Tiny Doom recently shared three of her favorite spooky podcasts for binging or making a boring stretch of time go by faster. Now I’m sharing three of my current favorites. These podcasts all focus on telling classic stories in podcast form. So whether you need some family friendly listening, a bedtime story, or just a friendly voice to keep you company for a bit, you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy.
The Myths and Legends podcast is exactly what it sounds like: a podcast dedicated to telling myths and legends. The stories included range from the titular mythology and legendary tales to fairy tales, folklore, and the occasional literary fairy or folk tale. (That’s a story that is intended to sound like it came out of a storytelling tradition, but actually got its start as something that was written down rather than passed around through oral tradition.) They’re from all over the world and include stories that are nearly universally familiar and those that you may not have heard before.
A big part of the appeal for me is host Jason Weiser, who both provides background on the stories’ origins and rewrites them for the modern audience. Some of the rewriting just clarifies points, removes confusing subplots, or makes educated guesses at character motivations. There’s also a good deal of anachronisms, fourth wall breaking, and snark. These stories were created for a variety of different cultures and time periods and often reflect the traditions and values of where and when they came from. Having the characters point out the rampant sexism or horrible violence makes it more palatable and adds some extra fun. And to me, it’s in keeping with the storytelling traditions that most of these tales come from, where the storyteller would add embellishments or make changes to suit their own tastes or those of the audience.
Please note that while these are retellings of the original stories, they haven’t been stripped of scariness, violence, or death. On the contrary, you may learn that a fairy tale you always knew always knew as a pleasant bedtime story had much darker origins. Because of that, not every episode is kid-friendly. A few even have warnings at the front, particularly when it’s a story like Pinocchio that has a better-known version that is far tamer than the source. Consider listening on your own first and sharing it with the kids once you’re reasonably sure they won’t be traumatized.
Every episode also includes a Creature of the Week. This segment gives the creature’s name, origin, and description, which is usually pretty bizarre or outright ridiculous.
Recommended Episodes: “Episode 73 – Japanese Folklore: I Will Find You” is the story of a brave young woman who goes in search of her father and ends up battling a sea monster on a remote island. It’s one of my favorites so far.
If a lot of Greeks being really, really uncomfortable is more to your tastes, you may enjoy “Episode 65 – Oedipus: Motherboy.” (Yes, I did pick that one partially for the title.)
If you’d prefer Viking lore or something closer to Tiny Doom’s podcast recommendations, try “Episode 94 – Norse Legends: A Very Viking Christmas.” It has Christmas, Vikings, and a zombie.
Fictional is a podcast with the same host as Myths and Legends and pretty much the same format. The difference is that Fictional deals in retellings of literature rather than folklore. Of course, you can find many audio versions of classic literature out there, particularly those currently in the public domain. But Fictional is less a word for word rereading of the works it covers and more like a friend telling you the story from memory with a few embellishments here and there. What this does is strip the stories of some of the archaic language that makes them so difficult for some readers and lets the narrative itself take center stage. Consider it an introduction to the classics, one where you can track down the original if you enjoy the retelling and feel more knowledgeable about it if you’re content with the condensed version.
Fictional is a bit less snarky than Myths and Legends, though it still finds time to poke fun at Sherlock Holmes, Dante Alighieri, and their high opinions of themselves in their respective stories. It also doesn’t cut back on death and gore, so though it’s more obvious this time around, not all episodes are kid-friendly.
In place of Creature of the Week, Fictional has Best of the Worst, a one per episode sampling of truly terrible characters, usually from the world of superhero comics.
Recommended Episodes: The episode “Phillip K. Dick: Look Alive” is my favorite so far. It retells the author’s short story “The Hanging Stranger,” about a man who suspects that something might be off in his idyllic 1950s town when he discovers a dead body hanging from a lamppost and his fellow citizens seem disturbingly okay with it. If eldritch horror is more your jam, there’s a two part retelling of “Call of Cthulhu.”
I did promise you some kid-friendly listening, and this is it. Circle Round is designed for families to listen together. Like Myths and Legends, it retells fairy tales and folklore from around the world. They’re presented with narration and actors playing the various parts, usually TV stars or other celebrities. It’s very kid focused, but still provides great stories for all ages to relax with.
Recommended Episodes: “The Friendship Orchard” is a story of two best friends who discover a treasure and each want the other to have it. “Ashes for Sale” is about a rich man, a poor man, and a lesson about the value of generosity.
Do you have a favorite storytelling podcast we missed? Let us know about it in the comments!