The Beauty and Significance of Pourquoi Tales: From Folklore to Inspiration

Avatar of Asmaa Alhashimy
Updated on: Educator Review By: Michelle Connolly

Have you ever wondered why the snake has no legs or how the turtle got its shell? These are the kinds of questions that pourquoi tales seek to answer. Let’s explore the fascinating world of pourquoi tales and discover why they remain essential to our storytelling traditions.

What Are Pourquoi Tales?

Pourquoi tales are a type of folklore that originated in different cultures around the world. The word “pourquoi” is French for “why,” as these stories explain natural phenomena, animal characteristics, and human customs. 

Pourquoi tales date back to ancient times. Many cultures worldwide have their own versions of pourquoi tales. These lovely tales have been handed down from generation to generation and still captivate people of all ages.

Elements of a Pourquoi Tale

Pourquoi tales typically contain several key elements that make them unique. Here are the three main elements of a Pourquoi tale:

  1. The initial state of the world or the characters before the change: The tale begins by describing the setting and state of the characters involved before the problem or the mystery happens. It helps the audience understand why the change or problem is significant.
  2.  The Problem or Mystery: The tale then introduces the mystery or problem that needs to be explained. It could be anything from why an animal has a certain feature or behaviour to why a natural phenomenon occurs.
  3.  The Solution or Explanation: The final part of a pourquoi tale is where the problem is solved, or the mystery is explained. The solution is often presented in a creative and imaginative way that is meant to entertain and educate the audience.

Examples of Pourquoi Tales

The examples of pourquoi tales from around the world are countless, each with its own unique characters, settings, and problems to solve. Here are some well-known examples: 

Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky

Once upon a time, the Sun and his wife, the Moon, lived in a beautiful house on Earth. They loved having guests, especially the water people, who visited them often. However, as time passed, more and more water people started coming over until there were so many that the Sun and Moon could not move around inside their own house.

Feeling overwhelmed, the Sun and Moon realised they needed to find a new place to live. So, they decided to construct a new house in the sky with plenty of space for themselves and their guests.

Thus, the Sun and Moon began building a new home in the sky with all their love and effort. When they were done, they were thrilled with their outcome. The new house was spacious and beautiful, and the water people were delighted to visit them there.

From that day forward, the Sun and Moon lived happily in the sky, where they have remained ever since. The water people still visit them from time to time, and the Sun and Moon are happy to have them as guests in their new home.

And that’s the story of why the Sun and the Moon live in the sky.

Why the Snake Has No Legs

Once upon a time, in a far-off land, the snake loved to steal from the other animals. He would sneak into their dens and steal their food and water, carrying his loot back to his tree, where he would safely store it.

The other animals were angry with the snake for his thievery, but they could never catch him because he was so fast and agile, with legs that helped him escape quickly. They decided to call a meeting to discuss how they could stop the snake from stealing.

Dingo, the clever dog, had an idea. He suggested they chop off the snake’s legs so he could no longer escape or steal from them. The other animals agreed, and they made a plan to carry out Dingo’s idea.

That night, while the snake was asleep in his tree, Dingo sneaked up to him and started chopping off his legs. The snake woke in pain and started wailing, but it was too late. Dingo had already chopped off all his legs, and the snake could not climb his tree anymore.

The next day, the other animals retrieved their stolen food and water, and they danced and celebrated, free from the snake’s thievery. The snake, however, was left behind, crying and alone. He eventually crawled into a hole in the ground and spent the rest of his life there.

And this is why snakes today do not have legs and live in holes in the ground.

How the Turtle Got Its Shell

Once upon a time, a small, soft-skinned turtle lived in a dense forest. Sticks and stones often hurt him as he crawled around the forest, and he was always afraid of predators. The other creatures often teased and bullied him for being soft and vulnerable.

One day, while the turtle was out foraging for food, he stumbled upon a rough, bumpy rock. He touched it and found that it was surprisingly sturdy and protective. He immediately had an idea! He started to carry the rock on his back and discovered that it protected him from the dangerous creatures in the forest.

Over time, he carried the rock on his back, which eventually grew and moulded to his shape, forming a perfect shell for him. He was now safe with a strong and protective shell. 

The other turtles were amazed by his change when they saw him and soon started doing the same. They found rocks and moulded them to their bodies, creating shells for themselves. And thus, all the turtles in the world had a shell.

And that’s the story of how the turtle got its shell. 

Why the Dog Hates the Cat

Once upon a time, people and animals lived together peacefully in a village. There was a kind, loyal dog who helped the villagers with their daily chores and a clever, curious cat who explored the village and the surrounding countryside.

One day, a thief came to the village and stole the villagers’ food and money. The dog and the cat decided to work together to catch the thief and restore the stolen goods. So, they followed his tracks through the forest until they found him hiding in a tree.

The dog bravely jumped up and tried to grab the thief, but the thief was too quick, and the dog failed. Then, the cat climbed the tree and used her sharp claws to grab the thief. The thief dropped the stolen goods, and the dog and the cat returned them to the grateful villagers.

However, the dog was upset that the cat had caught the thief. So, he started to bully the cat, barking and growling at her whenever they met. The cat became defensive and started hissing and scratching back. From that day on, dogs and cats became enemies, and their rivalry became a legend in the village.

And so, the story of why dogs and cats are enemies.

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears

In the heart of the jungle, all the animals lived in peace and harmony. But one day, a mosquito told a lie to an iguana. The mosquito said she heard the farmer say he would put a trap in the field to catch some animals. This news frightened the iguana, and he ran off to tell the other animals.

The news of the trap spread quickly and frightened all the animals. The owl hooted, the dog barked, and the cow mooed. The noise was so loud that it woke the python, who thought the sun had risen and began crawling towards the water to start his day.

When the other animals saw the python, they thought he would attack them. So, they ran away in terror. In the chaos, a mother owl found her baby dead. She cried out of grief, and her wailing wail resounded throughout the jungle.

The king lion heard the cry and summoned all the animals to his court. When he found out about the mosquito’s lie, he was furious. He sentenced the mosquito to punishment, but she hid to escape. Since then, the mosquito constantly buzzes in people’s ears to see if they are still angry at her.

And that’s why mosquitos buzz in people’s ears.

The Significance of Pourquoi Tales

Pourquoi tales have significant value because of several reasons, including: 

  • Pourquoi tales help educate and teach children about a wide range of topics, including science, nature, history, and culture. 
  • Pourquoi tales help children develop creativity and critical thinking skills. They encourage them to imagine, ask questions, make connections, and come up with explanations for natural phenomena. 
  • Pourquoi tales promote cultural awareness and understanding. They introduce myths, legends, and traditions of different cultures, which helps understand the beliefs and values of people from different backgrounds.

How to Write a Pourquoi Tale?

If you’re interested in writing a creative, engaging, and thought-provoking pourquoi tale, here are some steps to help you get started:

  1. Choose a natural phenomenon or animal behaviour that you want to explain.
  2. Develop the characters of the story, who could be animals, people, or objects. 
  3. Make a challenge or problem that needs to be solved.
  4. Introduce conflict or obstacles that the character must overcome to solve the problem.
  5. Create a creative and plausible solution to the problem that fits your story’s theme.
  6. Link the solution to the problem in your tale to a moral message or lesson. 
  7. Use descriptive language and sensory details to help your readers visualise the tale.
  8. Read your tale aloud to ensure that it flows smoothly and makes sense.
  9. Revise and edit your tale as needed to create the best possible version of it.

Keep Reading and Exploring!

Pourquoi tales are timeless stories that not only spark imagination and creativity in children but also offer a window into different cultures and ways of thinking. 

So, whether you are reading to your child before bed or looking to learn more about these tales’ history and cultural significance, take the time to explore and appreciate the beauty of pourquoi tales. You never know what mysteries and lessons you might uncover!

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