Project Folktale:
Asian and Pacific Tales

Vasilisa the Beautiful (Russia),
Stonecutter (Japan), Roly, Poly Rice Ball (Japan), Tongue-Cut Sparrow (Japan),
Tikki Tikki Tembo (China), Lon Po Po (China),
Tiger, Brahman, and Jackal (India), Crocodile and the Monkey (India),
Project Folktale - Home.




Vasilisa the Beautiful

(Russia)

Background

This Russian story is of motif Q2.1.2CeBb, "the encounters en route" subtype (MacDonald, Sourcebook). In this story, mother gives Vasilisa a doll as she is dying. The mother tells Vasilisa to tell it all of her troubles. The doll does many tasks for Vasilisa. Her step-mother sends her to Baba Yaga for fire, but the doll does this task. The girl asks who the riders on horses are. The white horse represents day, red represents the sun, and black represents night. She is sent home with a skull of fire on a stick, which burns the step-mother and step-sisters. Later, a Tsar hears about Vasilisa and marries her.

Suggested Lessons and Activities

1. Compare to "Cinderella" type stories.

2. Compare to other stories where there are "encounters en route." (Ex - Red Riding Hood, Sody Sallyratus, etc.)

3. Show or make a matrioshka doll.

Citation


Whitney, Thomas, translator. Vasilisa the Beautiful. New York: Macmillan, 1970


Winthrop, Elizabeth. Vasilissa the beautiful. New York, NY : HarperCollins, c1991.


Stonecutter

(Japan)

Background

In this Japanese tale, a stonecutter first wishes he was a Raja (Prince), but this wish is not quite good enough. So, he makes additional wishes, each time wanting to be stronger than the one before -- to be the sun, cloud, wind, mountain (stone). His lavish wishes get him into trouble.

This Japanese story has many variants of its motif, type Z42.0.2. In one version, there are two stonecutters. He wishes to be rich, a prince, the wind, the sun, a cloud, and stone. His smart brother uses his one wish to return him to a stonecutter. Similar stories exist in Indonesia, China, England, and other locations. In a variant, Ooka gives his son three wishes, and he eventually wishes to be more powerful than himself. In an Indian variant, a Chandala maid wants to wed the most powerful person (MacDonald, Sourcebook). The Fisherman and His Wife and The Old Woman Who Lived in a Vinegar Bottle are similar tales.

Suggested Lessons and Activities

1. Bibliotherapy - Greed

2. Share variants or other tales of greed, such as Anansi tales.

3. Study at local community architecture made from stone.

Citation


McDermott, Gerald. The Stonecutter: A Japanese Folktale. New York: Viking Press, 1975.


Newton, Patricia Montgomery. The Stonecutter: An Indian Folktale. New York: Putnam,1990.


Roly, Poly Rice Ball

(Japan)

Background

This story is the tale of a kind, old man and his wife and a greedy, old man and his wife. Each day, as the kind, old man heads out for an honest day's work in the fields, his wife hands him three rice balls wrapped in furoshiki. One day, as he is heading out to the fields with his lunch, a rice ball falls out and rolls into a hole. "Roly poly rice ball, roll right in," comes a song from the hole. Puzzled, he takes each of the rice balls in turn and rolls them into the hole, along with the furoshiki. Each time, he hears the chant. Finally, he peers into the hole and he is invited in. After tumbling into the hole, he finds himself in Mouse Country, where he is offered a meal and a magical golden hammer that allows him to always have good food to eat. After thanking the mice, he returns home. It does not take long for the greedy man to hear of his good fortune and decide to try to get his own golden hammer.

This story is a wonderful one, to be used just for fun or for purposes of discussing greed. It is of motif type N777.0.3, according to MacDonald (Sourcebook). Type 777 is that a dropped ball leads to adventure. In some variants, such as N77.0.1, a rice ball falls through a hole in the kitchen floor and a woman falls into it. A different version involves an old man who falls down a hole after a dumpling and leads to Jizo, whom he offers half (N777.0.2). Other Japanese variants include dumplings instead of rice balls (Sourcebook).

The treatment of mice varies in folklore. In some tales, it is regarded as a bad omen. In other cultures, however, mice were used in some way in healing or first attempts at medicine. In still other cultures, such as African and Native American cultures, mice are generally helpful creatures (Stand. Dict. of Folklore).

Suggested Lessons and Activities

1. Make rice balls to share. Rice is an important element in many cultures, according the the Standard Dictionary of Folklore. In Bali, it is almost sacred and has a soul. In Ceylon, astrologers were consulted prior to planting rice. Rice is so important in China that "How are you" is directly translated into "Have you eaten your rice?" Gautoma "divided mankind into 10 different categories." In ranking, Buddha is one, rice is two, and hell is ten (Stand. Dict. of Folklore).

2. Discuss "greed" concept.

3. Teach the students a few Japanese words, oral or written.

4. Use this and other Japanese tales as part of a Children's Day celebration. You may wish to include more current stories or stories about Japanese Americans, such as Say's Grandfather's Journey.

5. Another theme is in this tale is an underground world, particularly one that has some kind of small creature or being in it. Mary Norton's The Borrowers, in which small people live under the floor and steal/borrow things from the humans under whose house they live.

6. Chanting theme - Other stories include "The Groundhog Dance," as well as various African and Native American tales.

7. Make Japanese food to share with the class. How is it the same/different from "American" food?

8. If the focus is on mice, the following songs or fingerplays could be used: "Farmer in the Dell," "Ten Little Pussycats," "Hickory, Dickery, Dock."

Citation


MacDonald, Margaret Read. Twenty Tellable Tales. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1986.


Yoda, Jun'ichi. The Rolling Rice Ball. New York, Parent's Magazine Press, 1969.


Tongue-Cut Sparrow

(Japan)

Background

In this story, like The Roly-Poly Rice Ball, there is a kind man and his wife who live next door a greedy woman. One day, the kind man and his wife find a sparrow who was hungry and half-drown outside the door. They took him in, fed him, and took good care of him until he was well again. After they let him go, he returned early each morning to sing a song to thank them. Their neighbor hated the sparrow and his early-morning song, so she cut his tongue so he could no longer sing. The kind couple was distaught over this and went to find their friend the sparrow. He offered them a feast, and, as they were leaving, offered them a gift of either a large or tiny basket. Worried that the large basket was all the sparrow owned, they accepted the small one. When they arrived at home, they found it was filled with gold and silk. Soon, the neighbor realized what happened and went off to find the sparrow. She apologized for hurting him, and when she left, accepted the large basket. Her "gift" was filled with horrible creatures that stung her and carried her away (McCarthy; Cole). This motif, where unkindness is punished, is of type Q285.1.1 (MacDonald, Sourcebook).

Suggested Lessons and Activities

1. What other tales have a similar theme? That is, greed is "rewarded" in a fair way? What country or countries are those tales from? What value would you guess that group of people hold very dear?

2. Basket-making.

3. Study other animals that live in Japan.

Citation


Cole, Joanna, ed. Best-Loved Folktales Around the World. New York: Anchor Press, 1982.


McCarty, Tara. Multicultural Fables and Fairy Tales. New York: Scholastic, 1992.


Tikki Tikki Tembo

(China)

Background

This story is the story about how two brothers got there names. As the folktale goes, it was a Chinese custom to give the "oldest and most honored" sons great, long names and second sons short names. However, the long name of the eldest son causes his death, in part. After this, Chinese parents give their children short names.

Suggested Lessons and Activities

1. Study the origin of your name.

2. Write a book about your own name. Why did your parents choose your name? What does your name mean? Where does the name come from? Does anyone else in your family share your name? What famous people share your first name? You may want to use baby books, books on the origin of names, family names, magazines, newspapers, and other resources to develop your book.

3. Does your name have a translation in other languages (ex - French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, etc.)? Learn how to write and say your name in other languages. Make a bookmark of your name in other languages or of names that are similar to yours.

Citation


Mosel, Arlene. Tikki Tikki Tembo. New York: Henry Holt, 1968.


Lon Po Po

(China)

Background

This tale is a variant of what we think of as the "Little Red Riding Hood" story. It is motif K2011 Type 333. Similar tales include tales in Germany, France, and China. In France, the tale is known as "Little Golden Hood." In this variant, the wolf swallows the hood which "magically burns his throat, " after which he is "thrown into a well by the grandmother" (MacDonald, Sourcebook).

Suggested Lessons and Activities

1. Make a Venn Diagram or chart of the similarities and differences between Lon Po Po and Little Red Riding Hood.

2. Study the artwork of Lon Po Po and other books of Chinese tales. What types of artwork are common? Why? Try to make similar artwork.

3. Write a "modern" version of a tale with this motif. How might this tale differ from the original. You may wish to consider how it would differ if set in a city, a suburban, and in the country.

4. You may wish to bring in Gingko nuts.

Citation


Young, Ed. Lon Po Po: A Red Riding HOod Story From China. New York: Philomel Books, 1989.


Tiger, Brahman, and Jackal

(India)

Background

This tale is a humorous one in which a tiger is freed from a cage by a Brahman. The tiger then wants to eat the Brahman. The Brahman convinces the tiger to let him first ask three other creatures their opinion. The first two have no sympathy for him, but the Jackal says he needs to see what happened for himself. Once he does, he manages to trick the tiger back into the cage.

This tale is motif type J1172.3 in which an ungrateful animal is returned to captivity. In variants, a man rescues a serpent or bear who wants to kill the man who helped him. A fox then acts as a judge. Other variants are from Greece (bushman - adder), Nigeria (goat), and Mexico (hare - rattlesnake - coyote). Other variants (type 1172.3.2) include tales from Italy, Vietnam, and other countries.

Suggested Lessons and Activities

1. Discuss caste system and what a Brahman is.

2. Compare the jackal to wise characters in other stories. What other animals are regarded as shrewd or able to trick stronger animals (ex - rabbits, etc.)

3. What is India like today? How is it the same and different from when this story took place? Make a diorama or other artwork showing the similarities and differences. Keep in mind the differences in life in cities and in the country.

Citation


Cole, Joanna, ed. Best-Loved Folktales Around the World. New York: Anchor Press, 1982.


Crocodile and the Monkey

(India)

Background

In this Indian tale, a young crocodile is told by his mother that he must find something to eat on his own - a monkey's heart. The crocodile decides to trick a monkey by offering it a ride to an island to get ripe fruit. He dives underwater to try to drown the monkey. The monkey asks him why he is doing this, and the young crocodile tells him. "Oh! I wish you had told me you wanted my heart, I would have brought it with me!" exclaimed the monkey. The monkey tricks the crocodile into letting him return to the shore to bring his heart, but instead he races up a tree, out of reach of the crocodile.

Suggested Lessons and Activities

1. Compare this to trickster tales in other cultures. What other animals serve as tricksters? Why do you think certain cultures used certain animals as their tricksters?

Citation


Cole, Joanna, ed. Best-Loved Folktales Around the World. New York: Anchor Press, 1982.






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Address, this page:http://www.reocities.com/Athens/Agora/8623/asian.html
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Created June 1998 -- Last updated August 1998
Copyright 1998 D.M. Angiolieri
Comments to: debbi@csonline.net
Deborah M. Angiolieri
Elementary Library Media Specialist
Franklin Area School District
Franklin, PA 16323
United States of America