There are times when a person learns that it is better not to give a generous gift at all if it will be disrespected by the receiver. There are also times a person may realize too late that there is a cost for bad behavior. These occur in an Indian tale, "A Flowering Tree" and an Inuit folktale, "The Magic Bear."
Two Fifty-Five Minute Class Periods
The learner will:
- use the geographic themes of location, place and human-environment relations to describe settings and cultures represented in a folktale.
- research background information that enables a folktale to be placed in a historical setting.
- identify the type of folktale represented by the stories.
- analyze personality traits of all characters in a folktale and determine their "generosity of spirit."
- recognize the role of punishment in the stories and debate whether the characters could have reformed.
- recognize an act of disrespect of a generous gift in a real world news story.
Ask the learners if they have ever had something which they treasured but when they shared it with someone else it was broken or they made fun of it. Let the learners share their examples.
- Explain that it is important to understand people and their environment when studying folktales. The first story, "A Flowering Tree," is an Indian folktale told originally in the Kannada language which is spoken in the state of Karnataka. The Karnataka area has a long history going back to legends and epics. On a map, locate Karnataka in southwestern India and give its absolute location (longitude and latitude). Give its relative location (general descriptors of where the places are located, e.g., on the Indian Ocean and known as the "land of fragrance").
- In a brainstorming session, have the learners describe India, especially the state of Karnataka, as a place by listing recognizable physical characteristics (landforms, water bodies, climate, soil, natural vegetation, animal life) and human characteristics (inhabitants, settlement patterns, languages, religions, government, how inhabitants make a living).
- Read "A Flowering Tree" together. Identify what type of folktale it is (fairy tale, myth, legend/epic, tall tale, fable, religious story/parable). Before analyzing the folktale, have the learners go over the sequence of events in the story.
- Divide the learners into small teams and assign one character from the story (mother, older sister, younger sister, queen, king’s son, king, king’s younger daughter, silly girls, cart-driver, king’s older daughter, palace servants and maids) to each team. They are to analyze their character and answer the following questions:
- What was the role of this character in the story?
- Why did the character act as he or she did?
- What was the best/worst characteristic of this character?
- Did this character show a "generosity of the spirit" or an absence of it?
- Read again the last two sentences of the folktale which contain the punishment for the King’s daughter. It was a severe punishment in which no forgiveness is given and there is no chance for the daughter to repent and mend her ways. Let the learners debate whether or not it was a fair punishment. What message did it send? If there are any learners who disagree with the punishment, what punishment would they offer instead?
- This folktale sends a message about receiving something that is a treasure, disrespecting it as a gift and acting out of concern only for self. Have the learners describe the message of the folktale in one sentence. Looking at the story through the eyes of someone living today, is there environmental symbolism in the folktale?
- This folktale has many places that reflect the culture of its homeland. Go through the story again and point out these cultural hints.
- The second story, "The Magic Bear," is an Inuit folktale. The Inuit lands include the northeastern tip of Siberia, the islands of the Bering Sea, and the coastal regions of mainland Alaska, the north coast and islands of the Canadian Arctic and most of the west coast and part of the east coast of Greenland. On a map, locate Alaska and give its absolute location (longitude and latitude). Give its relative location (general descriptors of where the place is located).
- In a brainstorming session, have the learners describe Inuit lands as a place by listing recognizable physical characteristics (landforms, water bodies, climate, soil, natural vegetation, animal life) and human characteristics (inhabitants, settlement patterns, languages, religions, government, how inhabitants make a living).
- Read the story together. Identify what type of folktale it is (fairy tale, myth, legend/epic, tall tale, fable, religious story/parable).
- Most cultures believe that the gift of a child is very precious and necessary for a good life. When the old couple received the gift of the bear cub, they showed it love and took care of it. Yet their later demand resulted in the loss of the bear. What was the old man’s character flaw that allowed the couple to lose their child in the end?
- In this story, as in "A Flowering Tree," the punishment was swift and absolute with no chance to beg forgiveness. Why was this severe punishment used as the conclusion of the story? Could the old man have changed had there been a different punishment?
Ask the learners to reflect on the moral of these stories and to later watch or read the news of the day. Is there a person in today’s news who brings to mind one of the characters in either of the stories? What was given that was of value and how was the generous act disrespected? Describe the punishment, if there was one, and agree or disagree with it.
Learner: 1) states the moral of the folktale; 2) names a somewhat similar story in the news; 3) recognizes the character from the story; 4) explains how the person in the news is similar; 5) describes how the generous act was disrespected; 6) agrees or disagrees with the punishment and 7) explains why.
Learner completes five or six of the seven requirements.
Learner completes three or four of the seven requirements.
Learner completes one or two of the seven requirements.
Learner’s attempt does not reflect understanding of the folktale or news story.
Interactive Parent / Student Homework:
The learner will share the story of "A Flowering Tree" or "The Magic Bear" and explain that he/she must look for a story in the day’s news which reflects a character in the folktale. The family may be invited to help analyze characters and stories in the news to find the one that is similar in some way to one of the story’s characters.
Have the learners think of a person in history who acted out of such utter disregard for others that a tragedy resulted. Compare those actions to the ones in the folktales.
Lesson Developed By:Evelyn Nash
All rights reserved. Permission is granted to freely use this information for nonprofit (noncommercial), educational purposes only. Copyright must be acknowledged on all copies.