African Folktales

9, 10, 11, 12

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.

PrintTwo or three 45-Minute Sessions

The learner will:

  • identify the historical and geographic settings of folktales.
  • identify the message and connections to philanthropy.

Youth access to these folktales (Learning to Give has permission to make these folktales available online to readers)

Teacher Preparation 

Invite a representative from a nonprofit to speak to the group and explain their mission. Ask about their focus related to local, national and international giving. If the learners wish to support this group or another, a fund-raiser may be planned. 

Jean Fairfax, a civic leader in academia, civil rights and philanthropy, stated the following about African American giving: The concept of philanthropy as a communal enterprise, whose members care for each other, contrasts with the concept of noblesse oblige or the rich giving to the poor. We also know that historically the Black church has been the main source of philanthropy for most African Americans.

Home Connection 

Learners may discuss with their families the idea of knowing when to follow and when not to follow the advice of others. What ideas/tips will help a young person evaluate the advice and take the proper course of action?

  • Carson, Emmett and Jean Fairfax. “African-American Philanthropy Highlights.” Council on Foundations' "Cultures of Caring" report excerpts. 
  •  “The Collared Crow.” Knappert, Jan.  Myths and Legends of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland.  Leiden: E. J. Brill, ©1985. pp. 70-73.  Used with the permission of Brill NV.
  • “The Cruel Creditor and the Judge’s Wise Daughter.” Noy, Dov. Moroccan Jewish Folktales. New York: Herzl Press, ©1966. pp. 44-47.  Used with the permission of Herzl Press.
  • “The Ostrich-Egg Wife.”  Knappert, Jan. Myths and Legends of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland.  Leiden: E. J. Brill, ©1985. pp. 139-40.  Used with the permission of Brill NV.
  • “Selekana and the River God.” Kanppert, Jan. Myths and Legends of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland.  Leiden: E. J. Brill, ©1985. pp. 79-83.  Used with the permission of Brill NV.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Define the word generous as "abundant in giving, being kind, giving freely and openly, giving more than the expected." 

    Talk about what people who have little material wealth can still give generously (love, food, time, support, service).

  2. Notes about the locations of the folktales:

    The stories for this lesson are African folktales. “The Collared Crow,” “Selekana and the River God” and “The Ostrich Egg Wife” are from South Africa. “The Cruel Creditor and the Judge’s Wise Daughter” is from Morocco and has Jewish roots. “Gratitude: The Hunter and the Antelope” is from the Nupe people of Nigeria.

    On a map, locate South Africa, Morocco, and Nigeria and give their absolute locations (longitude and latitude). Give their relative locations (general descriptors of where the places are located). Further research may include physical characteristics and human characteristics.

  3. Move young people into five groups and assign each group one of the folktales. The group reads their assigned story and discusses the following questions:

    • What is the lesson of this folktale?
    • How does the title of the folktale fit the story?
    • What is revealed about the generosity of spirit of the characters? What can serve as models for others to follow?
    • What character traits seem to be valued in the story and culture? (caring, courage, civic virtue and citizenship, giving, honesty, justice and fairness, perseverance, respect, responsibility, trustworthiness)
    • What is revealed about the country’s culture through the folktale? 
    • What lesson is taught about listening to the words of others? 
    • What choices did the characters face? What actions could have produced an entirely different effect? How likely was it that the character might have acted differently? 
  4. Have each team share with the whole group a verbal summary of their story and key findings from their discussions.

  5. Here are some guiding notes and questions specific to each story to go with the whole group discussions, if needed. 

    • In the story “The Cruel Creditor and the Judge’s Wise Daughter,” the merchant’s son is reckless with his inherited wealth and makes a bad business agreement when he becomes penniless. Some people would say that it is his own fault that he has come to ruin. He should not be saved from his fate because he agreed to it. What argument would a person with a generous spirit use?
    • In the story “The Ostrich-Egg Wife,” a man loses everything because he breaks a promise. Was his punishment just or would a more generous wife have forgiven him?
    • In the story “The Collared Crow,” the farmer and his wife were asked to be generous even though they had little to share. In what ways can those who have little be generous?
    • In the story “Selekana and the River God,” Selekana is kind but also trusting of others. How does a generous person know when the need is genuine or when others are taking advantage? Should this be a consideration when deciding whether or not to be generous?
    • In the story “Gratitude: The Hunter and the Antelope,” a trusting man helps a crocodile out of his difficulty but then is placed in danger of losing his life to the crocodile. There are really five stories of gratitude/ingratitude in the story. Could the author have kept out the colored oval woven mat known as the Asubi, the old torn and worn dress, and the old mare from the story and still have had the same effect? Often we are not aware of the effect others have had on our lives until years later when we have lost contact with them. Is there a way gratitude can be shown in circumstances when there is little or no chance of contacting the person again?
  6. Working individually, learners write descriptions of how one of these stories fits a situation they have encountered or may encounter in the future. What insight does the story provide in assisting a person to do the right thing?

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.4 Describe and give examples of characteristics of someone who helps others.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.9 Describe the concept of volunteerism in different world cultures.