The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship by Arthur Ransome, Ill. by Uri Shulevitz

The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship by Arthur Ransome, Ill. by Uri Shulevitz

*Retold by Ransome

Publishing: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, New York, 1968

Description: A family has three sons. The oldest two are bright and clever, while the third is the Fool of the World. As such, his parents do not treat him well, but he doesn’t seem to complain. One day, the Czar sends out a decree saying that any man who can build a ship that flies through the air can marry his daughter. The two oldest brothers set out and the mother sends them off with a fanfare and plenty of food. The fool protests to go as well, and after much argument, she sends him off with a few breadcrusts and some water. Along the way the fool meets a wise old man, who turns his meager meal into more extravagant food. He tells the young fool to go into the forest and make the sign of the cross three times before the biggest tree he sees, hit it with his hatchet, and he will have a flying boat. The only caveat is that when he rides it to the Czar’s palace he must pick up anyone he meets along the way. The fool does as he is told and picks up a motley crew of characters who come to his aid when the Czar tries to test the fool and drive him away. Finally, however, the fool succeeds, married the Czar’s daughter, and becomes a very clever man after all.

Programming: I would review with students what a moral is and have them try to discern what they think the moral- or morals- of this tale are. This tale might be compared to other folk and fairy tales, or other works of Shulevitz, such asĀ The Treasure.

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe

Publishing: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, New York, 1987

Description: Steptoe notes on the very first page that this tale was inspired by a folktale originally collected and published in 1895. The tale tells the story of two sisters, Manyara and Nyasha. Both are physically beautiful, but one is kind while the other is cruel. One day the king sends for both of the girls to choose one as his wife, and Mufaro is excited to send them. Manyara, hoping to reach the king first, leaves in the middle of the night. On her journey in the forest she encounters a hungry child and an old, wise, woman, and a poor man all of whom she scorns and ignores. Nyasha, Mufaro, and the wedding party they have gathered follow the next morning. Nyasha is kind to each of the people Manyara met in the forest. When she reaches the city she finds her sister screaming a sobbing about encountering a five-headed snake in the palace. Nyasha enters, however, and sees only the small snake from her garden. The snake reveals to her that he is the king, and that he was also the people in the forest. Nyasha’s kindness has pleased him and he takes her as his wife.

Programming: This lesson plan idea from Scholastic says it better than I ever could:

They suggest focusing on the narrative as a folktale and discussing characteristics of that genre. There is also a tie-in to biology through the snake and the art project is to design a wedding invitation, which I think is a practical skill in understanding what information has to be there.

The Treasure by Uri Shulevitz

The Treasure by Uri Shulevitz

Publishing: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, 1978

Description: In this folktale, Isaac has a dream where a voice tells him he should go to the capital city and search under the bridge for a treasure. When this dream repeats twice more, he makes the long journey, but finds the bridge to be guarded. He wanders around it for several days, until the captain of the guards asks him why he is there and then laughs when Isaac tells his story. The guard laughs and said if he believed his dreams he would go back to the city Isaac came from and dig under Isaac’s stove. So Isaac goes home, and sure enough, he digs to find a treasure buried underneath his stove. He builds a house of prayer and lives contentedly for the rest of his life.

Programming: “Sometimes one must travel far to discover what is near” is what Isaac inscribes on a corner of his temple. I think this would be where I would start, leading a discussion about what this saying means. Older students might write about how travel can improve your life.