Did you try the Story Quiz yesterday? If you've been away from stories for a few years you might recall some of the plots I listed, but not the whole story or what it was called. Storytellers who read this blog probably know the list all too well, as all of these stories are favorites of many tellers.
Folktales and fairytales often have more than one version, or variant, so there could be several "right" answers for each of these.
Here is the list, with links to online versions:
1. Girl is turned out by her father, wears a coat of furs she makes herself, becomes a kitchen maid, marries the prince.
The English version of this story is called Catskin or Catskins, among other titles. According to Wikipedia, other names for the story are Little Cat Skin, Cap O' Rushes, Donkeyskin, Allerleirauh, The King who Wished to Marry His Daughter, The She-Bear, Mossycoat, Tattercoats, The Princess That Wore A Rabbit-Skin Dress, and The Bear. I have also read a similar story called Rushycoat. The story can be considered a Cinderella variant, since the girl rises from poverty to marry a prince.
2. Cruel stepmother makes girl go to spring for water in cold weather. Girl meets an old woman and helps her. Old woman gives her a special gift. Girl goes home, stepmother sees the gift, sends her own daughter to the spring. Daughter is rude to the old woman, and gets a different gift. Of course, the sweet girl ends up well, and the daughter and mother? Not so well.
I love this story! I know it as Diamonds and Toads, or Toads and Diamonds. When I tell it to children, you can see in their eyes how vividly they are visualizing the story. While I'll admit that sometimes I'd like the girl to stick up for herself and not be such a pushover, the images of jewels falling from her mouth and snakes and lizards from her stepsister's are compelling. The Surlalune Fairytales site has an excellent annotated version of the story and a list of variants online. On Once Upon a Blog, you will find more discussion of the story and a video telling of the tale.
3. A man catches a talking fish (don't you love stories? A talking fish!). The fish grants him three wishes if the man throws him back in the river. Man goes home, tells wife about the three wishes. They argue about how to use the wishes and end up wasting them all, and sadder but wiser for the experience.
This of course is The Three Wishes. Again, the strong story images captivate children, and the droll humor makes it fun for the storyteller too. It is a very simple story to learn to tell, and was one of the first I picked up first telling it as a flannelboard and later as a freestanding story. For variations on the theme of using wishes foolishly, the Pitt e-text site is a great resource.
4. An old man has nothing to eat in his cabin. He goes hunting, taking his three dogs. Doesn't get anything. He returns to the cabin, sees a creature's tail along the wall, grabs it, cuts it off and cooks it. Later that night, hears the creature calling outside his cabin. Calls his dogs who run it off. Creature comes back, this time only two dogs come to chase it. Finally no dogs come and the old man faces the creature alone.
One of my vary favorite to tell for its spooky atmosphere and "jump" ending, Tailypo as been told in the mountains for years. And wonder of wonders, we can now see and hear the immortal storyteller Jackie Torrence tell the story online at Bookhive! Jackie passed away a few years ago but remains one of my favorite tellers. Her eyes do as much telling as her voice. For a discussion of various print versions of the tale, see Applit.
5. A Queen has 12 sons, wants a daughter. Promises a witch that she will give her the sons for a daughter. The girl is born, the King learns of his wife's promise and hides the sons in a faraway place. The girl grows up, is wandering in the forest, gets lost and comes upon a quaint cottage. She goes inside, and soon 12 young men come in--her brothers. They are not happy to see her. They into swans because of a spell the old witch put on them and the only way it can be broken is if the girl makes them each a shirt and does not speak until all twelve shirts are completed and the boys put them on. They fly away. The girl has many misfortunes, but makes the shirts. She is tied to a stake and about to be burned when the 12 swans fly in, grab the shirts from her and put them on. The last shirt is missing a sleeve, so that brother retained a wing when he returned to human form.
This is my favorite folktale from childhood, called the Twelve Wild Swans, The Six Wild Swans, The Swan Brothers, or simply Wild Swans. The most well known version of the story is by Hans Christian Andersen.