9, 10, 11, 12

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. 

PrintTwo or three 45-Minute Sessions

The learner will:

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

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

Home Connection 

Learners share one of these stories with their family and discuss the family’s understanding and practice of hospitality. 

  • "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.
  • Fullard-Leo, Betty. "Pele: Goddess of Fire," Coffee Times. Winter 1999. 
  • Ohebsion, Rodney, "Mulla Nasrudin Folktales," A Collection of Wisdom. Immediex Publishing 
  • "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.
  • "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.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Define hospitality as friendly and generous welcome and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers. Discuss the practices and manners of hospitality, including who, how long, what it looks like, and how to show gratitude. What are the limits of hospitality?

  2. Note about location: 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). Describe Hawaii's physical characteristics and human characteristics.

  3. "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.
  4. Look up and discuss facts about the goddess of fire, Pele, who is central to this story. 

  5. Read the story "A Calabash of Poi" together and discuss the message and connection to philanthropy.

    • 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.
    • Although the folktale very heavily depends on Hawaiian culture, is the message a universal theme?
    • Which characters show generosity of spirit, and how?
  6. The folktale "Soup of the Soup" is of Sufi origin and part of the Mulla Nasrudin folktales. Have half the group look up Nasrudin Hodja and the other look up Sufism. Ask them to share and discuss the information discovered.

  7. Read the story "Soup of the Soup" together and discuss the message and connection to philanthropy.

    • What is the central message of the story or philanthropic theme? Note: Nasrudin folktales usually have several "lessons."
    • The story states 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. Discuss what "duty" means and examples of this duty. 
    • What else could he do and still follow the customs of hospitality?
    • Give examples of guests going beyond the limits of hospitality.
  8. Using a large Venn diagram compare and contrast the stories "A Calabash of Poi" and "Soup of the Soup." Are the takeaway messages in opposition to each other?

  9. Read the two Jewish folktales, "Even Her Taking Was Giving" and "The Luck of a Child" together and discuss the message and connection to philanthropy.

    • Which of the two characters was the most generous and what is your evidence of that?
    • Plot 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 motivations of the givers. 
    • Discuss why it is important for citizens to be willing to help each other. How does it help the common good? What is the role of the government to take care of people in need.
  10. Learners may write short poems or haikus expressing their thoughts on hospitality and generosity of spirit.

  11. Service Idea: During times of national tragedy, Americans are known for extending themselves to help others in need. While hospitality extends mostly to family and those we know, we also help strangers. Research a local, state, or national group that helps people without shelter and plan action through youth time, talent or treasure.


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

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.