CommonLit’s legends, myths, and fables help students explore universal themes in Spanish!
Reading legends, myths, and fables is a great way for students to explore universal themes. These classic stories help students build background knowledge, make connections to the world around them, and answer timeless questions!
Here is a great set of legends, myths, and fables in Spanish from CommonLit for grades 3–8. These stories teach students important life lessons and help them learn about traditions from around the world.
“¿Por qué llueve?” by Yesenia Soledad Méndez de la Cruz (3rd Grade)
This Chontal Maya myth, recorded by a young indigenous author, tells the story of the origin of the rain. An old woman in the sky gathers the souls of all the children who died and those who had not yet been born, and she gives them each an eggshell to use to water the world’s plants. The mischievous children take too much water from the old woman, and when she chases them, they spill all of the water in their eggshells, making it rain.
Help students make connections by watching the video “¡Lluvia, lluvia! Leyenda argentina” under the “Related Media” tab. This video tells the Argentine version of the myth. After watching the video, have students compare and contrast the characters, setting, and plot of the two stories.
“La cebra y la avispa” by Clare Mishica (3rd Grade)
In this fable, a zebra finds a wasp trapped in a spider web. Wasp convinces Zebra to set her free, with the promise that she will one day return the favor. Wasp keeps her promise and saves Zebra from a lion, proving that you never know when you might need someone else’s help.
While students read, have them follow the annotation task, which asks them to take notes on how Wasp asks Zebra for help. After reading, students can use their notes to discuss how Wasp was able to convince Zebra that she could actually help him, despite her small size.
“La leyenda del maíz” by Anonymous (4th Grade)
This legend describes how the god Quetzalcoátl brought corn to the Aztecs. When his people complain that they only have meat and roots to eat, Quetzalcoátl is determined to help. He transforms himself into an ant to traverse the mountains, where the ancient gods had hidden the corn. Quetzalcoátl takes a single grain back to his people, who use the corn they grow to transform their society.
After reading, have students make text-to-self connections. Ask Discussion Question 1, “¿Por qué el maíz era tan importante para los aztecas? ¿En tu familia también es un alimento importante? ¿Qué alimentos consumes que estén hechos de maíz?” In English, the question is, “Why was corn so important to the Aztecs? Is corn an important food in your family? What foods do you eat that are made from corn?”
“El león y el ratón” by Aesop (4th Grade)
In this classic fable, a shy little mouse accidentally wakes a lion up from his nap. The mouse begs the lion not to kill him and promises that one day he will pay the lion back. Later, the mouse helps the lion escape from a hunter’s trap, and proves that even a tiny mouse can help a formidable lion.
After reading, have students discuss how the moral of the story applies to their own lives. Ask Discussion Question 1, “En la fábula, el león se burla del ratón por ser diferente a él y tener una apariencia más débil. ¿Por qué es importante respetar a los demás sin importar que sean diferentes?” In English, the question is, “In the fable, the lion mocks the mouse for being different from him and having a weaker appearance. Why is it important to respect others no matter what their differences are?”
“Queso para la cena” by Judy Goldman (5th Grade)
In this fable, a rabbit is cornered by a hungry coyote and must find a way to escape. The rabbit convinces the coyote that there is a big wheel of cheese at the bottom of the lake that he could eat instead. When the coyote swims to get the cheese, he realizes that it was only the reflection of the moon, and the clever rabbit has disappeared.
As students read, have them follow the annotation task, which asks them to take notes on the decisions the characters make. After reading, students can use their notes to analyze the characters’ motivations and discuss the lesson they learned from the rabbit’s actions.
“La llorona” by Joe Hayes (6th Grade)
In this spooky myth from Mexico, beautiful Maria is determined to marry the most handsome man in the world. She marries an attractive rancher, but when he does not pay attention to her, she angrily throws their children into a river. The elders who tell the story today warn children to watch out for La Llorona, the crying woman who might mistake them for her own children.
Consider turning on Guided Reading Mode to ensure students understand Maria’s feelings and actions. Guided Reading Mode chunks the text into smaller pieces with a comprehension question after each section. Students must answer each comprehension question correctly to reveal the next chunk of text. Guided Reading Mode is a great way to help students monitor their own comprehension as they read!
“La leyenda del Sol y la Luna” by Anonymous (6th Grade)
In this legend from Teotihuacan, one of the largest pre-Hispanic cities in Mesoamerica, the gods come together to decide how to illuminate the globe. They decide that Nanahuatzin, a quiet and humble god, will shine as the sun, while Tecuciztécatl, an arrogant god, will appear as the moon.
After reading, have students discuss how legends help them understand other cultures. Ask Discussion Question 1, “En tu opinión, ¿las leyendas reflejan la forma de pensar y de vivir de las diferentes civilizaciones? ¿Por qué? ¿Qué aspectos de la cultura teotihuacana podría reflejar la leyenda del Sol y la Luna?” In English, the question is, “In your opinion, do legends reflect the way of thinking and living of different civilizations? Why? What aspects of Teotihuacan culture could the legend of the Sun and the Moon reflect?”
“La calavera burlona” by Lula Delacre (6th Grade)
According to this legend from the Dominican Republic, there was once a human skull hidden in a niche in a wall surrounding a convent in Santo Domingo. One day, terrified villagers began to hear the skull moving and laughing. A brave young man, Abad, was determined to figure out why the skull was making noise. When he pulled the skull out of the niche, he found a group of mice inside of it, solving the mystery.
While students read, have them follow the annotation task, which asks them to underline details that show how different characters react when they hear the story of the skull. After reading, students can discuss how these details build tension throughout the story until brave Abad solves the mystery.
“Cómo nació el arcoíris” by Lulu Delacre (6th Grade)
In this Zapotec myth, the powerful god of lightning, Cosijogui, unleashes a terrifying storm. The frightened people on the ground beg the god Pitao, the Great Breath, to help them calm the storm. Pitao summons the god of the Sun, the kind and gentle Gabicha. Cosijogui realizes his power is not as great at Gabicha’s, so he clears the storm and creates a rainbow as a bridge between Gabicha and the people on the ground.
After reading, have students watch the video “¿Por qué se forma el arcoíris?” under the “Related Media” tab. Have students discuss the differences between the scientific explanation of how rainbows form and the explanation in the myth. Then, have students discuss why they think ancient civilizations told stories to explain the origins of natural phenomena. Ask, “How did these myths help people understand the world around them?”
“Casiel y los siete sabios” by Esther Alvarado (7th Grade)
In this fable, a king tells seven wise men they must travel the country to teach villagers to read and write. The wise men are prejudiced against the villagers, who they believe are ignorant and incapable of learning. When the men set off on their journey, they quickly get lost because they have never learned basic survival skills. A young boy from a nearby village, Casiel, helps the men and shows them how they can all learn together.
After reading, lead a discussion to help students make connections between the text and their own experiences. Ask Discussion Question 2, “¿Por qué es importante tener disposición para aprender cosas nuevas todos los días y evitar los prejuicios? In English, the question is, “Why is it important to be willing to learn new things every day and avoid prejudice?”
“La historia del jorobado” by Jordi Sierra (8th Grade)
In this folktale, a tailor is amazed by a hunchback’s musical prowess and invites the man to dinner with him and his wife. At dinner, the hunchback accidentally swallows a thorn and dies. The tailor takes the body to a doctor, which kicks off a series of humorous events in which various people in town believe they have killed the man and try to confess to the murder.
As students read, have them follow the annotation task, which asks them to take notes on what the characters do about the hunchback throughout the story. After reading, students can use their notes to discuss what the different characters’ actions reveal about human nature.
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