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SOS: Searching Out Stories/Info-Short Stories
Advice, Comments and References from Storytellers,
Teachers and Librarians

Advice, Comments and References from Storytellers, Teachers and Librarians
(excerpts from Storytell posts plus original research)

Book titles and online links are in blue and underlined. Click on them to get more information.
In performance, always credit your sources.
To retell any of these stories, get permission from the copyright holder if the material is not in the public domain.
Story titles are in quotation marks.
Posts are entered chronologically as they are received at Story Lovers World.

Dan Keding is a collector of the mini-tale.

2) A couple of books by Anthony DeMello have sacred stories in them - no more than a page.

3) 5-minute (or shorter) Irish stories at Conrad Bladey's site:

A few other good sources for this kind of material for younger audiences:

Crazy Gibberish: And Other Story Hour Stretches
by Naomi Baltuck.
Fish with a Deep Sea Smile, The by Virginia Tashjian, 1974.
Just One More, by Jeanne B Hagendorff, 1969.
World of Nonsense by Carl Withers, 1968.
Juba This and Juba That by Virginia Tashjian, 1969.
Totline Teaching Tales ~ Simple Stories For Young Children Plus Seasonal Activities by Jean Warren.

4) Magic Minutes: Quick Read-Alouds for Every Day by Pat Nelson. The index is divided by the months of the year so there are plenty of short stories and anecdotes and many are appropriate for various holidays throughout the year.

5) Heather Forest's World Tales of Wisdom and Wonder. They both contain many very short story "bones" that can be elaborated or told very simply depending on your time and inclination. These stories are not just for children but can be for almost any age audience (as is true for so many folktales).

6) Noodlehead Stories: a page of published and online resources; including "The Merry Men of Gotham"; "The Wise Men of Chelm"; "Tyl Ulinspeigel" and "The Mullah Nesreddin Hodja," with some additional info and links on Moritz Jagendorf, Isaac Singer and Shalom Aleichem, and Idries Shah. There are quite a few stories in the various sections of links, as well as plenty of background information.

7) The Classic Treasury of Aesop's Fables (Children's Illustrated Classics).

Any of the stories in Pleasant DeSpains collection, Twenty-Two Splendid Tales to Tell from Around the World (American Storytelling).There are two volumes.

Margaret Hamilton and Mitch Weiss have some great short stories in their Through the Grapevine: World Tales Kids Can Read & Tell book as well as their other text, Stories in My Pocket: Tales Kids Can Tell.

10) Fun and easy exercises to do with the children may be found on Dianne de Las Casas' website The Story Connection.

11) Heather Forest's website: Story Arts | Story Arts Online!

12) The many collections by Shari Lewis, e.g., One-Minute Fairy Tales.
Response to above: Shari had a large collection of many "One Minute" stories, from bedtime stories to Greek myths. I scrounge the used bookstores for out-of-print copies. They are great to use with classes of "non-tellers" to get the bare bones of the story and get them into telling the story instead of reading it.
One-Minute Bible Stories
Shari Lewis Tells Her One Minute Greek Myths
One-Minute Bible Stories-Old Testament
One-Minute Bedtime Stories
One-Minute Christmas Stories
One Minute Bible Stories New Testamemt
One Minute Easter Stories
One-Minute Stories of Brothers and Sisters
One-Minute Jewish Stories-P560387/2
One-Minute Stories of Great Americans

Steve O. 9/4/06

13) The World's Shortest Stories: Murder, Love, Horror, Suspense, All This and Much More in the Most Amazing Short Stories Ever Written, Each One Just 55 Words Long, a Coaster Book (TM) from Running Press, written by Steve Moss. 1998, 1995.

14) Websites for preschool or short stories:

15) "The Sad Tale of Tom the Catfish" in From Sea to Shining Sea: A Treasury of American Folklore and Folk Songs by Amy Cohn. Since it is a tall tale with lots of embroidered details, it can be as long or short as you wish. When there is time, I let the children help me decide what tricks the catfish learns, etc.

15) Wide Mouthed Frog.
The Wide-Mouthed Frog: A POP-UP BOOK by Keith Faulkner and Jonathan Lambert.
The Big Wide-mouthed Frog by Ana Martin Larranaga.
The Wide-Mouthed Frog by Rex Schneider.
The Wide-Mouthed Frog by Mimosa Publications.

Try to find the book Magic Minutes: Quick Read-Alouds for Every Day by Pat Nelson. It would be perfect for those "tell us one more" telling times. There are so many too choose from in this book but here is a quick short version of a longer tale from Africa:

"The Two Friends"

Once there were two men who were neighbors. They had been friends for years and prided themselves on never having argued. But then a trickster decided to
have some fun. He made a coat that was red on the right side and blue on the left side.
One morning both friends were in their fields working. The trickster walked by each one, showing a different side of his coat. At noon the friends met under
a tree to eat lunch. "Did you see that man who walked through our fields this morning?" asked one.
"He sure had a bright coat. What color was it?"
"Blue! It was red.
"Nonsense, ti wasn't red. It was blue."
"Man, you're a fool."
"You say you're my friend and yet you call me a fool."
The men started to fight, but their wives topped them The women found the trickster and his bright coat. When they told their husbands, the men became friends again, and I think they still are!

17) Here are some sites for religious humor:

Mary Lee S.

18) An oldie but a goodie
Use a ribbon in your hair
"I can't pay the rent" (high pitched voice)
Use the ribbon as a moustache
"You must pay the rent" (low villain voice)
Ribbon in hair
"I can't"
Ribbon as moustache
"You must"
Continue like this for a bit
Use ribbon as bow tie
"I'll pay the rent" (deep hero voice)
Ribbon in hair
"My hero" (high pitched voice)

You don't have to use a ribbon anything will do. A friend of mine turned it into a feminist statement by making the girl the hero to the bow tie that couldn't pay the rent. It's fun and great for participation.

Ann W 9/3/06


a) Yep, it is great fun! I've kept the children of our family busy with that story in restaurants -- paper napkins work quite well. I thought Sesame Street invented it, but then I saw the cook describing a melodrama in Westward the Women by Nancy Wilson Ross.
Westward the women: An anthology of western stories by women by J. Curley.
Westward the Women: An Anthology of Western Stories by Women by Vicki Piekarski.

Mary G. 9/3/06

I'd recommend
the same book to you that I just recommended to Karen: Three-Minute Tales by Margaret Read MacDonald.
There are actually a number of stories in there that come in at less than a minute. Chapter 11 is called "Very Tiny Tales! Under 30 seconds!," but there are short little stories scattered throughout the book. Each title has an estimated telling time, so it's easy to look through and pick out some possibilities.

Peg 9/3/06

20) There is a contest each year for the "Shortest Story" which must be told in 55 words or less. These are the Bare Bones of great stories to develop and turn into one- or two-minute "Tellings" of the story.I have two of the books published from these contests and they are fantastic for putting together short stories for interviews and segues. These books, The World's Shortest Stories: Murder, Love, Horror, Suspense, All This and Much More in the Most Amazing Short Stories Ever Written, Each One Just 55 Words Long, and The World's Shortest Stories of Love and Death: Passion, Betrayal, Suspicion, Revenge, All This and More in a New Collection of Amazing Short Stories-Each One Just 55 Words Long, edited by Moss and Daniels.

Every storyteller needs these kinds of stories in their repertoire.

Steve O. 9/4/06

21) And Hemingway's: "For sale - baby shoes - never used."

Skip M. 9/3/06

22) As well one should also consider using the Irish tiads- not exactly stories but short knowledge....
Ranns are also good and make good conclusions or pauses for thought and reflection
Then there are sayings which also come in handy....
Curses can come out of the mouths of any character at any time so they can assist....

Conrad B. 9/3/06

23) There was also an anthology of 50 Short Science Fiction Tales by Isaac Asimov and Groff Conklin many years ago....

And oh, I had forgotten about FEGHOOTS!!
(does some research)

oh my look what I found...

Skip M. 9/4/06

24) I happened to be paging through Jane Yolen's Favorite Folktales from Around the World (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library) today. There are a number of very short tales in that collection.

Charles K. 9/4/06

25) Well, we used to play this game:
Child: Tell me a story.
Tired parent: Okay. You can have three things in it.
Child: OK. A dog. And a ball. And a princess.
Parent: Once there was a princess who threw the ball for her dog all day and all day. Until one day she threw it so hard and so far that the dog went after it and never came back. The end.
Child: Nooooo!
Tired parent: OK. The dog came back so tired and so worn out that she never had to throw a ball for him again.
The end.And so on. The kids volunteer what they want in the story, the teller terminates said story ASAP. For some reason they found this endlessly engrossing, even though the stories were deliberately designed to discourage any more requests.....

Kimberley K. 9/5/06

26) This is a routine done by Redd Foxx many years ago. Although his material is definitely for adults only this one is not really offensive.

This is how to make a story by dropping one word from a simple sentence each time.
Oh George, let's not park.
Oh George, let's not.
Oh George let's!
Oh George.

There was a king who had three daughters.
They all lived in a basin of water.
The basin bended, my story had ended.
If the basin had been stronger,
My story would be longer.

Joe W. 9/7/06

37) Revise to
Oh Granny, let's not tell stories!
Oh Granny, let's not tell!
Granny, let's not tell!
Granny, let's tell!
Granny, tell!
Granny Sue 9/7/06

27) I sometimes tell one that someone posted here years ago:
The last man in the world sat alone in his room, when a knock sounded on his door.
I usually add:
It was the last woman in the world. "Hi, Handsome!"

Granny Sue 9/7/06


Yes, I heard this one but that could be the last woman knocking: "The last person in the world, sat alone in a room when there was a knock on the door." is a lot creepier.

Marcia G. 9/8/06

To add to this excellent compilation: Margaret Read MacDonald's new book: Five Minute Tales: More Stories to Read and Tell When Time is Short.

As a companion to her award-winning story collection Three-Minute Tales, Margaret Read MacDonald has compiled another delightful collection of entertaining stories from around the world to read or tell on any occasion.

Judy S. 1/17/09

29) Query
: If you had only five minutes to tell your best/favorite story, what would you choose for an adult audience?

Karen C. 10/22/07


a) Probably "Rabbit and the Moon"

But "Tale of a Tailor"
is also good as a lighter tale - and you can still have three minutes for something else.

Richard M. Germany 10/22/07

b) I'd choose a light story of laughter. I tell of an experience at a movie theatre with my family. by the time it's over, the audiance knows they've been had and are usually laughing hysterically.


Take the family to movies. Don't remember movie because Old man and his dog in front row of movie theatre movie and becomes a distraction. Dog gets into the movie. Barks at hero. Snarls at villan, whimpers at romance. As we leave, I say to him "Your dog's amazing, he seemed to completely know what was on screen, and really seemed to enjoy it." Old man says "Yeah, it is amazing.. ...... bcause he hated the book."

It's four minutes when I tell it.

Storyteller John 10/22/07

c) I like to tell the story of "The Naked Truth and Story."

Judith W. 10/22/07

d) One of my favorites is "Filling the House," with my husband providing the music for the final part. It seems to bring a smile to those listening.

Maurine N.O. 10/22/07

The Magic Pear Tree (Little Celebration) by Cheryl Stroud -- it's got great images, it's thought provoking.

Janet M. 10/22/07

Response to e):

Version by Alida Gersie:

Karen C. 10/22/07

"The Magic Pomegranate" is a different story in Ready-To-Tell Tales (American Storytelling) by David Holt and Bill Mooney.
Version of a similar story by Peninnah Schram.
The Magic Pomegranate (On My Own Folklore)

Carol C. 10/23/0

g) I see Karen has already given you the URL for Alida Gersie's version on "The Spirit of Trees". There is a list at the end of the story of some of the other sources. there is another version at

It is found in many places, I think I read it in Parabola as well.

I am not familiar with "The Magic Pomegranate" — it would have to be a bit different just due to the differences between eating a pear and a pomegranate. I like the magic pear tree because it is beautiful to watch the pear tree grow and bloom (in my mind's eye) and because it stands alone or, if you want to, you can use it to start a discussion about greed, or ethics, or whatever you want to. I'm going to check out Ready-To-Tell Tales (American Storytelling).

Janet M. 10/23/07

h) I have several five-minute tales on my blog, now that I think about it.

There's a version of the The Golden Axe and Other Folk Tales of Compassion and Greed that I posted this weekend. It's a good little tale if you want one with an obvious moral that also fun to tell.

"Jack's Hunting Story" is one of the shortest tall tales I know.

And then there's the "One Grain of Wheat" Jack tale that I think I posted here before.

The hunting story is funny, and the other is one of those endless tales that can last as long as you want it to. Jack is great for almost any audience.

I have a couple of 5-minute West Virginia ghost stories that are good for an adult audience. Many of the "true" ghost stories are quite short.

I often fill a short spot like that with a ballad, because they tell such powerful stories.

Granny Sue 10/22/07

i) Either "One Wish" or the "Heaven and Hell" parable probably...

Mary G. 10/22/07

j) Here's a less than 3-minute story I often use to end stories of World War II. It was posted here on storytell a while ago!

" Here is an easy-to-hear story from Germany WWII: My aunt knew a lady, Ilsa, who was a teen at the end of WWII. Her town was abandoned by the German army as the Russian and American armies approached from either side. There were only women left in her neighborhood and they were all gathered in a cellar awaiting their fates. They were terrified. They had heard many horror stories of Germans tortured by Russians and Americans and did not even know which conqueror to hope for. They heard the army trucks overhead and heard shooting. In the cellar, someone blew out the candle. Nearly everyone stopped breathing. They heard the front door broken open and boots on the floor above. Ilsa's grandmother, the matriarch of this little group, drew a great breath and whispered, "I am not going to wait here to die in the dark." She relit the candle and started climbing the stairs to the house singing "A Mighty Fortress is our God". (in German, of course, it was written by Martin Luther.) As she pushed up the door into the house, there was brief silence above then a baritone voice started singing with her, in English. As Ilsa said decades later from her home in America, "We all rushed upstairs with tears of relief, for we knew anyone singing that song with us could not be torturers. It was the American army and my best memories of them is sharing their laughter, their songs and their chocolate."
This story reminds me there were just plain people on both sides.

Cathryn F."

Kate D. 10/22/07

k) I've used the bit I wrote for that funny pun that's been tossed about in cyber space for the last year or so. Here 'tis.

Mick Jagger was walking through the forest one day when he came upon a raggedy old woman.
The old woman raised her hand and said, "Oh, Mick. Can you spare some food for a poor old woman? I'm so hungry. I haven't eaten in three days."Now Mick was not in a good mood. He'd had a fight with his drummer, been struck with laryngitis, and had just been made aware of another paternity suit against him. He'd taken this walk to find a little peace and quiet, a little tranquility.
"Look," he croaked. "You Can't Always Get What You Want. Right now, everybody wants something from me. I don't have anything for you. I don't have anything for anybody. If you want food, you ought to head to town, not hang out here in the woods. Now bug off."
And with that, he walked on. It just so happened that that old woman was a witch. She didn't have much patience with anyone who had a Heart of Stone.
"Nothing for me?" she repeated. "Well, I just may have a little something for you. But Time . Is On My Side. Yes It Is. You'll get yours soon enough."
Now, that old witch could have had her revenge on Mick right then if she'd wanted to, but she enjoyed a good joke as much as the next hag. So instead of casting a spell on him, she cooked up something for his offspring instead.
Sure enough, it wasn't too long before Mick's girlfriend had another bun in the oven, so to speak. And when that little fellow was born, it was, indeed, a frog. A cute frog, but a frog just the same.
"What do you think?" asked the mother as she cuddled the little green creature.
"I don't know," said Mick. "I feel like I'm between a rock and a hard place. I've got Mixed Emotions. How in the heck could I have fathered a frog?" and he looked suspiciously at the mother who looked suspiciously at Mick's lips.
DNA testing proved that Mick was, indeed, the father.
"Don't take it so hard," the girlfriend protested. "He's going to be a lot easier to take care of, the food is cheap, and you won't have to pay for swimming lessons."
They decided to name the frog Jumping Jack Flash, and called it Jack for short.
The frog kept a low profile. As he grew older, he realized he was a little different from the rest of his siblings and he didn't want to make any trouble. Sometimes though, Mick would feel sorry for him being left out and all and put him in his pocket, and let him go with him on errands or travel around with the band.
One day, while out with his famous father, he went with him to the bank. Mick had known the bank manager for a long time, and this time he took Jack out of his pocket and introduced him. The manager was quite surprised when Jack began talking, but after several more visits, he got used to the frog child and took it all in stride.
Now Jumping Jack Flash worked hard for the company. He wrote lyrics, the most famous of which was, "Hey, You, Get Off of My Pad," he carried messages, and helped keep the schedule up to date. After a few years of this, he was worn out and decided he needed a vacation. But he was going to need some money.
First, he had his dad write him a note, which he had notarized, saying that he was, indeed, his son. Then, note in hand, Jack hopped to the bank.
At the bank, he looked around and found the nicest looking teller there. Her name plate read, "Patty Black." Jack hopped over to her window and said, "Hello there. I need a loan."
Patty Black was a little surprised to meet a talking frog, but she had been well trained in bankdom.
"Yes, sir. And how much would you be wanting to borrow?"
"Well," said Jack. I'm going on a long vacation, and I'm really going to do it up right. I figure about £350,000 will do me."
"That's a lot of money," said Patty Black, taken aback.
"Look," said Jack, "I know the manager here, and," here he gave her the note, "as you can see here, Mick Jagger is my dad. So there shouldn't be a problem."
Patty Black looked at the note. Then she looked at the frog. She said, "A loan of this size will require some collateral. What do you have for collateral?"
The frog thought a minute, reached into his pocket, and brought out a small, pink, china elephant. He put it on the counter.
Patty Black picked up the elephant and looked at it. Then she picked up the note, and said, "Excuse me a minute. I need to see the manager."
She entered the manager's office and said, "There's a frog out there who wants to borrow £350,000. He says he knows you. He also says he's Mick Jagger's son." And she gave him the note. "When I asked for collateral, he gave me this." And she showed him the elephant. "What in the heck is this?"
The manager looked at the note, he looked out into the bank, and then he looked at the elephant.
"It's a knickknack, Patty Black, give the frog a loan. His old man's a Rolling Stone."

Pat N. 10/23/07

l) I'm surprised no one has suggested it yet, but the Hodja stories and Aesop's Fables are excellent for creating five-minute stories. You can find them on the web by typing Hodja Stories and Aesop's Fables.

Tim M. 10/23/07

m) I think 5-minute stories are an essential part of our repertoires:
• Tellers need short stories to fill in gaps.
• Producers of olios will risk a new/untried/unknown teller for a 5-minute story sooner than risking a longer slot.
• Reporters want a short story when interviewing about an upcoming storytelling event.
• Adult audiences, accustomed to the stand-up comedy format, can be softened up with 1-2 short tales & then be ready for a longer one, back to a shortie, then a longer one, etc.
• Showcase concerts (whether or not titled 'showcase') increasingly lean to choosing shorter pieces because more people get to tell.
• It's one measure of talent and expertise: someone who can deliver an honest, polished story with clear images in 5 minutes probably has the skill to handle a longer slot.

Yvonne H. 10/24/07

30) More collections of short, short stories for children and young adults:

Beatrix Potter Complete Tales R/I, Beatrix Potter collection.
Best Shorts: Favorite Stories for Sharing (Best Shorts) by Katherine Paterson, Avi, Carolyn Shute and Chris Raschka.
Big Book of The Berenstain Bears (Berenstain Bears (Random House Hardcover)) by Stan and Jan Berenstain.
Cautionary Tales for Children by Edward Gorey and Hilaire Belloc.
Fireside Stories: Tales for a Winter's Eve by Caitlin Matthews and Helen Cann.
Guys Write for Guys Read by Jon Scieszka.
Hatful of Seuss (A): Five Favorite Dr. Seuss Stories.
M Is for Magic by Neil Gaiman.
Mouse Tales (I Can Read Book 2) by Arnold Lobel.
Nicholas by Reve Goscinny and Jean-Jacques Sempe.
Richard Scarry's Bedtime Stories (Pictureback(R)) by Richard Scarry.
Sixteen: Short Stories by Outstanding Writers for Young Adults by Donald R. Gallo.
Snoozers : 7 Short Short Bedtime Stories for Lively Little Kids by Sandra Boynton.
Stories Julian Tells (The) by Ann Cameron and Ann Strugnell (illus).
Thomas & Friends: Thomas' Read Along Storybook (Thomas & Friends) by W. Rev Awdry and Tommy Stubbs.
20th-Century Children's Book Treasury (The): Picture Books and Stories to Read Aloud.
Your Favorite Seuss: A Baker's Dozen by the One and Only Dr. Seuss, a Dr. Seuss collection.

31) There's a lovely resource for true-life very short stories, called Makes Me Think. Most of them are only 3 or 4 lines long and take about 10 seconds to tell.

Here's a link to a compilation of 101 of the best (and a link to the full site):

Here's one I like:
Today, in the cutest voice, my 8-year-old daughter asked me to start recycling. I chuckled and asked, "Why?" She replied, "So you can help me save the planet." I chuckled again and asked, "And why do you want to save the planet?" "Because that's where I keep all my stuff," she said. MMT (Makes Me Think)

Tim S. 1/28/11

Created 2004; last update 1/28/11

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