Generosity of Spirit Folktales
This unit includes access to folktales from all over the world, revealing a "generosity of spirit" that speaks the common language of "giving." Learners learn the components of a folktale, define philanthropy, and then read a variety of folktales that illustrate differences and similiarities across cultural influences.
Access to an overview and list of all the folktales is linked here: Folktale Guide: Generosity of Spirit
This lesson introduces the type of folklore known as folktales. Young people identify the traits of folklore found in cultures across the world, including the common theme of "philanthropic giving."
When times are hard, it is sometimes difficult to remember that the things that count are not material, and the people who make a difference in our lives are the ones we often take for granted. We read five Jewish folktales that reveal gifts of generosity in everyday events of life. Through reading and discussion, the learners discuss the folktale's message and connections to philanthropy.
Sometimes it is wise to follow the advice of others and at other times it will only bring disaster. This lesson examines stories from South Africa, Morocco, and Nigeria and character traits valued in those cultures.
Native Americans, or Indigenous People, are located geographically across the entire continent of North America. There are many stereotypes of native culture, but their culture varies as much as their locations, as each group of native peoples have their own traditions. This lesson focuses on seven Native American groups and their folktales as they relate to generosity of the spirit.
All cultures have practices and customs regarding hospitality, or how we treat guests. In these folktales, we learn about different expectations and degrees of these customs and how travelers test the limits of hospitality and feel the effects of their host's generosity.
The learners explore folktales related to forgiveness. They investigate how compassion is interrelated with forgiveness, and describe challenges to real forgiveness.
Through folktales from around the world, learners explore humans' important role as caretakers of the Earth and the role of civil society in environmental stewardship.
Through the three Suni folktales, learners analyze the lessons in generosity and behavior for the common good.
Learners explore character traits and life lessons through folktales from various American cultures. The stories illustrate the impact of "paying a debt forward" rather than "paying it back."
Wealth may be measured in something other than money. We may feel wealthy if we have a loving family or good health. Community wealth may be in relationships, respectful leaders, and good places to visit.
Through four folktales from different parts of the world and wisdom traditions, learners explore how to make decisions in difficult situations. They define discernment and wisdom and give examples of each in real-life situations.
Through a reading of the Australian Aboriginal folktale, The Secret of Dreaming, learners will describe what this creation tale reveals about the culture of the Aboriginals and will explain mankind’s permanent responsibility as caretaker of the land. How the Kangaroo Got Its Pouch will demonstrate how one individual’s actions are sometimes used to characterize an entire group as generous or selfish. The theme of generosity vs. selfishness is also explored in How the Selfish Goannas Lost Their Wives.
Learners will analyze literary characters in five European folktales, focusing particularly on strong female characters. They will analyze what small acts of kindness contribute to both the giver and receiver and determine a path of personal giving through random acts of kindness.
Learners will read the story "The Collared Crow" and identify whether motivation, symbolism and extreme emergency alter an act of philanthropy. They will determine if the cultures and geography of South Africa are represented in this folktale. Learners will read "A Story and a Song" and "The Story-Bag" and decide whether stories and songs are meant to be shared or kept for one’s self. Through an analysis of "A Couple of Misers," learners will recognize what is important in life versus the accumulation of wealth even within a miserly existence.
Even the smallest things, when shared, can be examples of philanthropy. In the folktale, "A Drum," a poor boy gives away his meager possessions when the need arises and receives a great gift in the end. The question of one’s being naturally generous is discussed. In the Palestinian folktale, "Ma’Ruf the Shoemaker," a shoemaker is so generous that he gives away everything, including that which does not belong to him. Through that story learners will analyze the limits of generosity. Three stories, "The Brave Little Parrot," "The Luck of a Child," and "Sedge Hats for Jizo" point out the importance of those with little to give being generous. "The Silk Brocade" and "The Tatema" are folktales with very opposite main characters, both of whom are generous but in different ways. Learners will analyze how everyone can be generous, regardless of their natures.
Sometimes you have to give up what you truly love to get what you really want. That can be a hard lesson when you have almost nothing. This lesson looks at who has the responsibility to be generous and what changes can come about because of one’s generosity. Through a second story one learns that it is not enough to be generous. Others must be taught to be generous as well.
When life is at its most difficult and grief is great, a generous sacrifice can move the spirit toward life again. In these folktales, two Inuits face death with a truly generous spirit.
Learners will read and analyze Buddhist folktales and determine their relevance to everyday life. There are times when the easiest thing one can do is leave and let others deal with a stressful situation. When one stays and works through the tough times, it can be a gift, not only for those who are also there, but for the one who makes the decision to stay. The Buddhist folktale "The Steadfast Parrot" teaches that lesson. "The Banyan Deer" uses Buddha himself to show rulers how selflessness and sacrifice should guide their dealings with their subjects. The Blossom Tree emphasizes the importance of choosing persons wisely who will have great responsibility. The folktale, Great Joy the Ox, focuses on trust and proper respect toward those with whom we live and work. Padmasambhava and the Felicity Scarf cautions us against pride.
Learners will analyze what causes someone to make the mistake of fatally misjudging the character of another, even one that is well-known. Such a mistake turns a heroic sacrifice into an unnecessary tragic loss in the folktale "Beth Gellert." In the folktale "Evil Allures, But Good Endures," learners will understand that an evil act does not require a person to return evil with evil.
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."