TRANSLATION Happily ever after... elsewhere

Julie Sullivan looks at classical endings of stories told in other languages.

A few years ago, SCBWI British Isles' own Chitra Soundar* had the idea to ask people on Twitter around the world how fairy tales began in their own languages.

Chitra found many fascinating alternatives to 'Once upon a time', ranging from the Tamil 'in that only place...' ஒரே ஒரு ஊரிலே... to, of course, 'in a galaxy far, far away', to 'in the first of times' noong unang panahon from the Philippines. Her research turned up so many variants and became so well known that the Guardian did an article about it.

Doesn't it sound intriguing to hear what the formula is in another language? 

I thought it would be interesting to try to find out how other cultures end a fairy tale. In English and many European languages, it's 'They lived happily ever after' or a near equivalent. But a few are more surprising. In French, a tale often ends with 'And they married and had many children' — ils vécurent heureux et eurent beaucoup d'enfants; in German, the classic ending is, 'And if they haven't died, they are still alive today' — und wenn sie nicht gestorben sind, dann leben sie noch heute.

The French title of A Wild Swan: And Other Tales means 'They lived happily, had many children...and then' 
Cover by Yuko Shimizu

An odd but common Russian ending to a story is: Grandfathers' grandfathers were there. They drank mead and beer, and it came to us. It flowed down our moustaches, but it didn't get into our mouths. (Деды дедов там были, мед и пиво пили, и до нас дошло, по усам текло, в рот не попало.) This odd visual appears in other Slavic languages too.


A rhyme is often used to tell the listeners that a story is over. The rhyme is more important than the meaning.


Dutch: Toen kwam en varkentje met en lange snuit 

en het verhaltje was uit. 

Then came a pig with a long snout

and the story was out (over)



Icelandic: Köttur úti í mýri 

setti upp á sig stýri

úti er ævintýri.


The cat in the mire

lost its steering wheel [its tail]

outside is an adventure



Georgian: ჭირი – იქა, 

ლხინი – აქა, 

ქატო – იქა, 

ფქვილი – აქა


Disaster here

feast there

bran here

flour there



Kurdish: Çîroka min çû diyaran, 

rehmet li dê û bavê guhdaran

My story has been revealed

Have mercy on the listeners' parents



Basque: Eta hala izan bazan, 

sartu dadila kalabazan eta atera dadila 

Donostia-ko plazan


And if so, 

put it in the pumpkin and let it come out 

in the town square of Donostia [or wherever the story is told].


Persian (which reads from right to left): ،قصه‌ی ما به سر رسید

.کلاغه به خونش نرسید


qesse-ye mâ be-sar resid

kalâghe be-khân(e)ash naresid


The story is over

The crow did not reach its home



Bengali: আমার কথাটি ফুরোলো    Āmāra kathāṭi phurōlō 

নটে গাছটি মুড়োলো                       naṭē gāchaṭi muṛōlō


My story is ended

the goat has eaten the spinach [down to the roots; none left]

Here are a few more ending formulas to spark your imagination!


Irish: Sin. Má tá bréag ann bíodh, mar ní mise a chum ná a cheap.

That's it. If there is a lie so be it, because I did not invent it or think of it.


Vietnamese: Họ sống hạnh phúc bên nhau đến răng long tóc bạc.

They lived happily together until their teeth turned grey.


Valencian [Spain] I conte contat

ja s'ha acabat


The story has been told, and now it's over.

Feature image: Logo by Jess Stockham

*You can read a Words and Pictures interview with Chitra here.


Julie Sullivan is a SCBWI volunteer and professional translator.

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