Note: Today, I'm talking about physical disabilities. Neurodiversity and mental illness will come up later on.
(I said it once and I am saying it again: Disability is also very often symbolic in traditional stories, rather than a representation of an actual physical condition. With that said, I do believe there is no reason why we couldn't have both kinds)
Let's see some examples:
The king's daughter who lost her hair
A beautiful Akamba folktale about a princess who goes bald, and a hero that has to bring her hair from a Magic Hair Tree at the end of the world. While the baldness gets fixed in the end, the male hero has his own condition: He limps, and therefore is slower than the other suitors setting out on the quest - but also more persistent and kind, and all that helps him succeed in the end.
(Read the story in African folktales)
The daughter of the shaman king
This is a folktale from Hungarian-Ukrainian storyteller Pályuk Anna. It tells about a princess who doesn't have feet and therefore can't walk - even her father the táltos king can't cure her. Eventually, however, she falls in love with the young king of the Cloud Kingdom, and learns to fly instead of walking...
(This story has never been published in English, but it will be included in my upcoming book of folktales soon! Actually, several characters in Pályuk's tales have different forms of physical disabilities - dragonslayers with one hand, princesses with no feet -, and they succeed without "fixing" any of them)
Tarva the Storyteller
A very well known Mongolian legend about how stories came into the world. A little boy is left to die during an epidemic, and as his soul travels to the Underworld, he is rewarded for his loyalty with a chance to pick a treasure. He pick stories, but when he returns to his body, his eyes are gone. Tarva the Blind becomes the most famous storyteller of the Mongols.
(Read the tale in this book among others)
Another tale about a famously talented blind storyteller, one that gets lured into a court of ghosts to sing his songs, until his friend a priest rescues him from his fate.
A very famous Japanese legend.
(Read it online here)
(Source of the picture here)
The famous seer of the Odyssey, Teiresias lost his vision the same day he gained his ability to see the future. He shows up quite often in Greek mythology. We'll also see him later in this Challenge, since he lives part of his life as a woman.
(Read about him here)
Hephaestus and Wayland
The image of the "limping blacksmith" is a very common one in Indo-European mythology. In Greek myth, Hephaestus creates treasures for the Greek gods, while in Norse myth, Völundr (Wayland) is known as a famous smith. The latter is crippled by a king who wants to keep him as a slave and takes horrible revenge; his son is one of the most famous knights in German legends.
(Read about the Thidrek saga, including Wayland and his son, here)
Ivar the Boneless
Okay, so he was technically a historical person, but his life has passed into Norse legend. There is some speculation around whether he was actually crippled, lame, or had some genetic condition that made his bones brittle - but he is still described as a mighty warrior and leader.
(Read about him here)
According to Hungarian folklore, Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, is known as Sánta Kata (Limping Kate).
(Read my #FolkloreThursday post about her here)
Are there any other stories that should be included on this list? Let me know in the comments!