45 – Androcles

The Aesop Fable “Androcles” is about the value of friendship and kindness. It’s also a critique of the cruel way many people treat one another. It’s less known today, but it’s been a very important story for nearly two thousand years, inspiring many works of art by musicians, sculptors, painters, dancers, and playwrights all over the world. Children can add to this tradition by learning the original tale and the creativity it has inspired.

The audio and text for the story of Androcles can be found on the Folk Tales Page: childrensliteraturepodcast.com/folk-tales/

Activity: Make A Work of Art based on “Androcles”

Ask students to produce a new work of art based on Androcles. This could include:

      • An illustration of a scene from the story
      • A sculpture of one of the characters
      • A script for a skit based on the story
      • A short story inspired by the original fable
      • A dance that interprets all or part of the story

New works of art do not need to exactly reproduce the tale as it was originally written. Young artists can focus tightly on a single characters, theme, or plot point, or use the fable as inspiration for a completely new work of art.

44 – Who was Aesop?

Aesop wrote over 700 fables . . . or did he? This ancient Greek writer’s work is at the foundation of literature, but who was he? Did he even exist? There are many different versions of his biography, because Aesop is one of those figures who comes from the blurry edges of the past where history vanishes into legend. All versions credit him with being an intelligent storyteller who traveled widely, dispensing moral wisdom with his pithy, entertaining stories. Although he met an untimely end, his work has become timeless, influencing global literature for over 2600 years.

Activity: Semihistorical Figures

History is the study of what happened in the past. Historiography is the study of how history is written down. Not all works of history are equally valuable. Some have false or missing information, and some are written by people who are trying to push a certain point of view. And then there are some people who get written into history who probably shouldn’t be in the story at all, because there isn’t any firm evidence about their lives or deeds.

Students can research one of the following semihistorical figures. These people often feature in old histories or in legends and works of fiction, but there is no hard evidence proving that they actually lived:

      • Ragnar Lothbrok
      • Mulan
      • Pythagoras
      • King Arthur
      • The Queen of Sheba
      • Robin Hood
      • Homer
      • John Henry
      • Lycurgus
      • Sun Tzu

This printable worksheet can help students answer questions about a semihistorical figure:

      • When was this person was supposed to have lived?
      • What is the person famous for?
      • What sources mention this person?
      • Does anything about the person’s life story seem unlikely to be true?
      • Do you think this person really existed? Why or why not?

34 – Ethics and Physics in “The Crow and the Pitcher”

“The Crow and the Pitcher” by Aesop doesn’t just have a wholesome moral that teaches children to solve problems with resilence and creative thinking. This fable also teaches about the concept of displacement in physics!

There’s also a fun video I’ve made to go with this episode at my YouTube channel, starring myself, my daughter, and a very cute puppet.

Activity: Volume Displacement as taught in “The Crow and The Pitcher”

Materials needed
– Black construction paper
– Safety scissors
– White crayons
– A clear plastic pitcher
– A large measuring cup with graduated measurement lines
– pebbles
– electrical tape in any color
– water

Have students use construction paper, crayons, and scissors to draw and cut out images of crows. A white crayon will stand out on the black paper to draw feathers, eyes, and beak details. If this project is being done for a Science Fair, you could buy a puppet instead as that makes for better storytelling.

Partly fill the pitcher with water. Use a strip of electrical tape to mark the water level on the side of the jug. Tell the story of The Crow and The Pitcher. Students can bring their crows to the pitcher as the bird attempts to drink. Have students add pebbles at the right moment in the story. Observe how the water rises as the pebbles displace volume. Have students bring their crows back to the pitcher when the water level is high enough that the bird can “drink.”

Pour off water into the measuring cup until the water level has gone back to the original position. Note the amount of water. This amount tells you the volume of the pebbles added to the pitcher. For younger students, keep the explanation simple: “that’s how much space the pebbles would take up if you could smoosh them all together.” Older students can learn that 1 milliliter equals 1 centimeter cubed, so the solid volume of the rocks in cm3 is the same number as the milliliters of displaced water.

Students may also be interested in researching how scientists have proven that crows are able to understand volume displacement, meaning that it’s possible for this fable to be based on real life observation and not just the author’s imagination.

Music in this episode

Seikilos Epitaph

29 – A French Lesson with The Fables of La Fontaine

Generations of French children have grown up reading and memorizing the Fables of Jean de La Fontaine, and these stories have had a huge impact on the French language.

You can’t really be fluent in any language unless you know certain stories, songs, and figures of speech, most of which are learned in childhood. Native speakers of French are almost automatically familiar with the Fables of Jean de La Fontaine, who collected and retold 239 fables in twelve books. Each story contains pithy phrases and morals that show up repeatedly in common speech, news articles, political cartoons, and even scientific papers.

This episode takes a look at one of La Fontaine’s Fables — Les Animaux Malades de la Peste, or Animals Sick with the Plague. Originally written by Aesop, this is a deeply political tale that is sadly still relevant today with its moral warning that it is easy for the powerful to escape justice, instead heaping blame upon a weaker — and innocent — scapegoat.

Activity: The Moral of the Story . . .

Have students read one of the Fables of La Fontaine. If you or your kids are able to read French, the original versions can be found here:

www.la-fontaine-ch-thierry.net/fables.htm

A selection of the Fables translated into English can be found here:

en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Original_Fables_of_La_Fontaine

After reading a fable, have students fill out this printable worksheet, which has spaces for the following:

      • Name of the fable
      • Origin of the fable (Aesop? Horace? A French folktale?)
      • Most interesting sentence in the fable
      • What is the moral of this story?
      • How can you use this moral to improve your life?

Students can then share their findings with one another.

Activity: Translating Important French Phrases from the Fables

This activity is appropriate for kids who are learning the French language and have enough ability to engage in short translations. Below is a list of some commonly quoted phrases from the Fables de La Fontaine. Alone, in pairs, or in small groups as appropriate, have students translate one or more of the phrases into their native language. Then, ask the students to try to figure out what the moral means. It may be necessary to read the fable from which the quote is derived in order to get good context. Students should then share their findings with one another.

Title of Fable – Book, Number Quotation
La Cigale et la Fourmi – I, 1 Eh bien ! Dansez maintenant.
Le Corbeau et le Renard – I, 2 Apprenez que tout flatteur, vit aux dépens de celui qui l’écoute.
Le Loup et l’Agneau – I, 10 La raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleure
Les Frelons et les Mouches à miel – I, 21 À l’œuvre on connaît l’artisan.
Le Lion et le Rat – II, 11 On a souvent besoin d’un plus petit que soi.
Le Renard et le Bouc – III, 5 En toute chose il faut considérer la fin.
Le Petit Poisson et le Pêcheur – V, 3 Petit poisson deviendra grand, pourvu que Dieu lui prête vie.
Le Petit Poisson et le Pêcheur – V, 3 Un Tiens vaut, ce dit-on, mieux que deux Tu l’auras.
Le Lièvre et la Tortue – VI, 10 Rien ne sert de courir; il faut partir à point.
Le Chartier embourbé – VI, 18 Aide-toi, le Ciel t’aidera.
Le Lion amoureux – IV, 1 Amour, Amour, quand tu nous tiens, on peut bien dire: Adieu prudence.
L’Ours et les Deux Compagnons – V, 20 Il m’a dit qu’il ne faut jamais, vendre la peau de l’ours qu’on ne l’ait mis par terre.
Les Animaux Malades de la Peste – VII, 1 Ils ne mouraient pas tous, mais tous étaient frappés.
Les Animaux Malades de la Peste – VII, 1 Crier Haro sur le baudet.
Les Animaux Malades de la Peste – VII, 1 Selon que vous serez puissant ou misérable, les jugements de cour vous rendront blanc ou noir.
Les Lapins – X, 15 Mais les ouvrages les plus courts sont toujours les meilleurs.
Le Milan et le Rossignol – IX, 18 Ventre affamé n’a point d’oreilles.