, poets their dreamy public. The office gossip entertains at the water cooler. A mime enchants the imagination of the crowd. I recognize home in the folktales of distant lands....

Srit and the Bitch
Folklore and historical legends - not to mention legends urbane - abound with warnings about visitations of malevolent spirits both natural and supernatural. Indeed it can be sobering to contemplate the seemingly endless array of bizarre and chaotic elements that are crouching nearby...

A Tale of Three Cities
Not many jobs require a person to go rushing headlong into danger at the ring of a bell. But a fireman’s job does...

The Thief and the Flutter Mouse
Of mice and bats - Peter Kohler takes a look at the lore surrounding these two modest creatures.

Three Whiskers of Catlore
"Cats, overall, are trouble," writes Peter Kohler. "There is just no quick-step known to man or dog that can help us with this..."

A Tiger, a Worm, a Snail
The various peoples of Vietnam value faithfulness, virtue and intelligence, and this is reflected in the folktales of the land....

The Trickster
A nearly universal figure in world legendry, the native tribes of North America had particular fun with him. Here's a nasty little tale you won't want to recount over the dinner table!

The Venerable Gourd
Gourds – the fruit produced from a family of vine plants called Curcurbitaceae - have been put to use throughout history for a wide variety of purposes. Like many of life’s simplest things, gourds can be elegant and beautiful yet also decorative and unassuming, and people have always grown and harvested them.

What Could Be More Natural?
Penises make constant appearances in myths and legends from all over the map. Peter Kohler measures in with a retelling of a Hopi folktale.

When the Gods Go in Drag
When gods get into the act it's bound to be a larger than life affair... especially when they're Viking gods!

You Can't Drown a Dragon
Dragons appear in stories throughout the world and so, naturally enough – that is, due to the natural selection inherent in great storytelling traditions – they come in a large variety of shapes and sizes.

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