term (my spellcheck doesn't even recognize it yet) for the concept that neurological conditions like autism, ADHD, etc. are variations in the human genome, rather than "mistakes." Here is an excellent rundown on how the concept works.
I used neurodiversity for N, but today I also want to post some examples of traditional tales that handle mental illness. Part of the topic of representation is how these things are presented and handled, and while traditional tales are not usually very sensitive to them, there are a few interesting examples.
The tale of Ivar Ingimundarson
This old Icelandic story tells of a bard who loses the love of his life (she marries his brother in secret) and falls into depression. His king, who likes him a lot, tries to drag him out of it by offering all kinds of things - money, lands, a bride, etc., but nothing works. In the end, the king offers the only thing left: He sits down with Ivar every night, and listens to him talk. I love this story, because it shows the importance of listening, instead of simply trying to "fix things" for someone else.
(Read the story in The complete sagas of the Icelanders)
Yet another folktale collected from Pályuk Anna. A rich girl sleeps all the time, and is always too tired to live her life. Her father is worried about her, but doesn't know what to do - in the end, three sisters from a poor family volunteer to help, and by spending time with the girl, they figure out ways to keep her awake until she can go on with her life.
(I will include an English translation of this tale in my upcoming folktale collection)
The tiger's whiskers
I already mentioned this tale twice, but I am putting it on this list too, because it is often used by storytellers to illustrate how family members might deal with someone they love having PTSD.
(Read it in this book)
The white disk
This Maldivian folktale tells about a girl that cries every night, and her family is at a loss of how to cheer her up. They try kindness and all kinds of tricks, and the father gets angry and scolds her, but nothing stops her from being sad. One night her sister notices a glowing white disk above her bed, and she and their father try to figure out a way to break the spell.
(This story equates the "sadness" with the influence of a spirit, but it can also be read symbolically. Also I am including it because it starts with a very good description of how the girls "sadness" affects the rest of the family)
(Read it in Folk-tales of the Maldives)
Contest in repartee
This is not one story, but a folktale type, ATU 853, which seems to exist all around the world. A princess wants to marry a man who can defeat her in banter. Three brothers set out to try - the youngest one is mocked and bullied by his brothers for being "slow" and "simple." He keeps falling behind on the road, picking up useless objects like dead birds, rusty nails, etc.,which only earns him more mockery. But when they get to the princess, the "simpleton" boy floors everyone with his quick and witty answers, using the "useless" items as props, and wins her hand in the end. The story shows that seeing the world differently is not necessarily a bad thing.
(You can read a Norwegian version here, a Russian version here, and an Appalachian version here)
This is the title of the Russian version of the extremely popular folktale type ATU 513, the Extraordinary Helpers. In it, three brothers set out to win a princess whose father requires a flying ship. The youngest is mocked and left behind by his brothers for being a "fool," but he demonstrates traits the others don't: Kindness, patience, and trust. With it, she does not only win a flying ship, but also makes friends with people who have superpowers and become his companions.
There was an old Hungarian term used for mentally challenged people: "Good with others." I always liked it, because it referred to how, as long as the community supported them, they were just as "good" as anyone else.
(Read about the Russian tale here. I also included several version of this folktale type in my book about folktales and superpowers)
The boy who wanted to walk on the clouds
Yet another folktale from Pályuk Anna, about a boy who daydreams about walking on the clouds, and everyone labels him "lazy" and "good for nothing." After his mother dies, he sets out to make his dream come true, and achieves it by never showing fear in front of anyone.
(This story will also be included in my upcoming folktale collection)
There are many folk- and fairy tales about people labeled "fools" or "simpletons" who become heroes in the end. Which ones should I add to the list?