In this unit, students will become familiar with fables and trickster tales from different cultural traditions and will see how stories change when transferred orally between generations and cultures. They will learn how both types of folktales employ various animals in different ways to portray human strengths and weaknesses and to pass down wisdom from one generation to the next.
Many English speakers are familiar with the Sanskrit word karma, which made its way into the language during the first half of the nineteenth century. It is often used in English to encapsulate the idea that “what goes around comes around.” This lesson plan is designed to bring the meaning of karma and the related concept of samsara to life through the reading of the Jataka Tales.
Fables, such as those attributed to Aesop, are short narratives populated by animals who behave like humans, and which convey lessons to the listener. Jataka Tales are often short narratives which tell the stories of the lives of the Buddha before he reached Enlightenment. In this lesson students will be introduced to both Aesop’s fables and to a few of the Jataka Tales, and through these stories will gain an understanding of one genre of storytelling: morality tales.
Many children are familiar with Snow White's evil stepmother and her poisonous apple, Cinderella's fairy godmother, and the witch in the gingerbread house waiting to eat Hansel and Gretel for dinner. But have they met Baba Yaga, the old crone who is both wise and cruel, who lives in a house standing on chicken legs, and whose servants bring with them the day, sunset and the night? Baba Yaga, the iconic witch of Slavic fairy tales, is one of the characters students will meet in this journey through Russian fairy tales.
King Arthur, Camelot, Gawain, a bold challenge, a perilous journey, a beheading, an enchantment, and a shape-shifter are the ingredients of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. For the modern reader, Sir Gawain's tale is riveting even without understanding its symmetry or cultural and historical context. Viewed through the lens of the medieval thinker, reading this Arthurian tale becomes a rich, multi-layered experience.