Story Lovers World
(excerpts from Storytell posts plus original research)
To retell these stories, obtain permission from the copyright holder if the material is not in the public domain.
There is a good old Thai story about an old couple, their children
now grown, who decide to get divorced. They divide all their property
except their large storehouse of rice. Neither can agree how it
will be divided so each will have "enough". All the
court is stumped, until a young boy volunteers to solve the problem.
He has the rice put in the center of the large throne room. The
old man and old woman are each given a small cup to carry rice,
one to the right, the other to the left, corner of the large room.
They can keep carrying rice to their own corner until they are
satisfied they have "enough". Of course, they race back
and forth with greed, carrying one small cup after another. All
too soon, they are exhausted. "Come on. Come on. Take more.
You don't have enough, yet." urges the boy, until, panting
and faint, each old person gasps "Enough. I have enough." The boy then turns and bows to the king: since each of you have
taken all you want, the rest belongs to the king."
2) There is a story from many traditions (from Arabia to the Amazon) about, let's say, two cats who find a peice of cheese, or two foxes who catch a fish, and who chase and fight over how it is to be divided, until an ape in a tree offers to divide it equally. To do this, the ape breaks it, since it has fingers and thumbs, and then takes a bite from each side "just to make sure they are the same size" until there are only 2 little tiny pieces left. "There, aren't you glad you asked me to help you solve your problem?" he asks with satisfaction before running up into his tree. I tell this story in pre-school and kindergarten, and the kids all recognize the familiarity to their own tug-of-wars, when they can't figure out how to share something "found" until teacher or mother steps in and says, "Since you can't find a way to share it, I'll solve your problem for you." I always have the kids help me yell "It's mine!" and "I saw it first!" etc. Its so much fun to play at being greedy and bad.
A few stories come to mind immediately, The
Fisherman and his Wife, also
known as The Magic Fish or The Golden Fish, and Why
the Sea is Salty. This is a Korean version but the version
I tell is from Norway.
The Golden Fish or The Fisherman and his Wife
(from Old Peter's Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome)
Long ago, near shore of blue sea, old Fisherman and Wife lived in tiny hut made of earth, moss, logs; never had a rouble to spend, not even a kopek! Fisherman caught fish with his net; Wife cooked fish; so they lived. They sold only a few fish. On summer nights, they sat outside hut on broken bench as he mended holes in his net.The Wife patched their clothes, complained bitterly.
One day Fisherman caught nothing until he threw net for last time. As he pulled his heavy net to shore, he thought he would find at least 100 fish, but instead, glittering brightly, a golden fish now lay in his net and began speaking.
Fish begged for its life, promising Fisherman that he could be of use to him. Astonished Fisherman found out that fish’s heart felt pain. Fisherman threw golden fish back into sea. Fish stayed there with its tail slowly flapping water to keep its head up, looked at Fisherman kindly, spoke again, telling Fisherman to make a wish and it would be granted. Fisherman could not think of anything he wanted, he had everything he needed. Fish told him if he ever wanted anything, to come to the shore and ask for it; in flash of gold, Fish disappeared.
Fisherman returned to his hovel and Wife; told her everything. Wife was furious; she ordered him to go back and ask for bread. Back the Fisherman went to the shore, called out
Head in air and tail in sea;
Fish, fish, listen to me.
Golden Fish appeared; Fisherman asked for bread, Fish told him to go home and dove back into sea. Sad Fisherman trudged home, discovered excited Wife with huge loaf of rare, delicious white bread. Happy Wife beamed as they cut into loaf, dipping bread into hot tea.
Wife decided she wanted trough to keep bread fresh, so she ordered Fisherman to seek out fish again. Nervous Fisherman returned to shore, calling for fish. Up came Fish, golden in sun’s rays. Hearing Fisherman’s request, Fish said, “Go home!” and dove into sea. Fisherman returned to find bread in beautiful trough. Wife still not happy. Now she ordered him to ask for a new hut. Reluctant Fisherman returned to shore, called again. Fish said, “Now what?” Request was made, he said “Go home!” Fisherman returned to finest hut God ever built, new inside and out.
Wife miserable; now she wanted to be a lady living in a fine house with other people to do all her work; she ordered sad Fisherman to return to the fish. One again, Fish said, “Go home!” Fisherman came home to huge brick house, servants everywhere. Wife sent him to stables; he was not good enough for her now. Servants mistreated him, grooms whipped him, he ate in kitchen, swept courtyard.
Wife tired of this, too; wanted to be Tzaritza, with generals and courtiers doing her bidding. Fisherman returned to sea. Fish getting annoyed, but said, “Go home!” Fisherman returned to find Wife dressed in gold/silver, in palace with golden roof, flower gardens. Still not satisfied; under penalty of death Wife sent him back to shore to make her ruler of all the seas. Three times he called for the fish; nothing
happened. A huge storm descended upon him, angry waves, roaring wind. Fish appeared in fury; did not respond to request; dove back into water. Fisherman went home, discovered Wife in rags sitting in their old hovel, cleaning pans, singing songs. They sat down together on bench, drank tea without sugar; they had no money. Fisherman caught many fish after that, but never another golden one.
4) Hangul / Literature / Why the Sea Is Salty
5) The Theft of Smell. Various versions can be found among Pleasant DeSpain and Heather Forest's work.
6) The Twelve-Month Brothers (a Cinderella Variant) ~ the stepmother and step sister want more and more, first violets in winter, then strawberries, then apples. When Marushka only brings two apples home, their greed makes them head out in search of more, only to be lost in a snowstorm.
7) There are also three listed in Earth Care: World Folktales to Talk About by Margaret Read MacDonald under the heading of Greed. I don't know if they would be appropriate for a five-year-old but you can take a look and decide. The stories are:
Too Much Sky
Just A Little More
The Origin of Puget Sound and the Cascade Range
8) The Old Woman in the Vinegar Bottle comes to mind as opposed to the old woman in The Hedley Kow.
9) A monkey-trap. Trapper puts hazelnuts in a jar with a top just big enough for the monkey to slip a hand into. The monkey puts his hand in it and gets a big handful. But now his hand is too big to get out of the jar. He can get away anytime he is willing to leave the nuts, but he cannot bring himself to let go. He will stay stuck there, chattering and shouting, and the trapper can pick him up at his leisure.
10) Papa Joe has a fun story - perfect for a 5 year old - The Ghost, the Miser, and the Applesauce. It's found at his site -it's a good audience participation tale about a miser who hoards applesauce and a ghost that cures him of his bad habit.
11) One of my favoritie stories to tell and the wonderful book it came from The Gift of the Mermaid (Celtic, Brittany) retold by Ruth Stotter in The Golden Axe and Other Folk Tales of Compassion and Greed, 1998: Stotter Press, California A long time ago, mermaids would rise from the waves on the Breton shores. They were often seen on the moonlit nights combing their long hair, and occasionally they would come ashore in daylight and spread on the sand beautiful white linens covered with precious treasures---pearl necklaces, rings of all kinds, and jewels. It was believed that they found these treasured from sunken ships on the ocean floor. If anyone approached them, they would wrap up the treasure in their white linen cloths and quickly dive into the sea. One day two young girls were walking along the beach gathering shells. They were surprised and excited to see a mermaid so busy playing with her treasure that she did not notice the two girls. They tiptoed toward her.. When they were right in front of her, she looked up, but she did not grab her treasure and plunge into the sea. She smiled at the two girls and said, "I would like to give you each a present." Then she quickly put something in each of two small white linen cloths and handed one to each girl. "This is my gift. Put it in your pocket and be sure not to open it until you are home with your parents." The two girls thanked her. Then she said, "Now go to your family, and remember, do not open your gift until you are in your home." The girls ran off. When they turned to look back, the mermaid waved and dove into the sea. One of the girls said, "Why wait until we are home? I want to see the treasure the mermaid gave me." But the second girl said, "She told us to wait until we were home with our parents." "I don't care," said the first girl, and she sat on a rock and opened her bundle. But inside there was only dirt. "Throw your bundle away," she said to her friend. "It was only a trick. There is only dirt inside." But the other little girl took her bundle home. her family watched as she opened it. It was filled with sparkling jewels!
12) Another Greedy story is in Joining In: An Anthology of Audience Participation Stories and How to Tell Them, edited by Norma Livo. It's by Carol Birch and called Bracelets. The girl keeps asking for "more" until she is covered in jewelry.
13) My fav 5 yr. old story about greed is Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock. The kids love to participate in the refrain. There is a version by Eric Kimmel that's fun to do. Also, there are "just enough" versions of the person making an article of clothing and re-cutting and sewing until it's down to a button and finally...just enough to make the story.
14) My neighbor has a wild story, in Hebrew, about a goody-goody little girl who is sooo good the elders give her all kinds of medals, which she proudly wears and clanks. In the end she is playing outdoors when a wolf comes. Everyone hides but she is trembling so the medals clink, and the wolf finds and eats her.
That story is found within The Story-Teller (Classic Short Stories Series) by Saki (H.H. Munro).
Some more Margaret Read MacDonald stories of wanting or having too much stuff:
The Girl Who Wore Too Much - from Shake-It-Up Tales!
- a story from Thailand - Girl's parents spoil her, give her too many dresses, too much jewelery. She goes to dance, can't decide what to wear - decides to put one dress on top of another - can barely walk - friends try to help, but she finally collapses on the mountain - parents have to come and help her home.
Roly Poly Rice Ball - from Twenty Tellable Tales: Audience Participation Folktales for the Beginning Storyteller - Kind man visits Mouse country - under the earth - treats the mice with appreciation, gets golden hammer which produces food when shaken - Greedy neighbor decides to get himself a golden hammer - treats the mice rudely - gets hammer - which when shaken produces mud, slime, snakes, spiders, etc.
Also: A book full of such stories is called The Golden Axe and Other Folk Tales of Compassion and Greed; Versions from around the world of the classic story The Kind and Unkind Girl Known as tale type 480 by Ruth Stotter
15) You might try The Little Old Woman Who Lived in a Vinegar Bottle. It can be found in Margaret Read MacDonald's The Storyteller's Start-Up Book: Finding, Learning, Performing and Using Folktales. The reason I suggest this story is that it is a good interactive story and you can leave out any of the houses to shorten it.
Response: And just to add Margaret's explanation of a vinegar bottle, it is an old term for a house with one room on the ground floor and one room upstairs.
(Who didn't know that when he recorded the story on video for a German publisher? Yes, you've guessed right!)
Richard M. Germany
There is a little old woman who lives in a Vinegar bottle and she wishes she lived in a larger house--an efficiency apartment would be nice. The fairy grants her wish and goes back in a week to check on her.
The old woman is complaining again. She would like a cute little house with a bedroom, kitchen and living room. Wish is granted. Still complains. She wishes for a fine house with. . ., a mansion, a country estate with servants, etc. Still complains. Tells fairy she wants to be the queen and live in the White House. (Kids like telling me that the Queen doesn't live in the White House, etc.) She ends up back in the vinegar bottle because, "If she can't be happy there, she can't be happy anywhere."
I have found this story to be very adaptable and enjoyable to tell.
Rose, the story lady
16) Here are two sites. The first one has a few of the stories already mentioned, as well as others.
Dissatisfaction and Greed
Indian Folktales, Mango Charm, The young man did so. But the charm did not work ever again because he had misused it to satis..
17) Hardworking man hears stories of good luck happening to others – one found gold axe, another saved girl from drowning, given reward, etc. Walks along river, wondering why he's never had any good luck. Not even a small piece of luck.
River spirit hears him, tells him he'll gove him a small piece of luck: a purse which always has a penny when opened. BUT the purse will produce pennies only al long as he has not spent or given away or used in any way even one of them.
Man spends the day opening purse and taking out the coins. Next morning thinks what to buy – but decides to wait another day. Evening – hungry, no food – buy some? No, wait another day – goes begging for money for food.
Next day works some, but then back to purse, and must dig hole to hide the pennies. And so on. After a number of years dies of overwork and malnutrition, not one penny used in any way, until neighbors use two of the coins to close his eyes before burying him, so purse no longer cursed with magic.
Someday someone will find the pennies – but profit from his experience and don't waste your time hunting for them!
Lois T. Israel 4/5/05
18) A great one to use with seniors is "The Three Trees."
Steve O. 4/6/05
19) You may want to add the story of Achan in the Old Testament: Second Edition, Joshua chapter 7-when Achan takes from the spoils of war in the battle of Jericho, after Joshua warned everybody not to take anything because it was all holy and must go to God. The Israelite army loses 36 men in their next battle, and G-d reveals it was because of Achan's sin. Achan is found out, his stolen treasures unburied from under his tent, and he is stoned to death.
Dahna B. 4/23/12
Created 2005; last update 5/27/12.
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