Examples of Therapeutic Stories

Little Green Riding Hood

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Little Green Riding Hood

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Crystal who wore a hood just like Little Red Riding Hood, except Crystal's hood was green. One summer day, Crystal decided to go to her Grandma's house to bring her cookies she had baked.

Grandma lived alone in a house with big windows. Because Crystal had not called to let her know she was coming to visit, Grandma had left to go to the grocery store. While Grandma was out of her house, a wolf broke in. He was going to steal everything in sight, but when he heard Crystal at the door, the wolf got other ideas. He decided to pretend he was Grandma. He put on Grandma's nightgown and got under the covers of her bed. The wolf had heard the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Having noticed that Crystal was wearing a green hood, he believed that she would say, "Oh, what big ears you have, Grandma," when she walked in the bedroom and saw him.

However, Crystal was not Little Red Riding Hood. She entered the bedroom, took one look at the figure in the bed, and demanded, "Where's Grandma?"

"I'm Grandma," whispered the Wolf trying to disguise his voice. "I've been feeling sick this morning, so I stayed in bed."

"Nooooo, you're not Grandma," Crystal said firmly. "You're a wolf!"

"How did you know I wasn't Grandma?" the Wolf asked. "This disguise fooled a girl your age who was dressed in red."

"You must think I'm stupid; I can certainly tell the difference between my grandmother and a wolf," Crystal yelled, turning around and running as fast as she could to get away from the wolf before he could hurt her.

Little Green Riding Hood soon found Grandma at the grocery store. "Did you know that there is a wolf in your house?" Crystal asked her grandmother, grabbing her hand to get her attention. "He was in your bed, with your nightgown on and he tried to get me to believe he was you," she added.

"You're kidding me?" Grandma said with a frown, "Let's get the police."

So Grandma and Crystal called 911 and soon were riding in a police car to Grandma's house. The wolf was still inside, packing the things he wanted to steal into a pillowcase. The police arrested the wolf, charging him with trespassing, breaking and entering, robbery and impersonating a grandmother.

Crystal received an award from the police for helping capture the wolf, and the police hired her to teach classes to women who can't tell the difference between a wolf and a person who loves you.

Nancy Davis, Ph.D.
From: Therapeutic Stories that Teach and Heal - Modern Day Fairy Tales

Princess And the Snake

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The Princess and the Snake

Once upon a time there lived a princess who had grown up in a castle, sheltered from the world. Now, it's hard to say whether this princess was sheltered because she had never seen much of the world or if her mind created a wall around her because of the scary things that happened during her childhood. Nevertheless, although the body of the princess grew into an adult, she interacted with the world much like she did when she was three or four year’s old, in an innocent and trusting way.

Now, not far from the castle, although it could have been a million miles away, a large and poisonous snake lived in the marshes. Although most snakes live boring and predictable lives, this snake had big dreams, and often fantasized about how it would be to marry a princess. One day, while slithering close to the edge of the marsh looking for prey, the snake happened upon a royal parade. Riding in a golden carriage, the princess waved happily to the cheering crowd. Immediately interested, the snake watched the parade intently; he was drawn to the beauty of the princess and to her soft air of innocence. This was the princess of his dreams.

The snake's presence was soon noticed by the crowd of people watching the parade. Because most people are afraid of snakes, the crowd began to panic, running in every direction. Seeing the turmoil of the crowd, the golden carriage quickly returned to the safety of the castle walls.

Although he had wanted to spend more time watching the princess, if the snake could smile, the screams of the crowd would have made him smile. The snake enjoyed scaring the crowd. He was energized by fear and the screams were like applause to the snake. But he also understood that the princess would run in terror from a snake, especially because he sensed that she needed, at some deep level, to feel safe and protected by those around her. So, for a time, the snake only fantasized about the princess and what it would be like if she were his.

One day, while warming himself in the sun, the snake reviewed his fantasy about the princess. Suddenly a chameleon darted close to his head to evade a hungry hawk. The snake quickly switched from his day dream to focused attention. He observed the chameleon moving under a leaf, and changing colors so that in blending with the green around him, his presence went unnoticed.

The snake quickly understood how the skills of the chameleon could help him move his fantasy into reality. "Teach me how to change colors so no one will notice who I am," the snake demanded of the chameleon. "I promise I won't hurt you." The chameleon was terrified of the snake, as well he should have been, but realized the snake had watched him and could no longer be fooled by his protective color changes. Hoping to satisfy the snake and get away quickly, the chameleon taught the snake all he knew about the disguises that enabled him to appear to be what he was not. After learning all the chameleon's secrets, rather than thanking him, the snake devoured the lizard, believing that this would give him even greater power. He did not keep promises; he was, after all, a snake.

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Taffy and the Invisible Magic Bandage

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Taffy and the Invisible Magic Bandage

Once upon a time there was a puppy named Taffy. Taffy lived with her family and loved to play all day long. She wasn't afraid of much at all and everyone said that she was an adventuresome puppy. Taffy often went exploring all around her home, looking under rocks and barking at bugs and spiders. She especially loved the evening when the sun went down, because she could chase lightning bugs and howl at the moon with the other animals of the night.

One day Taffy went on a journey into the deep woods, and when she returned she was different from the old Taffy. She was afraid to go to sleep and afraid to be away from her family. She had nightmares and shook with fear when anyone mentioned the idea of looking under rocks or going out alone at night. She often got stomach aches, and her head hurt a lot, too.

Now her family noticed that Taffy had not been the same since her journey into the deep woods, and they asked the puppy to tell them why she had changed. But Taffy was unable to talk about her journey, because while she was in the woods she had gotten an invisible magic bandage over her mouth and was told that if she removed it, she would disappear. Taffy must have really been afraid that she would disappear, because she left the bandage in place, even though everyone around her kept asking her why she was acting so differently. It especially made Taffy afraid when they asked her questions, because she was sure that if the bandage came off surely she would disappear. When the subject of the deep woods came up she paced and ran around in circles because of all the feelings that she had inside. She turned her back on those who questioned her and felt like she was sick to her stomach.

One day Taffy was stuck by a thorn, and she cried in pain. Her family knew that she had been in the thorn bushes and they asked her where she hurt, but the invisible magic bandage kept her from telling them. Those around her tried guessing: "Is it in your leg?" "Is it in your front paw?" "Is it in your ear?" But no one could find out where the thorn was, and it continued to hurt the puppy more and more. Taffy knew it was in her tail, and she couldn't get it out by herself. Her family finally got very upset with Taffy and told her that she must tell them where the thorn was so that they could help her. But Taffy remained silent. She still had the invisible magic bandage in place and she was more afraid to take it off than she was to keep the thorn in her tail.

One day, one of the other dogs, a mean old mutt named Spot, began to bully Taffy. "I'll bet you don't even know how to swim," he said in a nasty way. "Of all the dogs in the world, you're probably the only one who was ever born who doesn't know what to do in the water. Ha!" On and on went Spot, teasing and poking fun at Taffy, until Taffy began to realize that the old dog was just talking to hear himself talk.

Going to the edge of the water (and more than just a little bit scared), Taffy waded in, moved her paws and her body, and went quickly across the pond. She could swim. The old dog had tried to trick her, but Taffy understood that children can figure out when they are being tricked. Taffy had found out that she did have the power to figure out the difference between a lie and the truth.

After her experience with Spot, Taffy began to wonder about the invisible magic bandage. She began to realize that she had been tricked into thinking that she must never remove it. So Taffy raised her paw to her mouth. Carefully she pulled at it, and it hurt a little as it came off, but Taffy did not disappear. With a great feeling of relief at being rid of the bandage, she ran home and told her family about it. Then she told them where the thorn had been stuck in her tail and asked their help in removing it. She'd had the thorn in her tail for so long that it hurt a little as it was being removed, but she felt relief once it was out.

Soon after that, Taffy went back to being her old self, chasing after lightning bugs and staying up at night. She found that it was easier to sleep; she stopped having nightmares and wasn't afraid to be alone anymore.

And to make sure that she never got an invisible magic bandage again, Taffy told everyone all about the journey into the deep woods and how afraid she had been to talk about it. And the more she told the truth the safer and more powerful she felt, because Taffy had discovered that the invisible magic bandage was not magic at all - it was only there to keep her quiet. Taffy had learned a lesson that she would always remember: talking to trusted adults who protect children about her journey into the deep woods, helped her to feel powerful and secure.

Nancy Davis, Ph.D.
Karen Custer L.C.S.W.-C

The Burned Tree

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The Burned Tree

Once upon a time there was a tree in the forest that didn't look green and alive like other trees. It looked as if it had been struck by lightning and had stopped growing - like someone had come and cut its branches back to stubs. Most of the trees in that part of the forest thought that it was dead, because some trees are able to stand long after the life has gone out of them. But they were wrong, because deep down inside, this tree was alive. It just didn't know how to grow and develop into a beautiful tree with leaves as the other trees had done, because it had been hit by lightning and badly burned. Sometimes after being burned a tree goes into shock and gives up the will to grow and to live and to be like other trees. And sometimes the shock of the lightning and the storms makes a tree believe that it can't grow and that it has to stay the same, looking burned and ugly and dead.

One day a beaver came along and, thinking that this tree was dead began to chew on it.

"Hey! Ow!" yelled the tree.

Startled, the beaver looked around and exclaimed, "Who's there? Who's talking to me?"

"It's ME!" said the tree. "You're hurting me! Quit biting me!"

"I can't believe it!" said the beaver. "You didn't look alive. You looked deader than a doornail. You looked burned and pitiful. Why, your branches are broken and you don't even have any leaves. Now, I'm a pretty responsible beaver and I don't cut down live trees, because I'd feel bad about that. I just figured you were dead."

"I'm NOT dead," said the tree. "I'm not even sick."

The beaver gave her a puzzled look. "Well, if you're not dead and you're not sick, why do you look so awful?"

Sadly the little tree replied, "I don't know how to grow. I don't know how to get leaves. I don't know how to look alive again, because the lightning hit me so many times and there have been many storms in my life that I lost the knowledge about how to grow."

The beaver, which had much experience with trees, decided to help, and explained that she must first remove the burned ends of the limbs. Climbing in and out of the branches, she chewed away at the burned ends until all the dead parts were gone and new life could start growing. The tree was surprised that it hardly hurt at all. Next the beaver found some special fertilizer for trees and put it all around the trunk. She made sure that the tree got all the sunshine and water it needed. In a very short time the little tree discovered that it DID know how to grow, and it DID know how to develop, and it DID know how to look beautiful and full of green leaves just like the other trees. It began to sprout new leaves and to grow and to develop, and before long there was no sign that it had ever been hit by lightning or burned. The tree and the beaver became very close friends after that.

Because the beaver had helped the tree grow to be so beautiful and healthy, the tree decided to do something special for the beaver. She asked the beaver to carve a sign about their friendship. It was placed in front of the tree so that everyone who passed would realize just how much difference a trusted friend can make in the way your life goes.

By Nancy Davis, Ph.D.
© 1988
In Therapeutic Stories to Heal Abused Children; Stories to Empower & Treat the Symptoms of Child Abuse and other Traumatic Experiences


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Once upon a time in a town not far away there lived a big furry dog. This dog's life was a very happy one. He lived with a family that loved dogs; he always had lots of food to eat and big juicy bones on special occasions. The family named their dog Thor, because they wanted him to scare away burglars and be fierce. But Thor was a gentle and loving dog who spent most of his time running in his yard, where he was happy to chase squirrels or sleep in the shade. The people next door also had a dog that they had named Critter. Critter had been a part of Thor's life for a long, long time. Each morning Thor looked forward to going to the fence and running up and down its length with Critter on the other side. They barked at each other, panted and whined together, and even sometimes were able to play in each other's yards. Critter was so much a part of Thor's life that it seemed natural that he would always be there at the fence waiting to greet him.

One morning when Thor ran to the fence as he usually did, something was different: Critter did not appear. Thor spent all day waiting and watching by the fence with a sadder and sadder look on his face. Still there was no Critter. Now Thor's owners understood that Critter had died, but they did not know how to make Thor understand what had happened. Finally they led Thor to the next yard to view Critter before he was buried. Thor sniffed and then began to whine; he knew then that Critter was gone.

But knowing didn't stop his pain. Thor got a pain in his heart that grew and grew. He refused to eat and stopped chasing squirrels. Every time he glanced at the fence Thor would be reminded that Critter was gone, and a big tear would roll from his eye. His owners tried to interest him in new toys, in walks or in fancy bones, but Thor would not be comforted.

One day as Thor glanced at the fence next door, feeling again his sorrow, a young puppy ran across the yard. Thor was horrified. How dare these people think that Critter could be replaced?? Determined that he would not pay any attention to the newcomer, he curled up in the shade of an old tree and fell into a deep and troubled sleep.

As Thor slept, Critter came in a special dream to talk to his heart.

"You are hurting because you miss me, and you miss me because you've been looking for me in the wrong place. Don't look for me on the outside; I'm here in your heart."

Listening to the words of his friend, Thor began to feel a fullness in his heart that he had never felt before, a fullness that hurt and felt good at the same time. And it was in this dream that Thor made his heart big enough for the two of them. After that, Critter and Thor talked for a long time in the way those who love each other talk.

When he awoke, Thor stretched and yawned, and suddenly noticed the puppy staring longingly at him through the fence. As he looked back at the little dog, Thor noticed a new feeling growing inside him. He sat there, thinking again of his dream, letting its special message be clear to his heart. Then, slowly, Thor walked across the yard. And with a greeting that dogs clearly understand, Thor leaned through the fence and licked the furry head of the puppy.

"I once knew a dog named Critter," Thor told the puppy. And as he said these words, he felt Critter smile.

By Nancy Davis, Ph.D.; Karen Custer, LCSW-C
In Therapeutic Stories to Heal Abused Children; Stories to Help with Death, Loss, or Illness