Gifts of All Sizes

9, 10, 11, 12

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.

PrintThree 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 folktales.
  • identify aspects of various cultures revealed in stories.
  • list examples of opportunity cost in folktales.
  • interpret the naturally generous nature of the main characters in the stories.
  • rewrite a fable in modern times and situations.
  • analyze the limits of generosity.
  • describe how everyone can be generous, not just those who are hard-working.
  • explain why small gifts are just as important as large gifts, especially in community fund-raising efforts.
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework: At home share the story "The Drum" with a family member. Discuss who in the family’s surroundings seems to have a "good heart" and is generous with others. Was this a learned trait or did it seem to come naturally?


"The Brave Little Parrot." Martin, Rafe. The Hungry Tigress: Buddhist Legends and Jakata Tales. Berkeley, California: Parallax Press, ©1990. Used with the permission of Parallax Press. "Reprinted from The Hungry Tigress (1990) by Rafe Martin with permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California." 

"The Drum", An Indian folktale about a boy who gives away his possions to help others. [no longer available] 

"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. 

"Ma’Ruf the Shoemaker." Muhawi, Ibrahim and Sharif Kanaana. Speak Bird, Speak Again: Palestinian Arab Folktales. Berkeley: University of California Press, ©1989. pp. 267-72. Used with the permission of University of California Press.

"Sedge Hats for Jizo." Mayer, Fanny Hagin. Ancient Tales in Modern Japan. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, ©1985. p. 87. Used with the permission of Indiana University Press.

"The Silk Brocade." Batt, Tanya Robyn. The Fabrics of Fairytale: Stories Spun Far and Wide. New York: Barefoot Books, ©2000. pp. 30-38. Used with the permission of Barefoot Books, Inc. "The Silk Brocade,’ from The Fabrics of Fairytales: Stories Spun Far and Wide, first published in 2000 by Barefoot Books, Inc. Text copyright ©2000 by Tanya Royn Batt." 

"The Tatema." Wolkstein, Dianne. Lazy Stories. New York: The Seabury Press: Clarion Books, ©1976. pp. 15-23. Used with the permission of Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Company. "’The Tatema’ from LAZY STORIES retold by Dianne Wilkstein, pictures by James Marshall. Text copyright © 1976 by Dianne Wolkstein. Pictures copyright ©1976 by James Marshall. Reprinted by permission of Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved."


  1. Anticipatory Set: Ask the learners if they know anyone who seems to be "naturally" generous. What characteristics about this person’s giving give that impression?

  2. Explain that it is important to understand people and their environment when studying their folktales. The first two stories come from India and Palestine. On a map, locate India and Palestinian areas’ absolute locations (longitude and latitude) and relative locations (general descriptors of where the place is located).

  3. In a brainstorming session, have the learners describe Indian and Palestinian lands as places by listing recognizable physical characteristics (landforms, water bodies, climate, soil, natural vegetation, animal life) and human characteristics (inhabitants, settlement patterns, languages, religions, how inhabitants make a living).

  4. Read the story "The Drum" together. Identify what type of folktale it is (fairy tale, myth, legend/epic, tall tale, fable, religious story/parable).

  5. Ask the learners to summarize this story in one or two sentences, then add to the summary the lesson being taught in the folktale.

  6. Each time the boy voluntarily gave up his possession was an example of the economic concept opportunity cost, that is, what was the next best alternative that he gave up when he decided to voluntarily give away his possession. What were some of the opportunity costs the boy experienced each time he did an act of kindness?

  7. Discuss the boy in the story by brainstorming and recording on the display board a list of his personal characteristics, some of which will be inferences. How do the learners feel about the boy? How would they characterize his generosity? Were his acts "naturally" generous or was his generosity a means to an end.

  8. Using examples from their own experiences, let the learners debate whether people are "naturally" generous or whether it is a learned behavior. If it is a learned behavior, how is it taught? How have they become aware of generosity in their lives? Is there a person they naturally think of as generous.

  9. Explain that this is a common folktale with variations in different countries around the world. Why would it not be surprising to know that other countries have a version of this story as one of their folktales? What minor changes might there be to the story to have it fit another culture?

  10. Ask for volunteers to read the parts of the various characters from the story "Ma’Ruf the Shoemaker" (narrator, Ma’ruf’s wife, Ma’ruf, the cadi, the giant, Ali, the people, the king, vizier, king’s daughter, the farmer, the genie). Read the story out loud.

  11. Analyze Ma’ruf by discussing the following questions:

    • At the beginning of the story when Ma’ruf scrimps to buy his wife the dessert she wishes, is he a likeable and generous character?
    • The cadi gives Ma’ruf money to get his wife what she wishes and advises him to make peace with her. Would the story have been different if he had followed the cadi’s advice?
    • Is Ma’ruf’s anger justified so that his wishing to run away is a sensible act?
    • Why does Ma’ruf give away the money people give to him? Is this an example of "generosity begetting generosity," is he a foolish person, or is he a "show-off" who likes the attention he receives? Is he a likeable and generous character at this point in the story?
    • Was the treasure found in the tunnel the property of Ma’ruf? Why did he claim it all as his?
    • Was his generosity more meaningful because he repaid the merchants double what he owed them? Is his giving truly a philanthropic act?
    • Does Ma’ruf deserve the "happy ending" that the storyteller gives him? Is he a likeable and generous character at the end of the story?
    • There are various times in the story when Ma’ruf faced opportunity cost, that is, the next best alternative he gave up when he decided to give away money. What were some of the opportunity costs Ma’ruf gave up? Because Ma’ruf gave up some valuable intangible benefits when he gave away money he did not own, how much more serious were his losses than the boy in the story "The Drum"?
    • Who are the truly generous persons in the folktale?
    • Is there a moral to this story? What does this story say about the limits of generosity?
    • Compare the two main characters in the "The Drum" and "Ma’Ruf the Shoemaker." Could they learn anything from each other?
    • The folktales, "The Brave Little Parrot," "The Luck of a Child," and "Sedge Hats for Jizo, are about small gifts that are nevertheless very generous. Read the stories out loud together. Thinking of the main characters in each story, compare them and their acts of generosity. What do they have in common? (caring, giving) How are they different? (The parrot also displays courage and perseverance.) What is the lesson of the stories? Identify the type of folktale the stories are (fairy tale, myth, legend/epic, tall tale, fable, religious story/parable).
    • Discuss why it is important for even small gifts to be offered as a form of generosity. How is the cumulative effect of small gifts important in communities through such drives as United Way or collecting for victims of environmental disasters?
    • Parents will often encourage their children to be generous while young even though their gifts are small. What lesson are the parents trying to instill in their youngsters? How important is the lesson for future philanthropy?
    • These three stories have religious elements. The parrot is a form of the Buddha; the prophet Elijah visits the poor family which has just given birth; the jizo are Japanese Buddhist bodhisattvas (persons striving for enlightenment). Does the fact that these are religious stories alter the generosity of the givers in any way or can the stories stand on their own as examples of "generosity of spirit"?
    • The last two stories, "The Silk Brocade" and "The Tatema" are in many ways opposites of each other. In one story the son risks everything to help his mother while in the other story the man who gains wealth is lazy. Read the two stories aloud. Identify the type of folktale they are (fairy tale, myth, legend/epic, tall tale, fable, religious story/parable).
    • On the board draw a large Venn diagram made up of two interlocking circles. Label each circle with the name of one of the stories. In the outside circles identify the differences of the two main characters. If possible, place the similarities in the space made by the interlocking circles. Identify the lesson(s) of the stories. Discuss the fairness of a person who is lazy having good luck versus a person who takes great risk attaining a great reward.

Working individually or in groups, have the learners describe the lessons that are being taught in these folktales. Update and rewrite one of the stories so that it represents a modern tale which gives the same lesson but represents the learner’s environment or setting.

Cross Curriculum 

Learners will take the lesson taught in A Drum and update the story to reflect a modern tale which gives the same lesson but represents the learner’s environment or setting. A display in the library/media center can show the original story and its updated versions so that others may learn from this folktale. An option would be to visit an elementary classroom and tell both versions of the folktale to those students. The elementary students could draw one of the segments of the story and write the lesson of the story on the bottom of the drawing.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Explain how <i>opportunity cost</i> relates to philanthropic giving by individuals and corporations.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define and give examples of motivations for giving and serving.