Story Blocks

Here is a classic toy that serves as an excellent medium for fables. All six sides of these blocks make a story. In the simplest sets, there are twelve cubes, and they form six different rectangular pictures in four rows of three blocks. More complicated sets increase the number of blocks, develop patterns that are more complex than a simple rectangle, and use blocks that are rectangles rather than squares. The result, seen in three dimensions, can be a construction like this:

Enjoy them all!


1920?   Set of 20 six-sided picture cubes illustrating fables.  



1950?     Set of 20 six-sided picture cubes illustrating fables.  Jeujura.  Slightly larger than 1½" on each cube's side.   TH; GA; WL; OF; MM; and FC.  In the original box.   €9.99 from ptitoys2008 through Ebay, June, '21.

Here is another lovely and well-used set of story blocks, complete with five complete pictures to work from.  Jeujura is still making wooden toys today after something like a century of productivity.  The artist cleverly works the chicken, pig, and cow into the picture for MM.  I think the artist finds GA’s ant friendlier than La Fontaine does!

1980? Chinese story-blocks #1


1980? Chinese story-blocks #2, including WC, "The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing," FG, "The Raven and the Swan," "The Cat and the Fox," "The War Horse and the Ass." One extra set.

I found this second set, to my great surprise, in the toy department of a Singapore department store. It cost $3.35! The designs are more symmetrical--and a little less wild--than those in Set #1. The craftsmanship is again fine. Click on the box to see FG close up.


 1980?   Chinese story‑blocks, including FG, "The Raven and the Swans," WC, "The Wolf in Sheep's Clothing," "The Cat and the Fox," "The War Horse and the Ass."&nbs

This set of 5x4 blocks is similar to the two above, but this set always turns out to be rectangular.  Several images are almost identical, but here the image is rectangular.  The craftsmanship is again fine!  Click on the image here to look at all six pictures.

1981? Jeu de Cubes artistiques en couleurs: Fables de La Fontaine.  Made in France.  Paris: Jouets Vera: Éditions Vera.  €40.50 from Alain Camus, Gerzat, France, through eBay, July, '04.    

All the pictures here are 5 x 5.  TH, GA, FC, FS, OF, MM.  All six pictures are five cubes by five cubes.  The six scenes are coordinated:  get one and you have the key to getting them all.  Each of the six completed scenes is pictured on the paper box cover.

1982? Chinese story-blocks of Mercury and the Woodman. Salamanca, July, '86.

All six pictures are three cubes by four cubes. The six scenes are coordinated: get one and you have the key to getting them all.


1985? Chinese story-blocks of "Race of Tortoise & Rabbit." Chinatown, Yokohama, July, '96.

All six pictures are three cubes by four cubes. The six scenes are coordinated: get one and you have the key to getting them all. The six pictures are on the paper cover. In this search, the surprises never cease to amaze me. Shoji and I found this on a random dip into Chinatown!  Click on the image to see all six images.

1980? Chinese Picture Cubes "Aesop's Fables." T 303. Made in China. $9.50 from Sally Cook, Renfrew, Ontario, Canada, through Ebay, Jan., '00.

This smaller set has nine blocks in a square paper box, with separate pictures for four of the six images. This is definitely a "cute" rendition of the fable of the "The Stag and His Antlers." The six images are numbered. In 1, the young deer gazes at the side of a pool at his image in the water and especially at his small horns. In 2, a bird in a tree is telling him something and may be pointing. In 3, the deer is visibly weeping as it looks back at one of its hind legs while it seems to stand in a puddle. Hmmm… In 4 it looks up to see a lion (whose face looks more like that of a walrus!) perched in the mountains. In 5 its little horns get caught--somewhat unbelievably--in the trees. In 6 it looks down smiling on its shadow. Might the order be 6, 1, 3, 2, 4, 5? Or for a happy ending, put 6 at the end. Throughout, there are pastel flowers, meadows, and mountains. The images are well matched from block to block. Several images show considerable wear.  Click on the image to see all six images.


1998? Jean de La Fontaine: 6 Fables de toujours. 20 cubes en bois. Fabriqué en France. St. Germain-en-Montagne, France. Jeujura. 155 Francs at Le Bon Marché, Paris, August, '99.

Six cartoon pictures in 5x4 form in a sturdy wooden box. The packing advertises "100% Fabrication en France" against a red, white, and blue background. A "livret" gives all six pictures. The pictures on each cube are in a sequence; rotate all one turn and revolve all one turn, and you have a complete image. Twenty is a high number of blocks for a puzzle of this sort. Sudden arrangements for a quick trip home for a funeral gave me an extra afternoon in Paris. What a nice surprise to find this set as I bummed around!


2020 Aesop's Fables wood game: Little Golden Books.  $36.38 from Little Vintage Tale, Madison, CT, through Etsy, July, '20.   Images taken from "The Country Mouse and the City Mouse and Other Aesop's Fables" by Patricia Scarry.  Four six-sided story blocks, each about 2" on a side.

Four of the sides replicate scenes from TMCM and one each from the book's other two stories, namely FC and DS.  The blocks are well executed.  The first challenge of six-sided story blocks like these is often the greatest challenge: which side of each block goes with each side of each other?  I had fun recreating the scenes, and so I will show all six here.