9, 10, 11, 12

All cultures have rules regarding hospitality. In many folktales travelers and those without shelter and food place demands on others for assistance. They sometimes test the limits of hospitality. Learners will define hospitality and discuss its requirements.

Lesson Rating 
Two Fifty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • use the geographic themes of location, place and human-environment relations to describe the setting and culture represented in the folktale.
  • identify the type of folktales represented by the stories.
  • identify cultural aspects of various cultures as revealed in the stories.
  • define hospitality, describe its characteristics and determine if it has limits.
  • understand and use the vocabulary of various cultures as revealed in the stories.
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework:Using any of the folktales from this lesson as a starting point, have the learners share the story with their family and discuss how the "lesson" from the story compares with the family’s understanding and practice of hospitality. Is hospitality extended only to family or does it have a wider dimension? Does the family see this hospitality as philanthropy or merely daily activity?

  • "A Calabash of Poi." Originally published in 1924 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons. Thorpe, Coral Wells. In the Path of the Trade Winds. New York/London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1924. pp. 93-97.
  • "Even Her Taking Was Giving." Buxbaum, Yitzhak. Jewish Tales of Holy Women. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Company, ©2002. pp. 89-90. Used with the permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • "The Luck of a Child." Sabar, Yona. The Folk Literature of the Kurdistani Jews: An Anthology. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, ©1982. p. 153-55. Used with the permission of Yale University Press.
  • Fullard-Leo, Betty. "Pele: Goddess of Fire," Coffee Times. Winter 1999. (3 October 2005).
  • Ohebsion, Rodney, "Mulla Nasrudin Folktales," A Collection of Wisdom. Immediex Publishing Homesite, <> (3 October 2005).
  • "Pele (Mythology)," Wikipedia. 14 June 2005, (3 October 2005).
  • "Poi (food)," Wikipedia. 28 August 2005, (3 October 2005).
  • "Soup of the Soup." Yashinsky, Dan (collected by). Tales for an Unknown City: Stories from One Thousand and One Friday Nights of Storytelling. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, ©1990. pp. 17-19. Used with the permission of Celia Lottridge.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Put the term hospitality on the board and, in a quick brainstorming session, map the concept of rules, definitions and manners that the learners believe fit the term. Ask them to consider if there are limits to hospitality.

  2. Explain that it is important to understand people and their environment when studying folktales. One of these stories, "A Calabash of Poi," is from Hawaii. On a map, locate Hawaii’s absolute location (longitude and latitude) and relative location (general descriptors of where the place is located).

  3. In a brainstorming session, have the learners describe Hawaii 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, how they make a living).

  4. "A Calabash of Poi" contains vocabulary that may be unfamiliar. Go over the following terms:

    • calabash: Containers, crafted by Hawaiians, out of the rounded forms of the gourd and coconut. These came to be known collectively as "calabashes."
    • poi: Poi, the staple of the traditional Hawaiian diet, was made by mashing cooked, peeled taro corms with a pestle. Water was added until the poi was smooth and sticky. It has a delicate flavor.
    • palisade: a fence of stakes used especially for defense
    • ti-leaves: These leaves are members of the agave family. The early Hawaiians used ti to make hula skirts, to wrap and store food, and also as roofing for their homes.
    • taro: Taro is an ancient root crop grown throughout the tropics for its edible corms and leaves. Early Hawaiians not only used the taro plant for food, but also utilized the various parts for medicinal purposes, treating ailments ranging from insect bites and fevers to heart problems and stomach disorders.
    • pau: finished; completed
    • ohelo berries: Ohelo berries, considered sacred to Pele, grow on a small, multi-branched shrub in the cranberry family. They grow near Kilauea Crater on Hawaii and it was customary to offer some of the berries to Pele before eating any of them.
    • Mauna Loa: Mauna Loa is the largest volcano on Earth. It makes up half of the area of the Island of Hawaii. Mauna Loa began to form nearly a million years ago.
    • awa: This beverage, from the kava plant, was generally known for its mildly sedating effects useful in easing tension or recuperating from a hard day’s work.
  5. Using the Internet or other available resources, have the learners research the goddess of fire, Pele, who is central to this story. Report on the information obtained.

  6. Read the story "A Calabash of Poi" together. Identify what type of folktale this is (fairy tale, myth, legend/epic, tall tale, fable, religious story/parable). Ask the learners to identify the lesson of the folktale.

  7. Looking at the Hawaiian chief in the story, identify each hint of the man’s nature as revealed in the details of the story. Compare them to the poor fisherman and his wife.

  8. Although the folktale very heavily depends on Hawaiian culture, does the story have universal appeal?

  9. Another story with a significant cultural background is "Soup of the Soup," of Sufi origin and part of the Mulla Nasrudin folktales. Split the learners into two teams, with one researching Nasrudin Hodja and the other researching Sufism. Report on the information discovered.

  10. Read the story "Soup of the Soup" together. Identify what type of folktale this is (fairy tale, myth, legend/epic, tall tale, fable, religious story/parable). Ask the learners to identify the lessons of the folktale.

  11. Teacher’s Note: Nasrudin folktales usually have several "lessons."

  12. In the story is the reminder that "hospitality is a duty." This causes Nasrudin Hodja to graciously invite the visitors in to share the meal, even when it is not what he really wishes. Split the learners into small teams of two or three, ask them to think about the quote, and:

    • decide what it means,
    • give examples of hospitality as a duty, and
    • decide on the limits of hospitality, in several situations.
  13. When the groups have completed the task, reform the groups into the whole and let the teams report on what they have decided.

  14. "A Calabash of Poi" and "Soup of the Soup" are both similar and different at the same time. Using a large Venn diagram on the chalkboard or overhead, make the comparisons and contrasts. Ask the learners to decide if it is possible to follow the lessons of both stories since they seem to reflect completely different lessons.

  15. Read the two Jewish folktales, "Even Her Taking Was Giving" and "The Luck of a Child" together. Identify what type of folktale these are (fairy tale, myth, legend/epic, tall tale, fable, religious story/parable). Ask the learners to identify the lessons of the folktales.

  16. Both of the stories point out the ultimate hospitality and generosity of the characters. Ask the learners to decide which of the two characters was the most generous and discuss how they reached their conclusion.

  17. Put the characters of the four stories on a continuum of most hospitable to least hospitable (Hawaiian chief, poor fisherman and his wife, Nasrudin Hodja, Hassan from the village, Hayya Schechter, and the husband and his pregnant wife). Consider the motivation of the givers. Explain how the decisions were made.

  18. Discuss why it is important for citizens to be willing to help each other and the common good without depending on the government to always take care of those in need.

  19. To reveal the themes or ideas learned in this unit on hospitality, have the learners put together individual short poems or haikus expressing their thoughts on this form of generosity of the spirit.


Group discussions and the completed short poems may be used as assessments of learning.

Cross Curriculum 

During times of national tragedy, Americans are known for extending themselves to help others in need. While this can be done with family and those we know, it is also often extended to those who remain strangers. Research a local, state or national group which helps those without shelter and plan a campaign to assist in some way by offering time, talent or treasure.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Identify and discuss examples of philanthropy and charity in modern culture.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Explain why needs are met in different ways by government, business, civil society and family.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss and give examples of why some humans will sacrifice for the benefit of unknown others.

Academic Standards

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