These short stories are based on myths, legends or folk tales, or are retellings of these stories. The stories that are straight retellings of myths are in a separate section at the bottom. The stories that are based on a recognizable myth, or are reinterpretations, are listed first. See also:
- Adult Fairy Tales
“How the Pooka Came to New York City” by Delia Sherman
Liam O’Casey arrives in New York from Dublin with a great black hound named Madra. Liam is a horse trainer and he plays a tin whistle. He’s come to improve his life. Right now, he has nowhere to go. Madra is indebted to Liam. He offers a suggestion to get them started.
This story can be read in the preview of New York Fantastic: Fantasy Stories From the City that Never Sleeps. (12% in)
“Wolfskin” by Sharon Blackie
A hunter goes out into the woods alone. He stops at a mill house to spend the night. As he falls asleep, the door creaks and a wolf comes in. A woman slips out of the wolf skin and falls asleep in front of the fire. The hunter sneaks down, takes the skin, and nails it to the mill wheel.
This story can be read in the preview of Foxfire, Wolfskin and Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women. (25% in)
“The Last Man Standing” by Sharon Blackie
An old man has been out hunting for three hours. His wife hasn’t heart a shot yet, and she tries not to be too concerned. He should be back by now. Many of the things he cares about are gone. They lost a son almost forty years ago. Yesterday, the old man’s favorite dog died and he dug its grave in the cold. They care for each other, although they don’t openly share their feelings.
Most of this story can also be read in the above preview of Foxfire, Wolfskin and Other Stories of Shapeshifting Women. (45% in)
“Anthropogenesis: Or, How to Make a Family” by Laura van den Berg
Nell is cool with ice crystals in her hair and breath. Meno is on the brink of flames. They live in an unusual city with no seasons or directions. Their friends call them fire and ice, and wonder how they got together. Nell and Meno can’t remember how they met.
This story can be read in the preview of xo Orpheus: Fifty New Myths. (29% in)
“Argos” by Joy Williams
Argos, the hound who belonged to Odysseus, tells his history. He waited twenty years for his master’s return, and he recognized him, despite the disguise. The master didn’t acknowledge him.
This story can also be read in the above preview of xo Orpheus: Fifty New Myths. (34% in)
“The Sisters” by Sabina Murray
A professor remembers a former student, Carson Bakely, a good student and good-looking, but with a mediocre intellect. He wanted to change his line of study from Herman Melville to Emily Dickinson. As a Dickinson scholar himself, the professor had been contacted by a society called The Sisters, who claimed to have some uncatalogued Dickinson papers. The Sisters were looking for an intern to sort through everything, so it seemed a good opportunity for them both.
This story can also be read in the above preview of xo Orpheus: Fifty New Myths. (37% in)
“Forbidden Fruit” by Roshani Chokshi
The Mountain, Dayang, likes to lean over and stare at the mortals, who are beautiful for their fragility and evanescence. Her father from the clouds warns her not to lose her heart. One day she goes in human form to a small pool and encounters a young man, Bulan. The villagers wonder at his long absence.
This story can be read in the preview of A Thousand Beginnings and Endings. (17% in) This anthology has stories based on the mythology of East and South Asia.
“The First Pendragon” by Sir James Knowles
King Vortigern gets word that his enemies are marching against him. He orders the building of a stronghold where he can hide. When the builders make progress, something causes the structure to collapse. On the recommendation of his advisors, the king calls Merlin, a young lad, before him as a sacrifice. Merlin, in his wisdom, knows this won’t solve the king’s problem. He impresses Vortigern by explaining what’s really wrong.
This story can be read in the preview of The Mammoth Book of Arthurian Legends. (13% in)
“The Winning of Kinghood” by Howard Pyle
King Uther-Pendragon rules securely with the help of two trusted advisors, Merlin the Wise and Sir Ulfius. Eventually, a son is born to the king. While he’s still a baby, Merlin informs Uther-Pendragon of a disturbing vision—he will die of a fever and his son’s life will be sought by his enemies. Merlin asks that he and Ulfius be given the responsibility of secreting the baby away until he becomes a man.
This story can also be read in the above preview of The Mammoth Book of Arthurian Legends. (28% in)
“Grand Central Park” by Delia Sherman
When the narrator was a young girl, she used to play in Central Park with a fairy. She was tiny and had wings like a dragonfly. At about eight years old, she stopped believing in fairies, and stopped seeing her. She spent more time with a girl at school, whom she called Elf. One day in eleventh grade, they were hanging out at the inlet when Elf notices something.
Some of this story can be read in the preview of The Green Man: Tales From the Mythic Forest. (57% in)
“Seventy-Two Letters” by Ted Chiang
Robert Stratton is a nomenclator who’s research lead him to fashion golem for various tasks. He’s interested in mass-producing them, which would allow them to take over some of the more difficult and tedious jobs. He experiments with more graceful designs which could perform more delicate work. This upsets the sculptors who fear their livelihoods are at risk. When he hits this roadblock, he’s approached by Lord Fieldhurst, who’s working on a secret project.
“Yellow Woman” by Leslie Marmon Silko
A young, married Pueblo Indian woman leaves home and has an affair with a Navajo man who lives in the mountains. She speaks of an old story from her people of a mountain spirit who abducts women; she suggests that is what happened to her in this case.
“Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
While studying at the university in Padua, Guasconti notices Beatrice, the daughter of Rappaccini, a renowned expert on poisonous plants. He has been using his daughter in experiments, making her immune to all poisonous plants. As a side effect, she can’t touch a person without harming them.
• Mythic Short Stories •
“Prometheus the Fire Bringer”
Following the war between the gods and titans, Prometheus walks the earth with his brother, Epimetheus. Prometheus starts forming creatures from the clay, then Epimetheus gives each creature an ability. Prometheus wants to make a creature that’s different from the others.
This story can be read in the preview of World Mythology for Beginners: 50 Timeless Tales From Around the Globe. (70% in)
“Demeter and Persephone”
The goddess of the harvest, Demeter, gives birth to Persephone. The earth flourishes due to Demeter’s love for her daughter. She grows up to be beautiful. One day, while she’s out alone, Hades emerges from the underworld and abducts Persephone.
This story can also be read in the above preview of World Mythology for Beginners: 50 Timeless Tales From Around the Globe. (82% in)
Arachne is beautiful and one of the world’s great weavers. The villagers would gather to admire her work, and she grew proud. Athena becomes aware of Arachne’s attitude and pays her a visit.
This story can be read in the preview of Mythical Creatures and Magical Beasts. (48% in)
Tsuchigumo, a mythical Japanese spider creature, lives in mountains and wooded areas, waiting to ambush its prey.
This story can also be read in the above preview of Mythical Creatures and Magical Beasts. (65% in)
Hera’s plague obliterated the life on the island of Thessaly. When Zeus visited, he saw ants still working, the only thing left alive. He morphed them into a human/ant hybrid.
This story can also be read in the above preview of Mythical Creatures and Magical Beasts. (82% in)
At 43% into the preview of Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, you can read a brief introduction to many of the prominent figures in Greek mythology. This book is a classic, one of the best-selling guides to mythology.