Now in theaters and on Disney+, Raya and the Last Dragon is Disney’s newest animated film and the company’s 59th animated feature. Unlike Disney’s Frozen and Tangled, Raya isn’t based on a fairy tale. Instead, it’s a new story set in a fantasy world inspired by Southeast Asian locales including Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and the Philippines.
Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. But when sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, those same monsters have returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the last dragon in order to finally stop the Druun for good. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than dragon magic to save the world—it’s going to take trust as well.
If you enjoyed the magic, mystery, and myth of Raya and the Last Dragon, here are 5 stories to read. Minor spoilers for the film ahead.
Southeast Asian Folklore
Raya is inspired by several Southeast Asian cultures including the Philippines. One of the largest collections of Filipino folklore comes from Mabel Cook Cole, who collected 61 tales while her husband was in the Philippines working for the Field Museum of Natural History. The stories are diverse and originate from several tribes, each with their own beliefs. Tinguian, for example, have a mythology that speaks of grand heroes with magic and how they helped form the world. Another tribe, the Mindanao, has stories about the spirits that are all around.
The Story of Dumalawi
One such Filipino hero is Dumalawi, son of Aponibolinayen, a woman who married the sun in Tinguian lore. This story is a great example of the rich magic of Filipino folklore as it contains betel-nuts who become people, spirits, and even a magic thread. This Intermediate tale can be read in just 7 minutes.
The Story of Gaygayoma who Lives up Above
This Tinguian story can be read in 9 minutes and is at the Intermediate level. The tale concerns Gaygayóma, the star maiden, and how she makes the rain that falls to the earth.
The Sun and the Moon
Many fairy tales and folktales from around the world concern how the sun and moon were formed, and in this tale, the Sun and the Moon are married. The Sun and the Moon is a tale from the Mindanao island in the Philippines and may be read in 2 minutes.
Dragon Fairy Tales and Folktales
Dragons are some of the most prominent beasts in folklore, and it’s no surprise that they’ve inspired Raya and the Last Dragon. According to the filmmakers, Raya’s dragons are based on the Phaya Nāga, divine serpent-like creatures who live in the water and have the ability to change form.
Fairytalez doesn’t have any stories with the Nāga just yet, but we do have tales of dragons both on the website and in our audio book app. The trope of “slaying the dragon” is often in fairy tales, but we’ve managed to find stories where dragons are friend, not foe.
The Bird with Nine Heads
A fairy tale from China, the Bird with Nine Heads features a friendship with a dragon. The fairy tale is an epic adventure with a kidnapped but clever princess, a sea-dragon, and magic pearls. If you’re looking for an exciting read that’s under 10 minutes, try this tale.
The Four Dragons
In the world of Raya and the Last Dragon, dragons were once guardian figures for humans, and ended up sacrificing themselves for humanity. This classic Chinese folktale offers the same themes, with four dragons whose gift of water saves the humans’ lives. It’s an Easy read that’s under 5 minutes.
Read The Four Dragons
We hope you enjoyed these tales. Fairytalez doesn’t have any folklore from Vietnam, Thailand, or Laos just yet, but we’re working on it!
Which of these stories was your favorite?