Alchemists: People who studied alchemy, the practice of trying to transform common materials into gold.
Balalaika: A triangle-shaped musical instrument with three strings that produces sounds similar to those of a mandolin.
Baron: A European nobleman; someone with wealth and power.
Billet: A short, thick piece of firewood. The little girl in “The Rose Tree” put her head on a billet.
Billy goats: Male goats. A female goat is known as a nanny goat.
Brahman: Someone of a high social class in India.
Brewery: A place for making ale, a drink similar to beer.
Brooch: A type of jewelry; an ornamental pin.
Carding comb: A tool used to brush wool. It is used during the process of spinning wool.
Chamberlain: A member of an emperor's court who advises him on a variety of matters. In the case of “The Emperor's New Clothes,” a key duty for the chamberlain was to help the emperor with his daily wardrobe changes and ensure that his wardrobe was kept up to date.
Cockerel: A young rooster, usually less than a year old.
Coffer: A small chest for holding valuables, such as gold and jewels, often elaborately decorated with paint and precious stones.
Common: Public land, like a park. In the story “Lazy Jack,” Jack and his mother lived on a common.
Courting: These days, we don't use the word courting very often; but at one time, it was commonly heard. In “The Three Sillies,” the gentleman comes to court the daughter, arriving each evening for dinner. He is wooing her and trying to gain her affections, so she will someday marry him.
Damask: A type of luxurious, fairly firm fabric used for everything from royal robes to regal curtains in the sultan's palace.
Dowry: The property a woman, or her family, gives a man when they are married. It might be land, money, treasures, or other valuables.
Dragoon: An adept soldier who has been trained to fight on horseback and on foot.
Fakir: A poor man who usually makes his money by begging. Fakirs often claim to be able to work miracles, which they will offer in exchange for something.
Fate: A force or power that predetermines events.
Fen: A marshy land, like a swamp.
Flax: A type of plant. Fibers from the stem are spun into linen thread.
Florin: A kind of coin used in Europe a long time ago.
Garret: This is the space just under the roof of a house. It is also called the attic.
Genie: A supernatural, magical being that can take human or animal form. They often have strong powers and are able to affect other humans and even the course of nature.
Grand vizier: A very important person in the royal family's government. He takes on many of the royal family's duties — including, in “The Princess and the Mouse,” meeting with the evil magician to find a solution to the mystery of the missing royalty. He is also responsible for managing other servants, meeting with visitors to the castle, and helping the royal family arrange their schedules.
Hand-mill: A machine used to grind things; for instance, a coffee mill is used to grind coffee beans. The hand-mill in “Why the Sea Is Salty” is a magic one that not only grinds but also seemingly creates food and drink out of thin air.
Hovel: A small hut, usually made of dried mud, and not really fit to live in.
Kettledrum: A special type of drum made of copper or brass with a parchment top. As the top is tightened or loosened, the sound of the drum changes.
Leper: Someone who has Hansen's disease, also known as leprosy. The king in “The Story of the Greek King and the Physician Douban” had leprosy. It is a very serious infectious disease that attacks the skin and muscles.
Lout: A clumsy, stupid person.
Lute: A stringed instrument, similar to a guitar. Its body is shaped like one half of a pear, and it has from six to thirteen strings (a guitar usually has just six strings).
Magpie: A member of the crow family, this bird is known for its noisy chattering. As a result, people who talk a lot are sometimes called magpies!
Marquis: Pronounced mar-key, he is a nobleman in a European country. He ranks just below a duke; a duke ranks just below a prince.
Marsh: Swampy, soft land.
Mermaid: An imaginary sea creature. A mermaid has the head and upper body of a person and the tail of a fish. Mermaids have appeared in many stories. Even William Shakespeare used a vision of a mermaid in his play A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Miller: A person who runs a mill. A mill is a building with machinery for crushing grain into flour or meal. The flour would be used to make breads and other baked goods.
Millstone: Large, usually round stones that are used to grind grain.
Miser: A person who is greedy and stingy and hoards money.
Mortar: A bowl for grinding things. For instance, nuts or seeds can be ground or pounded in a mortar. The mortar in “The Monkey — Crab War” is cut from the stump of a tree. It was made from a knot in the tree, which was then hollowed out to form a bowl.
Mosque: A house of worship used by Muslims.
Musketeer: A soldier who uses a musket. A musket is a gun commonly used before the invention of the rifle.
Nightingale: A type of thrush; thrushes are songbirds, usually with plain plumage. Nightingales are found in Europe, Asia, and North Africa. They are a medium brown color with a paler chest. They are famous and beloved for their beautiful song, which they usually sing at night.
Northern Lights: Also called aurora borealis, these lights are probably caused by electrical charges in the air. The Northern Lights look almost like colorful glittering streamers pouring down from the sky.
Persia: A big chunk of ancient Persia is now known as Iran, a country in the southwest area of Asia. However, ancient Persia was at times a very large and grand empire.
Persimmon: A type of fruit that grows on an ebony tree. The fruit, when ripe, is very sweet.
Pied piper: If a pied piper appeared at your door, you'd be looking at a person wearing patchwork clothes made from pieces of other clothing. And this patchworked person would be carrying a musical instrument called a pipe. A pipe is similar to a recorder or a clarinet in how it is held and played.
Polo: A game played on horseback by two teams, each made up of four players. The goal is to drive a ball through a goal, using a long-handled mallet.
Pottage: A type of thick soup or stew made with meat and vegetables.
Rushes: A type of plant that thrives in a wet environment, like a fen. The stems are very flexible, so they are used to make baskets and mats, or, as in the tale “Cap o' Rushes,” a concealing cloak.
Scepter: A highly decorated stick or rod that rulers carry, often at ceremonies.
Shah: Someone like a king.
Sheik: A Muslim religious leader or a leader of an Arab family or village.
Shrewd: Someone who is cunning and wily, or just plain smart!
Shrine: A place of worship, often holding a special object. In the story “The Book of Spells,” the special object is the angel.
Skein: A coil of thread or yarn.
Sprite: A type of fairy, goblin, elf, or pixie. Sprites can be good or bad.
Stile: Steps or rungs leading over a fence. While helpful to humans, stiles are supposed to remain a barrier to animals.
Sultan: Similar to a king, a sultan is the ruler of an Arabic kingdom.
Tablet: A flat, thin piece of stone with words carved into it.
Tankard: A large drinking cup with a handle. It often has a hinged lid as well.
Threshing floor: A floor or other area where grain is beaten out of its husk.
Trod: Walked on or crushed.
Troll: Trolls first appeared in Scandinavian folk stories. They are rather nasty creatures, prone to being ugly and cross-tempered. To complement these disagreeable features, trolls like to live in damp, slimy underground places!
Tundra: A flat, treeless plain in arctic regions — an ideal home for an evil Snow Queen who thrives in chilly climates!
Vermin: These are small animals, often thought to carry disease and to be a nuisance. There were vermin — rats and mice — in the garret in “Whittington and His Cat.”
Wanderlust: An irresistible urge or desire to travel about the world.
Wicket: A small door set within a larger door.