File - Ashlee Randall's Education Portfolio

Multicultural Legends and Folktales
Ashlee Randall
Literature has a lasting impact on the impressionable minds of our students.
Therefore, it is imperative that we implement a variety of literary works including
a wide range of genres composed of thought provoking plots, dynamic
characters, and settings in areas around the world and across time; and which
incorporate the distinct elements of “Quality Literature” necessary in order to
promote a strong foundation for our future readers.
Characteristics of Folk Tales and Legends in Literature
Folktales and Legends are stories that are culturally popular and regarded as
historical however are not verifiable; they are generally passed down through oral
tradition. Folk Tales:
One major characteristic of Folk Literature is that there is no single author. The story or
stories have been retold again and again overtime.
The second major characteristic is that Folk Tales originate in oral tradition and eventually
become printed in many different versions.
Folk literature usually contains characters that are entirely on either extreme of the spectrum
of “good” and “bad,” and there is usually a theme of good versus evil with good prevailing.
There is a moral or lesson behind every Folk Tale.
Finally, the setting of Folk Tale literature is almost always in a time “long ago.” The general
time period is implied, however, the tales often begin with introductions such as, “Once Upon
A Time” or “Long, Long, Ago.”
Legends include many similar elements to those of Folk Tale literature.
They usually contain supernatural elements and are also retold over time by different
The major difference between a Folk Tale and a Legend is that a legend is based on a
particular person or event, and is told from a historical perspective.
Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival
Author: Velma Wallis
Illustrations by: Jim Grant
Genre: Folklore/Historical Fiction
Grade Range: Intermediate (6th -8th)
Plot Summary:
Two Old Women is a moving story based on an Athabasca Indian Legend
that has been passed down orally through countless generations. Velma Wallis
retells the story that was originally told to her by her mother. The legend
takes place in Alaska near the upper Yukon River Valley over a period of two
winters in a time described as “before western civilization.” During a harsh
winter, two elderly women are abandoned by their tribe members and are left
to fend for themselves or perish. The story follows the two women through an
incredible journey of survival in which they find strength, friendship,
compassion, and forgiveness. There are many themes found within the text of
this story including but not limited to: Sociology and group mentality, selfpreservation, a sense of community, abandonment, friendship, respect,
survival and forgiveness.
Reader Response Activity:
This story exhibits a wide array of themes and could therefore be used to
make a variety of connections. While reading the story, I would have my
students keep an ongoing journal of chapter responses followed by short in
class discussions regarding the various themes with provided examples. This
will allow them to make connections throughout the reading. At the end of the
book we would conduct a class discussion and create three writing prompts
that the students could choose from to write a short essay analyzing specific
characteristics from the story. Some ideas may include analyzing a specific
theme and providing examples from the text, analyzing the treatment of the
“elders” in the story and comparing/contrasting the treatment of the elderly in
today’s society, analyzing the survival aspect of the story and discussing either
the impact humankind has on depleting resources on our planet, or
comparing/contrasting the methods of survival outlined in the book to ones
that could be used today in a similar situation.
The Arabian Nights – The History of Ali Baba, and of the Forty
Robbers Who Were Killed by One Slave
Author: Unknown – Based on H.W. Dulken’s rendition of The Book of A
Thousand Nights and One Night and the oral Folk traditions of the cultures of
India, Iran (Persia), Iraq, Egypt, and Turkey.
Introduction and notes by: Muhsin al-Musawi.
Illustrator: Not Stated - Cover art by: Dutton and Sherman
Genre: Traditional Literature (Multi-Cultural Folklore)
Grade Range: Secondary (9th – 12th)
Plot Summary:
The History of Ali Baba and of the Forty Robbers is one of thirty-nine tales
depicted within this version of A Thousand Nights and One Night, titled The
Arabian Nights. The tale is set in Persia and tells of two brothers named Cassim
and Ali Baba who inherit a small fortune from their recently deceased father.
The social status of the brothers changes drastically when Cassim marries into
wealth and Ali Baba marries a woman as poor as himself. Ali Baba and his wife
must work hard to support their family and do so by cutting wood from the
nearby forest and selling the pieces in town. One day while in the forest Ali
Baba is startled by a noise and quickly hides in a tree. While he is hiding, a
group of forty robbers approach a cave and open the cave doors with the
magical words “open sesame.” The doors curiously open revealing the
treasures hidden within. When the robbers leave, Ali Baba helps himself to a
portion of the treasures and returns home. The wife of Ali Baba insists on
measuring the amount of gold her husband has brought home, with no logical
purpose, and creates a ripple effect revealing their secret to Cassim and his
wife. Cassim threatens Ali Baba with informing the authorities and forces Ali
Baba to disclose the location of the cave and its treasures. When Cassim
attempts to gather treasures for himself he locks himself inside, forgetting the
word which opens the cave, and is killed by the robbers when they return. This
event leads to an ongoing battle of wits, disguises, and trickery as the robbers
attempt to kill anyone who knows of their secret. The saving grace for Ali Baba
is his brother’s young slave girl, Morgiana, whose attention to detail and skillful
awareness is able to outwit everyone and continuously save the lives of Ali
Baba and his family.
Reader Response Activity:
After reading the text, the students will work in groups discussing the
story and its parts including: a description of the setting, summary of the plot,
and a list of the main characters and a brief description of their attributes. As a
class we will have a discussion regarding the preceding elements in addition to
worldly connections and the overall ethical debates inspired by the text. After
the discussion the students will conduct a character analysis including all major
characters in the story and order them from “good” to “bad.” There are
several sub ethical themes addressed in the story of Ali Baba and the Forty
Robbers including, but not limited to: greed/reward, thievery/stealing,
loyalty/betrayal, cultural/religious customs, and honesty/deception. The
students will be instructed to choose a character and write a persuasive essay
discussing the ethics (or lack thereof) of the character, and classifying them as
either inherently good or bad by providing examples from the text in addition
to their own research from outside sources. Students will also create an
illustration of their character creatively depicting them in the ‘light’ in which
their essay describes.
Finn Mac Cool: Did the Man Become the Legend or the
Legend Become the Man?
Author: Morgan Llywelyn
Illustrator: Cover Art by: Gregory Manchess
Genre: Legend/Historical Fiction
Grade Range: Intermediate and Secondary (7th -12th)
Plot Summary:
Based on the colorful Irish legend of Fionn MacCumhall, Finn Mac Cool is a
diverse character whose titles include: knight, feared Warrior, Romantic, Poet,
and leader of Fianna, the first and most feared Irish army. In Morgan
Llywelen’s recreation of the age old tale, she takes the reader on an
adventurous journey of a man, Finn Mac Cool, and his ambitious efforts to rise
above the social ranks and gain the respect both he and his people deserve and
desire. Through a multitude of characters and continuous action the legend of
Finn Mac Cool becomes an inspiring novel that captures the essence of the
man, the grandeur of the Irish Legend, and the beauty of the Irish land and
culture from which it was all created.
Reader Response Activity:
Students will participate in small group discussions after each chapter
and propose three critical thinking questions or analyses to share with the class
in a brief class discussion. After reading the text, each student will create a
brief summary of the novel including major characters, themes, and conflicts.
As a class we will compile the information into one organized summary which
each student will receive a copy of. The class will then be divided into groups
(either assigned or by choice of topic) and will be assigned a subject to
research and compose a comparative, informative, or analytical essay. The
topics may include: 1. Compare/Contrast the historical Irish legends and Folk
Tales to Morgan Llewellyn’s rendition of Finn Mac Cool. 2. Research the
historical aspects of Irish culture during the time period in which Finn Mac Cool
is set. Provide examples of major differences/similarities depicted in the novel
to what you discover in your research. 3. Create a character analysis of Finn
Mac Cool exploring specific elements that the character exhibited in the story.
Discuss the elements that would drastically change the novel if certain aspects
of his character were changed.
The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush
Author: Tomie dePaola
Illustrator: Tomie dePaola
Genre: Multicultural Legends/Folktales
Grade Range: 3rd-5th
Summary: This is a Native American folktale of Little Gopher who was a young
boy who did not fit in with the boys his age in his tribe. He had a gift, he loved
to paint and making warrior dolls for his people. One day he had a “Dream
Vision” which told him to no longer be sad and that his purpose was to paint
and to tell the stories of his tribe through his paintings. He was told to
construct a painting of the sunset, he tried all he could, but could not paint it
just right. One night a voice told him to go to the hill with his canvas, there
were brushes waiting for him. Leaving the magical brushes after he painted his
magnificent sunset, Little Gopher’s magic brushes bloomed into radiant
flowers on the hillside. He became a legend in his tribe and was called “HeWho-Brought-the-Sunset-to-the-Earth”. He was finally accepted.
Reader Response Activity: After reading this I would have my students reflect
on times they ever felt as if they were not accepted. They can write this in a
journal, they do not have to share this with anyone since it is so personal. I also
would have them paint the Arizona sky to express their creativity and to use art
as an outlet.
The Last Princess: The Story of Princess Kaiulani of Hawaii
Author: Fay Stanley
Illustrator: Diane Stanley
Genre: Multicultural Legends/Folktales
Grade Range: 5th-6th
Summary: Princess Kaiulani of Hawaii was a royal who had a beautiful
childhood till her mother passed away. She believed in being a positive role
model for her people, no matter her sorrow that was carried with her. She was
sent far away from her home to receive an education. She received news from
her country being taken over by America. She had to go to Washington and
speak to President Grover Cleveland. A revolution started with the Hawaiian
citizens, taking matters into their own hands and trying to restore the throne
for their queen. She tried her best to put on a tough but elegant exterior when
she was struggling.
Reader Response Activity: The students will have two options after reading
this book. They will construct a journal entry as Princess Kaiulani and what
thoughts or emotions she possibly had. The second option is to write her a
letter asking her questions. Asking questions about being the next in line to be
queen at such a young age and asking what duties she has as a princess.
Strega Nona: Her Story
Author: Tomie dePaola
Illustrator: Tomie dePaola
Genre: Multicultural Legends/Folktales
Grade Range: 3rd-4th
Summary: Strega Nona: Her Story is the beginning of the Italian folktale and
how she came to be a Strega or a “witch”. She is trained by her Grandmother
who is considered the greatest Strega. However, Strega Nona’s best friend
Amelia was going to school to become a Strega and work with magic. She
feared not having a diploma would make her less desirable for business. Since
her grandmother was her teacher, she became the second greatest Strega.
Everyone loved her, and the story ends insinuating the beginning of the actual
Reader Response Activity: The students will compose their own spells, what
they would perform as witches and wizards. Also, they will need to focus on
the family aspect of the story and how friends are important but sometimes we
need to do what is best for us which isn’t always what our friends think is best.