Pourquoi story  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A pourquoi story, also known as an origin story or an etiological tale, is a fictional narrative that explains why something is the way it is, for example why a snake has no legs, or why a tiger has stripes. Many legends and folk tales are pourquoi stories.


Pourquoi stories include:

  • The Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling, many of which give explanations for the origin of animals and their characteristics.
  • Australian Aboriginal dreamtime stories, such as the Rainbow Serpent.
  • Certain tall tales include pourquoi elements, such as Pecos Bill taming his horse, Widowmaker. The horse bucked and kicked so much that she dug out the Grand Canyon.
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh includes many pourquoi stories from Mesopotamian folklore: how the Beqa'a Valley was formed, why meat becomes rancid when left in the sun, and why snakes shed their skins while people (who are mortal) do not.
  • Origin stories, explaining how a comic book hero or heroine came to have their special characteristics.
  • Alamat, very loosely translated into "legend," are stories in Philippine Folk Literature which explain how things came to be. They normally involve people being transformed into animals and plants because of certain untoward habits they have. An example would be the Alamat of the Pineapple where a girl who is too lazy to look for things is transformed into a fruit with numerous "eyes."


"Pourquoi" means "why" in French.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Pourquoi story" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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