Once a samurai warrior went to a monastery and asked a monk, “Can you tell me about heaven and hell?” The monk answered, “I cannot tell you about heaven and hell. You are much too stupid.” The warriorıs face became contorted with rage. “Besides that,” continued the monk, “you are very ugly.” The warrior gave a scream and raised his sword to strike the monk. “That,” said the monk unflinchingly, “is hell.” The samurai slowly lowered his sword and bowed his head. “And that,” said the monk, “is heaven.”

— from storyteller Ken Feit
Two anthologies on the theme are Spinning Tales—Weaving Hope: Stories of Peace, Justice and the Environment (New Society, 1991) and Peace Tales by Margaret Read MacDonald (Linnet/Shoestring 1992).

Many of the books referred to on this list are out of print, but the Berkeley Public Library keeps one reference copy of many out-of-print books of folktales in its story-room collection.

Brothers: A Hebrew Legend, retold by Florence B. Freedman. Harper, 1985.
Each brother thinks the other needs more of the harvest and tries to give it to him secretly.

The Cow-Tail Switch in The Cow-Tail Switch and Other West African Stories by Harold Courlander and George Herzog. Holt, 1949.
The way I introduce or comment on a story can fit it into a peace program. The conclusion of this story, that a man is not truly dead as long as he is remembered, is what would differentiate a nuclear war from all past wars. With no one left to remember us, we would all be truly dead.

The Fair Prince and His Brothers, in Cap o‘ Rushes and other Folk Tales by Winifred Finlay. Harvey, 1974, o.p.
The prince who will not fight, wins.

The Golden Earth, in The Fire on the Mountain and Other Ethiopian Stories, by Harold Courlander and Wolf Lesau. Holt, 1950, o.p.
The Emperor, by a nice symbolic act, warns some European explorers that he does not intend to let his land be exploited by them.

The Grain Miracle, in The Goddess Obscured: Transformation of the Grain Protectress from Goddess to Saint by Pamela Berger. p. 90. Beacon, 1985.
With the help of a farmer, Mary tricks Herod‘s soldiers on the flight into Egypt.

I‘m Tipingee, She‘s Tipingee, We‘re Tipingee Too, in The Magic Orange Tree and Other Haitian Folktales by Diane Wolkstein. Knopf, 1978.
Tipingee organizes her friends to dress like her, so the old man who has come to take her away won‘t be able to pick her out. On a level understandable to young children, this introduces the story of the non-violent resistance of the Danes to the Nazis during World War II. When the German invaders ordered all Jews to wear yellow stars, gentiles wore yellow stars also in protest, and helped most of the Jews escape the country.

The Lionmakers, from The Panchatantra, translated by Arthur Ryder. University of Chicago Press, 1964.
The experts know how to do it but not when to stop. Another version is in Just Enough to Make a Story: A Sourcebook for Storytelling by Nancy Schimmel (Sisters‘ Choice, 3rd. ed. 1992) and on her website at

Odilia and Aldaric, in The Giant at the Ford And Other Legends of the Saints by Ursula Synge. Atheneum, 1980, o.p. Also available on Milbre Burch‘s cassette, Saints and Other Sinners (Kind Crone).
A warrior rejects his blind daughter and she is raised in a convent. At baptism she regains her sight. Then begins a contest of wills between equally stubborn father and daughter. Alsace.

Once a Mouse, retold by Marcia Brown. Scribners, 1961.
Growing big and powerful often brings us to forget our humble past. India.

The People Who Hugged the Trees: An Environmental Folk Tale, adapted by Deborah Lee Rose, illustrated by Birgitta Saflund. Roberts Rinehart, 1990.
Amrita loves the trees that protect her desert village from sandstorms. When a ruler orders the woods cut, she runs to hug her favorite tree and the other villagers do the same. The ruler is adamant until a sandstorm comes and he sees that the trees are more useful as trees than as a fort. Adapted from a story of Rajasthan, India.

The Wave, adapted by Margaret Hodges from Lafcadio Hearn‘s Gleaning in Buddha-fields. Houghton, 1964.
An old man sets fire to his rice field to draw the people in the village below out of the path of an approaching tidal wave. Can introduce a discussion of seemingly destructive protests used to draw attention to greater danger.

Why? by Lindsay Camp, illustrated by Tony Ross (Putnam's, 1998).
A girl puts her habit of incessant questioning to good use when the hostile aliens land.