Tales for Troubled Times

~ Folktale Archive ~

Tom's original greeting from what has become the Tales for Troubled Times folklore archive:

"In these surreal days of illness and self-isolation due to COVID-19 I found myself wondering what more I can do to help people get through the long days. If ever there was a need for stories, then this is it.

I'm recording rough, one-take stories of favourite folk tales. I must admit, they are rougher than I would normally do. All the stumbles are left in. This is not about showcasing my storytelling skills. It's not about 'me', it's about us.

These are stories that I don't normally tell, as well as old favourites. The lack of an audience is a great miss. It is just me, alone in an attic bedroom with a small recording device on a cushion.

I hope you find some tales that help to get you through the day and imagine better days. Please take care and stay safe.

Love, Tom."

(Tales especially for the bairns are here.)

~ Tales for everyone ~

Jennifer Wrigley ~ The Reel, Kirkwall
Dingieshowe Dancers

Our friend Jennifer Wrigley from The Reel recorded her tune Dingieshowe Dancers for the Orkney Storytelling Festival online 2020. She has our heartiest thanks.

Vasilisa the Fair

A Russian tale of courage and faith, even in the face of the fearsome, iron-toothed Baba Yaga!

The Man From Nowhere

There's something weird about the stranger ... a tale from the Orkney Island of Stronsay

Illustration by our friend, Bryce Wilson

The Crop-Haired Freckled Lass

How a clever young woman from Scotland's Western Isles outwits the laird

Sigurd and the Raven Banner

Njal's Saga tells of the  Orkney Islands' Earl Sigurd and his magic raven banner.

Please note: this tale is not for bairns or the faint of heart.

Artwork by Sheila Faichney

Eithne's Lament

A haunting and beautiful song about Sigurd and the Battle of Clontarf. It was written by our friend, singer/historian/archaeologist/folklorist Dr Sarah Jane Gibbon and recently recorded at home.

Thank you, Sarah Jane.

Lady Odivere

An Orkney Islands selkie story about the dangers of swearing the Odin Oath

Illustration by our friend, Bryce Wilson

The Selkie of Sule Skerry

Enjoy a traditional selkie tale in song, recorded at home by the talented Sarah Jane Gibbon.

Thank you, Sarah Jane.

The Wicked Laird
The Cottar's Curse

A wicked laird in Scotland's Orkney Islands beats the devil but falls foul of a cottar's curse.

Please note: this tale is not for bairns or the faint of heart ... which is why Tom is dedicating it to our mighty friend, Áine King.

Artwork by another friend, Sheila Faichney

London Again

A well-known folktale, this version is from the Shetland Islands

The Baby of Langalour

The story of an unusual birth in the Orkney Islands parish of Firth


An old Orkney tale about a spaeman who has to discover the identity of a thief by the cunning use of a pot and a black cockerel

The Broonie of Copinsay

A folktale from the Orkney Islands about an unusual servant

Illustration by our friend, Bryce Wilson

Tam Lin

A tale from the old Scottish Borders ballad Tam Lin

Dedicated to Tom's peedie Slovenian sister, Katarina Juvančič

Two Selkie Tales from Orkney

The Selkie Wife of Westness and The Selkie's Revenge

Illustration by our friend, Kate Leiper

How I Became a Storyteller ~
the (almost) true tale

Tom's own story of his storytelling origins

Not entirely suitable for wee bairns ... or the very easily offended

Annie Norn and the Finfolk

A classic Orkney tale about a magical island

Illustration by our friend Bryce Wilson

Then the Merman Laughed

A classic Icelandic tale passed down from the family of Hjorleifur Helgi Stefánsson.

This story is dedicated to Tom's pet Viking, Hjorleifur.

Illustration by Anna Anglemark.

The Broonie

Can a kindly guardian spirit defeat a witch?

A Scottish folktale

The Death of the Fin King

How the Fin King's spell was broken at Orkney's Bay of Skaill

Illustration by Bryce Wilson

Two Wee Fairy Stories

The Fairy's Fishing Trip from Orkney and The Trow's Brandy from Shetland

The Piper and the Frozen Boots

A Scottish Travellers' tale best enjoyed with a dram (says Tom)

The Fin Folk and the Mill of Skaill

An Orkney folk tale from the parish of Sandwick

Illustration by our friend, Bryce Wilson

The Angel of Death

A Scottish Travellers' tale about a young boy's ride home in a very strange carriage

May not be appropriate for all ages

Some of these folktales of also available in Tom's folklore books.

~ Tales especially for the bairns ~

The Mouse Princess

A French tale proving that faithfulness has its rewards

Peerie Fool

A traditional tale from the Orkney island of Rousay

Illustration by our friend, Bryce Wilson

Stone Soup

How an old beggar tricks a miser into a meal and - just maybe - teaches him a lesson

Auld (Old) Croovie

An old Scottish Traveller tale about greed and dancing trees

The Queen Bee

Why it's better to be simple and kind than clever and cruel~

A German folktale gathered by the Grimm brothers

The Story of Persephone

The classic Greek myth of the changing of seasons

The Hogboon of Hellihowe

A cautionary Orkney tale showing why you must always take good care of your hogboon

Illustration by our friend, Bryce Wilson

To the One You Love the Most

  A man learns who within his household really loves him

King of the Cats

An English folktale showing that a cat is not always what it seems to be

The Elf Maiden

A northern folktale of a magical bride

Illustration by Anna Anglemark as seen in Tom's Tales from Viking Lands

The Wee Bannock

A Scottish version of The Gingerbread Man

The Swan Princes

The beloved tale by Hans Christian Andersen

The Princess on the Glass Mountain

A classic Norwegian folk tale of how the Ash Lad won a princess's love

The Three Gifts

A traditional Scottish folktale that Tom first heard from the great storyteller Bob Pegg.

The Baron's Ring

An English folktale showing that you can't resist fate

Toller and His Good Neighbors

A tale from Denmark ~ How Toller and his family prosper due to their fairy neighbours

Illustration by Anna Angelmark

Dedicated to Kitty at Encounters with the Good People podcast

King Midas

The classic Greek myth

The Golden Bird

A lovely Slovenian folktale

The Eating Contest with a Troll

A Norwegian folktale

The Goat that Told Lies

How a woodcutter and his wife are taken in by a talking goat who tells lies

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Mermaid image (Rhonda's pages) and storyteller image (Tom's pages), and all other illustrations except where noted are here by the courtesy of our dear friend - Stromness author, artist and historian, Bryce Wilson MBE, who owns all copyrights. Thanks, Bryce!