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SOS: Searching Out Stories/Info - Friendship,
Kindness, Honesty

Advice, Comments and References from Storytellers,
Teachers and Librarians


Advice, Comments and References from Storytellers, Teachers and Librarians

(excerpts from Storytell posts plus original research)

Book titles and online links are in blue and underlined. Click on them for more information.
Story titles are in quotation marks.
To retell these stories, get permission from the copyright holder if the material is not in the public domain.
Storytell posts are added chronologically as they are received by Story Lovers World

1) Query:
I am telling at an elementary school this Friday and I was asked to tell stories of Honesty, Friendship & Kindness. So far I am thinking of telling:

To the kndergarten and 1st grade:
"Rabbit and Elephant" (about coping with bullies - A piece of the wind, and other stories to tell by Ruthilde Kronberg and Patricia McKissack)
"Roly Poly Rice Ball" (about kindness vs. meanness from Margaret Read McDonald's
Twenty Tellable Tales: Audience Participation Folktales for the Beginning Storyteller)

To the 4th and 5th grade:
"Cap O' Rushes" (Celtic version of "Like Meat Loves Salt" about telling the truth)
"The Golden Fish" (Russian tale about kindness and greed)

I still am wondering about what to tell the 2nd and 3rd grades... I was considering "The Magic Brush" by Rose Owens from The Healing Heart for Families: Storytelling to Encourage Caring and Healthy Families about kindness and honesty.

I know I could repeat some of the other stories, but I like to challenge myself so that the librarian will hear multiple stories to use with the children. I also wonder if I am overlooking an obvious and perfect choice. Any suggestions?


a) "Butterfly Brothers" in Annette Harrison's Easy-To-Tell Stories for Young Children is very good for the little ones. "The Little Red House" also has numerous friends helping with the search.

You might want to consider the following choices for the third grade children. "Old Joe and the Carpenter," a version can be found in Elisa Pearmains' Doorways to the Soul: 52 Wisdom Tales from Around the World. Also in Pleasant DeSpains Thirty-Three Multicultural Tales to Tell (American Storytelling) . Also, "The Tear" by Dan Keding and "The Best Wish" by Dan as well. The last can be found in the Nov/Dec 2001 issue of Storytelling Magazine. "The Magic Pomegranate" by Penninah Schram in Ready-To-Tell Tales (American Storytelling)
by Holt and Mooney. (Performing a mitvah, or a good deed, is the message.)
"Little Burnt Face" by Milbre Burch in Ready-To-Tell Tales (American Storytelling).
"Nail Soup" or "Stone Soup" (Dan Keding's version).
Marushka and the Month Brothers, Russian folktale.

I transcribed this once for Vickie -- accidentally hit on it today, and I think it does fit. I'll give you all just a bit of it because of that pesky copyright thing . . .

The Sweet Patootie Doll by Mary Calhoun.
Once upon a time there was a Sweet Patootie Doll.
What is that? Why, a doll made out of a sweet potato, of course!
Well, this little old Sweet Patootie Doll belonged to a girl named Lucy.
And this is how the doll came to be.
. . . .And the Sweet Patootie Doll just smiled her big brown smile,
Because she knew what she was for --
for making a little girl glad.

It is a sweet story. copyright 1957, so not public domain, but for private telling .

I just thought of another one, "Toads and Diamonds, a French Folktale" found in Twenty-Two Splendid Tales to Tell From Around the World, Vol. 2 (American Storytelling). It has a great lesson about honesty and kindness. Here is the online version by Charles Perrault The Baldwin Project: The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang

The Aesop's fable of "The Golden Axe" is a great story to tell, and I think it would work for your 2nd and 3rd grades. You might need to re-work it a little.

Also "The Three Wishes" is so funny, and yet the husband is moved by kindness to remove the sausage from his wife's nose, even though it means he must give up his last wish.

Here's a link to the story of the Golden Axe:

You can find my telling of "The Golden Axe" on my website at
It's one of my favorite fables to tell.

Take a look at Ruth Stotter's book, The Golden Axe and Other Folk Tales of Compassion and Greed, 1998. I
Ruth has compiled 33 complete stories on the motif of the "kind & unkind girl " Tale Type 480 plus summaries of others.

For Honesty, what of those stories where the thief is found out ?
There is one where the "judge" claims to have a "truth seeking" rooster - he puts the rooster under pot from the fire, blows out candle, and says that "rooster will crow when thief touches the pot." All line up to touch the pot. No noise from the rooster, but when the candle is lit, the judge picks out the thief as the ONLY one withOUT soot on his finger - as he was the ONLY one afraid to touch the fire-blackened pot.


This story was just selected by one of my storytelling students yesterday. A version from China, "The Bell That Knew The Truth" can be found in Through the Grapevine: World Tales Kids Can Read & Tell by Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss. It is the first story in the book.

i) Another is where the baker falls asleep at the market, but when he wakens his money is missing. The judge asks him where he'd earned the money. The baker said that he'd been making his fried bread? donuts? ??- can't remember, but must stress it's oily - he'd stuffed the money in his pockets all day, and then buried it under a rock so that he could rest. The judge has a bowl of water brought to him, then asks each man there to dip his hands - and the thief 's(from some non-oily trade) hands are oily. Oh, I hope someone else can help - brain freeze here on title and details. BUT the wonderful aspect of these "judges" or "judgment" stories is the opportunity for listeners to think about how the crook might be found out - you can see the wheels going round as students work on the problem.


This story, an adaption from Japan I believe is "The Wise Judge," can be found in
Ready-To-Tell Tales (American Storytelling) by Holt and Mooney. The children love this story because of the riddle at the end, they like to guess how the judge knew which man was the thief.

Offlist I suggested "Learn to Write in the Sand" to Allison for a friendship story.


2) Here are the stories I ended up telling at the elementary school last Friday on the topic of Honesty, Friendship & Kindness.

To the kindergarten and 1st grade:
"Rabbit and Elephant" (about coping with bullies - A Piece of the Wind by Ruthilde Kronberg and Patricia McKissack)
The Roly-Poly Rice Ball (Read-It! Readers) (about kindness vs. meanness from Margaret Read McDonald's 20 Tellable Tales)
“The Lion and the Mouse” (inspired by Diane Ferlatte’s version on her “Knick Knack Paddy Whack” tape).

To the 2nd and 3rd grades
The Roly-Poly Rice Ball (Read-It! Readers)
"The War Between the Sandpipers and the Whales" from Margaret Read McDonald's Peace Tales.
"The Golden Fish" (Russian tale about kindness and greed)

To the 4th and 5th grade:
"Damon and Pythias"
"Cap O' Rushes" (Celtic version of "Like Meat Loves Salt" about telling the truth)

My favorite versions of these two come from the Internet. And I added a version of Joe Hayes “That’s Not Fair” after Bob Kanegos described the bones to me in the notes listed below…

My sources were:
Susi Wolf wrote:
How about "The Lion and The Mouse" Aesop story. I do a rhyming verse and kids love it!

One day the mouse was walking
Past the lion's lair
That's what they call the lion's cave
He makes his home in there.

The lion sprang upon the mouse
And grabbed him in his paws.
The big cat sniffed the little mouse
And opened up his jaws.

The mouse cried,
"Someday, sir, you'll need a favor too.
So if you're kind to me this day
Then I'll be kind to you."

The lion laughed,
"You're much to small to be of use to me."
But, on a whim, he set him down.
"Okay." He smiled. "You're free."

"Thank you, sir" the mouse cried
Then scampered out of sight
And what do you know the day came
When the mouse proved he was right?

For the lion was caught in a huner's net
He roared, "Oh me! Oh my!"
The mouse, out with the wife and kids,
Happened to be strolling by.

Seeing the trouble he ran to the lion
And climbed upon his paw.
He took the net in his tiny teeth
And he began to gnaw.

In minutes he had chewed a hole
So big I'm telling you
A whole herd of elephants
Could have gotten through.

From that day on the lion and the mouse
Were the closest of friends
And lived happily ever after, so I am told
And that's the way this story ends!

I got it from Shari Lewis (my hero) on one of her tapes so I don't know the author of this rhyme. It plays big, especially with all the action I put into it.

Bob Kanegis wrote: There's a great story...retold by Joe Hayes called "That's Not Fair"... in the motif of kindness repaid with unkindness....


Kid finds tiny man stuck in bottle, frees him. Tiny man turns into giant who now wants to eat the boy. That's not fair. In turn they go to the water, the wind(air) and the earth... who all agree that man often pays kindness with unkindness... pollutes etc. But the earth tricks giant back into bottle by asking him to show how it came about. This is an environmental social commentary twist on a familiar tale. We;ve used it with third and fourth graders and one can jump from the story to personal tales of kindness/friendship/equity etc.

Check out the tale Liz contributed to the HSA forum - “Dance with Both Hands Free”. We used it with teenagers but it might work if you adapt it a little for 5th 6th graders. It certainly deals with honesty and friendship.

Rob wrote:
A couple of stories I love to tell are The Tongue-Cut Sparrow, a Japanese folktale where the evil old woman is rewarded for her cruelty and greed by being torn apart by a hoard of oni hiding in a basket given to her by the sparrow whose tongue she cut out after he ate her starch which she was using to hang sheets outside to dry. Another favorite of mine is, "The Golden Axe."

Noa wrote:
Do you know the story of "The Baker's Dozen"? There's a picture book version by Aaron Sheperd and more that he gives on his web site.
I've told it around Christmas but also as a generosity story.

Robin wrote: Why not include some fables? Second and third graders are often interested in the "moral of the story"

Laura wrote:
One of the sweetest tales about friendship is a small folktale from India, part of the Jataka tales, about a dog and an elephant. It is on "four leggeed tales". I do not know ifyou have a copy, but it is basically, about the time the buddha was born as an elephant of a great king. He had a golden stable and golden plates, etc.. he was painted and adorned for ceremonies, but he was lonely. a starving puppy wandered into the stable and the elephant pitying the dog pushed his golden plate of food and water to the dog. the puppy ate and then fell asleep on the large foot of the elephant. awake the dog and the elephant became friends. riding on the elephant's back. but the stable keeper sold the dog to a merchant unaware that animals could be friends. the elephant became sad and refused to go out into festivals, etc.. at last a doctor announced that his heart was broken off the loss of a friend and the merchant told what had happened. The king made a decress. frightened, the merchant let the dog loose and it found its way back to the stable. their reunion was great. the dog then became the royal friend of the elephant and rode on his own gold little saddle through processions and it became well known that friendship is one of hte most valuable assets of all creatures and even animals can be the best of friends. ~ please use this one and all and make sure to say that it is my retelling of an ancient Jataka tale (one of the many lives of the buddha. these tales were the precursors of the Aesops's fables and can also often be found in Kalila and Dimna, the great Arabic conversation between many animals filled with tales. they are not as moralistic as the aesop fables and often occur in a very interesting context)

And Karen added:
I was intrigued by Laura's adaptation and did a quick web search. Here is the tale. The Baldwin Project: More Jataka Tales by Ellen C. Babbitt

There are also a number of Jakata tales at this site as well. If you go to the stories section The Baldwin Project..."Bringing Yesterday's Classics to Today's Children"

You will open a portal to 2705 stories in all genres. A wonderful site, one of my favorites.

Elisa wrote:
Stories that come to mind on Honesty, Kindness and Friendship
"The Man in the Moon" - A tale with versions from China and other countries about how the man got onto the moon, in which a young boy or girl finds an injured bird in the forest and nurses it to health. When well he/she sets it free and it returns with a magical seed that grows gourds that grow upon the ground with gems inside. The greedy neighbor sees all and finds out what the girl/boy did. When he can't find a hurt bird he hurts one with his slingshot and nurses it back to health. It returns and gives him a seed as well. This seed grows into a plant that grows a single stem that goes higher and higher. The greedy man climbs and climbs to find his gourd until he is so high he reaches the moon. He steps off onto the moon and the stem shrivels back to earth. He is left with two gourds filled with horrible insects.

Also for the younger group I suggest you look at Demi's The Empty Pot. This is such a beautiful story about honesty and courage, and self-respect. Unfortunately, it seems impossible to get permission to tell it. I have tried. She claims it is a Chinese folktale, but I can't find any versions.

"The Secret Heart of the Tree" from Africa is a beautiful tale for the 2-5 grade set. The rabbit treats the tree in such a lovely kind and respectful manner that it feels like sharing its secret heart. To me it is a lesson about how we all have beautiful secret hearts that must be treated with ultimate respect so that we can keep them open.

Some of the The Complete Fables (Penguin Classics) offer ways to question the qualities of friendship. "The shepherd and the goat" talks about the value of old friends, and how we treat our friends. "The Two Friends" is about how far we will go to protect our friends. "The Stork and Cranes" is about choosing carefully who you will hang out with. "The Lion and the Mouse" is about unlikely friendships.

Do you know "The Wise Teacher's Test"? There is a version in the book Kindness: A Treasury of Buddhist Wisdom for Children and Parents (The Little Light of Mine Series) by Sarah Conover, and in Heather Forest's Wisdom Tales from Around the World (World Storytelling). That is a great one about honesty, and self-awareness. A teacher tests his students by telling them that they must go out and steal to keep the monetary alive because he has become to old to go and beg. He cautions them however that they must not be seen by anyone. All the students but one reluctantly start for town. One student remains and says that he cannot go and steal because there is no where on earth where he will not be seen, because he always sees himself. This was the teacher's lesson and he quickly calls the others back.

Can't wait to hear what you come up with. Do check out Sarah Conover's book Kindness, a collection of Buddhist tales

Wayfarer Tomm wrote the following story:
Some mornings are like other mornings. Other mornings are not. One morning, that was not like this morning. Young monkey awoke and found that he was not feeling well. At first he did not know why .He did not have a headache or a stomachache. He did not have a cough. He just not feel well. He remembered that today would be the first day at school. There would be no mommy or family or friends at school. She understood that it was not the thought of school. That was making him feel bad. She told him to remember, that all good endings, do not have good beginnings. She told him to remember, to have a friend, you must be a friend She told him to remember, that it is better to laugh with people, then at people Monkey did not know why it was important, but he knew that his mother would not tell him these things, unless they were important When young monkey got to school, there were no monkeys, just boons and hyenas and other animals And before he even got into school Boon came running backwards and bumped Into him and knocked him on his nose He was in that way introduced to Badboon. Who had good starts and bad finishes So young monkey said, hello my mother said that all good endings, do not have good beginnings So I guess that some bad endings have good beginnings If you would be my friend, there would be a good end to a bad beginning, and they laughed and laughed And hyena who heard them laughing, laughed with them So young monkey said “My mother said that it is better to laugh with people, than to laugh at people” So if you will be our friend, we can laugh together and they laughed together And when they saw giraffe, pulling down branches, for smaller giraffes to eat They went over, to where he was standing and young monkey said “My mother said that, to have a friend, you must be a friend I am a monkey and I can climb out on the highest limb and weigh it down to where you with your long neck can reach them and pull them down for smaller giraffes. I want t be your friend; I want you to be my friend lets all be friends to everyone. Then young owl came to young monkey and said “I have heard you say such wise things let’s be friends” Some of the wise things you said are: To have a friend, you must be a friend. It is better to laugh with people, than at people. Not all good endings hav good beginnings. Where did you learn such wisdom? Where did you acquire such wisdom? Will you share with us? Young monkey said “They were gifts of my mother; she gave them before I came to school. Yes I share them with you” “She is with me as long as I remember her” said young monkey With that memory and the memories of all his new friends he returned home from school that day. Which had a morning not lik this morning?

Created 2004; last update 11/16/09

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