Storybook Series

The storybook series is a collection of folk tales, legends, and fairy tales. Stories are part of cultural heritage, too. And just like buildings, statues, languages and customs, they can be lost.

If for any reason a country loses its normality for one or two generations – because of war or a refugee crisis, for example – they can also lose the stories that were part of their culture for millennia. That’s because the typical conveyance of such stories is oral, with grandparents and parents telling them to their children.

Everywhere. Young or old, from Ice Age caves to Hollywood, human beings need stories.

ARCH International’s Storybook Series shares selected tales from the countries where we have our projects. But more than that, we want to encourage people to remember and record the favorite stories of their communities for all of us to enjoy.

Fairy Tales from the Silk Road

ARCH INTERNATIONAL Event at the Embassy of Afghanistan: Live Storytelling on Canvas: Unique Experience for Families


July 15th


The Embassy of Afghanistan together with the Alliance for the Restoration of Cultural Heritage (ARCH) brings the tradition of storytelling to life in a unique experience for parents and their children. Children become storytellers inspired by Musiqar: The Magical Bird, an ancient Afghan tale that traveled on the Silk Road.

The story was told by visual means (i.e. paper cut-outs that can be glued to a long canvas), consisting of contemporary children’s illustrations by artist Murat Palta and additional material sourced from the iconic imagery that comes from the region that is Afghanistan today, such as Islamic geometric patterns or figures from traditional miniature painting.

Based on the age of the children, groups were formed creating a story together. Storytellers from the region, and local teachers were present for guidance. ARCH International partnered with The Global Sleepover, an organization who coordinates summer camps on intercultural learning, and produces interactive e-books for children.
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The idea was: the main plot of one story served as guidance, however, it is not expected that the story is accurately re-told. Rather it is hoped that just like the game whisper-down-the-lane it is transformed into something new, with converging storylines and further imaginative details.

The embassy opened its doors to welcome families interested in interactive creative experience that went hand in hand with ARCH International’s mission to promote the cultural heritage of countries in conflict zones. It was an effort to preserve thousands of years of art, culture, and history.
Parents were given a copy of the book, Musiqar: The Magical Bird to take home, and were invited to take sheets with the illustrations home. (In case their children were inspired to craft another story at home, based on the same story elements). It was a creative re-shuffling of ideas.

The Carpet Weaver Girl & the Prince

Once upon a time in the city of Ghazni there lived a handsome young prince named Bahram. Prince Bahram liked to disguise himself as an ordinary citizen, sneak out of his palace and roam around the city to hear what people were saying and to understand what life was really like for his subjects. He knew that his father’s advisors always painted a rosy picture, telling him that everything was wonderful and everyone was happy. In his case, too, as soon as people discovered who he was, they became afraid to tell him bad news and would instead flatter him by telling him how much everyone loved his father. But by mingling anonymously in the crowd, he could get a true picture of how the average people lived, whether they had enough food for their families, and what they thought of their ruler.


Afghan fairytale told by Hamid Naweed, illustrations by Murat Palta.

One day, on a gloomy cloudy late afternoon, an elderly hunter and his granddaughter went out into the meadows hoping to find some roots or berries to eat, or a wild rabbit or a bird to catch, but they had no luck. After hours of searching, the old hunter decided to give up and go home before it got dark. But just then Healla, the hunter’s granddaughter, gave an excited shout and pointed to the sky:
“Look! Grandfather, what is that beautiful bright thing flying over the fields?”
. . .

To read the full story, support our work by purchasing the children’s book. Below you can find a selection of excerpts of the book’s full page illustrations by artist Murat Palta:

Event at the Smithsonian Sackler Gallery

Reading Musiqar in Dari and English with Atia Jewayni and Sophia Schultz

Event coordinated with Turquoise Mountain

August 2016

Pictures and Videos taken by Khatol Shahnan 

Download Musiqar Coloring Sheet

Coloring Sheet Storybookseries

Meet one of our illustrators, Charlotte Benard

Born August 1924 in the historic ninth district of Vienna, Austria. When she was two years old, her parents opened a restaurant in a popular resort town and wine drinking area on the outskirts of Vienna, where little Charlotte became the coddled pet of the guests. She was not a shy child and loved the attention. It was nice to have those good years to remember, because very dark times of dictatorship and war were soon to follow. Charlotte’s life’s goal was to become an artist, she was good at drawing and painting. She loved the fountains outside the Hofburg and dreamed of being a sculptor. She applied to the Academy of Arts and was accepted, but students were required to first fulfill military service (support services in the case of young women) for the Nazi army, which she refused to do. After the war she fell in love with and married an American soldier, with whom she lived in Salzburg, New Orleans, Munich and Albuquerque. In Vienna and Munich, she witnessed the rebuilding of cities that had been severely damaged by the war, and one of the tiles on the roof of St. Stephen belongs to her – sponsoring a tile was part of the fundraising drive for the restoration of the ancient cathedral. Later she worked for the McGeorge School of Law’s University of the Pacific in Salzburg and Budapest. She is completing a book about the experience of growing up during the totalitarian era of a country and its decline into genocide and war, titled The Dictator’s Promise.

“During the war years I learned that you can live without bread but you can’t live without hope. And it might sound strange, but the great age of Vienna with its layers of history from the Middle Ages and earlier, gave us hope that our country would survive this.”